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My Rugby Challenge 3 thoughts

Saints1

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Not done one of these in a while, so I thought that the release of Rugby Challenge 3 in the UK by our good friends Alternative Studios on Friday was a good opportunity to have a look into this new game.

I am completely new to the Rugby Challenge series. The last one I played in fact was 2006’s PS2 game by Swordfish Studios. I remember going down to Birmingham to help do some QA and give some feedback on it, which was a really good experience. It also demonstrated to me just how much developers care about their rugby games. I have only played the Rugby League and the highly excellent Rugby League Live series in the past decade, with the exception of the RWC 2011 Game.

We don’t get many, and when one comes along it’s always something to cause some hype and some buzz. RC3 has kind of slid under the radar a little, with information about the game coming few and far between but with the game now released in the two main target regions of Europe and Australasia, we’re good to go.

So please keep in mind that I have never played RC and RC2 in terms of the 3D format. I can’t comment on what has improved or what hasn’t and I can’t comment on which teams or players are missing. I am a rugby league guy after all. All I can say is that the crux of the matter is that this game is fun and I can easily recommend it. I’m not going to pretend that I understand all that mess on the floor when it comes to rucks and I’m not a Union man aside from a passing interest. But I can play this game and enjoy it with a casual interest (even though the word “casual†makes me shudder) and that’s a good thing I would say.

Games like this are supposed to be easy to play, the old “pick up and play†mantra is true here. There’s more to RC3 than any rugby union game I’ve ever played, but it’s still simple to learn the basics. The appalling Rugby 2015 was too pick up and play, you could start whipping the AI’s candy ass all over the pitch within minutes and no amount of setting the difficulty to hard would resolve that.

No, there’s more to RC3. It is easy to pick up and play but if you want to get the most out of it, you need to get to know and understand the game. See what works and what doesn’t. That is much easier said than done as well, there’s little room for wondering when the opposition are battering on your try line and you’re desperately trying them over. Spamming buttons doesn’t work; you need to time your attempts to steal the ball well. Unless the blasted whistle blower sees you first.

So, when my download completed (a very reasonable 4.8GB on the PS4) I booted it up and decided to be sensible and take a look at the tutorials. I am a very experienced rugby game, but my mind would automatically go to RLL3 controls, considering I’ve put about a million hours into it. I think that the tutorials offer a comprehensive insight into the controls but there’s a lot more to explore. It’s easy enough to throw a dummy at a pre-determined time in a one on one scenario but can you do that in a match when it matters?

Well, let’s see. Competition mode for me, and there’s a huge selection of them as well. Not all are licensed, but there are a lot available. It’s pretty damned comprehensive. I just went for the Aviva Premiership as Northampton Saints (St Helens, Northampton Saints, New Orleans Saints, I’m highly imaginative) and picked my strongest squad. I just got my hands dirty straight away basically. I started at home to Gloucester.

And I got beat, pretty easily to be honest as well. I should have played a few exhibition matches as I got penalised to death and penalties got kicked left, right and centre. And with me setting the difficulty to normal (No easy mode from me, ever) I was getting myself in all kinds of trouble at the breakdown. I have a natural born propensity to take risks in Union games because I want to play it a bit more like league, but a number 8 pick up when you’re under pressure on your own line at a scrum is never a good idea, is it? Well, it is on one occasion actually because that’s a hidden trophy!
Defence is limited to two buttons though there are the customary defensive strategies. It’s easy to find yourself spamming them if you’re not careful early on. Defending is a game of patience and plugging gaps. The AI is pretty impressive and it will try to wear you down with a mixture of forward and back play which deserves a lot of credit in my opinion. The same in defence, the AI knows how to muck in and I didn’t encounter any easy exploits to make big yards.

I haven’t played tens of matches or anything, but I’ve played enough games to know now that you need to work for your points. There are set plays (which I need to experiment more with) and that will help you to get through well organised defence. I’m anything but organised and my lack of knowledge of the sport lets me down at times but that’s something I will become accustomed to in time. It’s all about experimentation and finding what grinds a team down.

Next game I travelled to the home of the Wasps (wherever that is this season) and I managed to grind out a win, scoring three tries to two but crucially kicking all my goals whereas Wasps drifted one wide. Goalkicking is a little bit too easy to be honest, I’ve never felt like I am going to miss one so far but I should probably try from a further distance. I find it impossible to resist the temptation of booting the ball into the corner for a lineout instead of the shot at goal. The League in me is strong.

Lineouts are intuitive and it doesn’t feel like the opposition are going to swoop on you unfairly. You’ve generally given them a chance if you do cough the ball up. The same goes for scrums although there are some epic battles to be had there. I really do like the scrum system, it works really well.
So, gameplay. It’s down to you really. If you want a forward battle, gear up for one because you can do it. Want to show your dexterity in the backs? Go for it. I like to sling the ball around and as a result I am rubbish at the game as my choices are poor and I inevitably get pushed back, turn the ball over or throw it into touch. Kicking for territory has been my friend in a big way and until I master the basics I will have to swallow my pride and remember this basic rule.

There are so many opportunities to play the game how you want, and this is something I really like. I just happen to be pretty awful at it so far, relying on scraps and making good kicks to make progress. My decision making about when to engage on the floor is questionable and my discipline is awful.
But overall, I’ve really enjoyed my introductory ten hours or so with this game. I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface and there are many, many fun times to be had. I haven’t been online yet which I hope presents us with stable servers and punishment for quitters. I have had a go at Sevens which is a blast and lots of fun.

If you’re a Union fan, this is well worth a purchase – and that’s coming from a League fan!
 

RoosTah

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Cheers for the review Dan. I've played both the Sidhe Rugby Challenge games, and I really enjoyed Rugby Challenge 2, but from what I've seen this looks very much like an incremental improvement on RC2 on most fronts (even graphically it only looks barely better, which is pretty poor given RC2 was PS3 and this is PS4 (or equiv XBOX)).

Comparing it to the brilliant work BigAnt have done with their huge improvement on all fronts with Rugby League Live 3, I can't help but feel a bit disappointed - particularly with all the competitors being a year out of date.

But as someone who has played the RLL series, how do you feel this compares game play wise with RLL3?
 
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