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Guys I've found another preview article - I think this is taken from quite an early version of the game. Closing sentence is a bit worrying!

Anyway enjoy....

Rugby 06 - Hands On Preview

TVG takes to the pitch in EA's latest attempt to bring the world of Rugby Football to gamers...

Author: Jon Wilcox

With the 2006 Six Nations Championship just weeks away (Go Wales!), Electronic Arts is putting the finishing touches to this year's oval ball update Rugby 06, which is set for release on Xbox, PlayStation2 and PC on February 10th. Adapting the sport for a videogame has been a bit hit and miss over the years, but the improvements added in this latest iteration could certainly help dispel the notion that bringing the essence of rugby union to a videogame is impossible. Of course Electronic Arts will have competition in the rugby adaptation stakes this year with an Easter release of Rugby Challenge 2006 vying for supremacy, with the impending competition between the two franchises benefiting the gamer.

Bringing the game of rugby to consoles has never been easy, in fact there's only one ***le that's been held in high regard: Jonah Lomu Rugby, which was released over ten years ago. Incidentally the team behind that showcase of rugby is the same team currently putting the finishing touches to Rugby Challenge 2006 - hence the pressure on Rugby 06. One of the key reasons for rugby-based videogames failing to reach that potential is the videogame adaptations lack of fluidity found in the real game (believe it or not it does exist), though EA has introduced several new gameplay features aimed at changing all that.

Following a brief tutorial for those unaccustomed to either rugby union or the rugby franchise, explaining the basics such as passing, tackling, rucking, mauling, and scoring those all important tries, gamers then get to choose which tournament they want to play through. Securing the licenses for several of the key Union tournaments including the English Guinness Premiership, the Tri-Nations, and the RBS Six Nations, as well the names and likenesses to many of the top rugby players from around the world, EA has once again brought validity to their rugby franchise. Added to that a range of tournaments including an unofficial 'World Championship' and 'European Trophy', and every key establishment in the rugby world makes an appearance in one capacity or another. It may not have the official licences from some countries including the Welsh regional teams, but stand-in Llanellis and Cardiffs do at least make it into the game.

From the tutorial it's plain to see that the control system is largely the same from Rugby 2005, so what are the key features introduced by EA for this year's iteration? First and by far the most important is the ability to off-load the ball in the tackle, which even during the preview build, makes Rugby 06 immediately more fluid over its predecessors. Whereas previous iterations have seen the action breakdown following a tackle into the boggy mess that are rucks and mauls, the implementation of the off-load retains the flow of the game. Coupled with that the ability to execute Quick Penalties and Quick Line-Outs, and the game certainly moves a lot quicker than in Rugby 2005.

The ability to execute four of up to twenty-five set plays by mapping them to the d-pad further adds to the flow of the game this year. Selecting them during a ruck, plays such as looping balls and miss players offer a level of strategy and openly played rugby that once again evolves the franchise closer to the real world game. Thankfully players wouldn't have to experiment with various set plays on match day thanks to the Training Mode, enabling gamers to practice and select which set pieces are best to use against their next opponents. Elsewhere in the game, rucks continue to be a bit hit and miss, despite the desperate button bashing, and therefore does get a little disappointing after the first dozen or so turnovers by the opposition; hopefully that'll be one area that gets worked before release.

So far at least the 'all new' commentary confirmed by EA doesn't seem to have developed too far, and like some of the other non-US sports games, doesn't (at this stage at least) live up to expectations. Neither Ian Robertson or Grant Fox sound particularly comfortable in their roles, sounding quite wooden and at time, more artificial than the virtual players themselves. Hopefully a bug in the preview build, the crowd volume and balance sounds all over the place at times, with bursts of cheers popping in and out of the screen as different camera angles are taken. It's also worth noting EA for future reference, that crowds at rugby matches sound different to crowds at football matches, and implementing that fact into future rugby ***les would go a long way to bringing a sense of realism to audio experience.

With the recent influx of next-gen sports ***les from EA, going back to play a current-gen ***le such as Rugby 06 is a bit of a shock to the system, specifically in the graphics department. But like so many other aspects of the ***le, the visuals have been improved, and at least now the players in the game do have a passing resemblance to their real world equivalents. Stadia including Twickenham and of course the Millennium Stadium are featured in the game with a high level of visual accuracy. But in honesty the Rugby franchise is way behind the likes of FIFA in the visual department; is the series popular enough to warrant being brought onto the next-generation consoles? There also seemed to be a few glitches at times during the course of the match, something that we're sure will be ironed out before the release date; players on occasion would freeze after they'd passed the ball for a few seconds and not show the sort of reactions that a real world player would make.

Though they may only seem like superficial changes, the inclusion of off-loads, quick penalties, and quick line-outs finally seems to add a level of fluidity not seen in previous rugby ***les. It's plain to see even by playing the preview version of Rugby 06 that Electronic Arts have made strides in the refinement of the franchise, and whilst the control system may seem a little complicated at first, it soon becomes second nature. There's a depth to the tournaments available, including unofficial versions of teams from Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, though there is a danger that the gameplay can get quite samey.
To add to yours, here is a preview from computer and video games UK......nothing really exciting except the piece I have highlighted - is this new info??

30 Jan 06

Who cares if cricket is the new rugby is the new football? We're still riding high from Mr Wilkinson's last-minute winning drop-kick again the Aussies back in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final. As good as Freddie 'Andrew' Flintoff is, he didn't steal victory from under the noses of a 15- man death squad with seconds to the whistle in quite such spectacular style, did he (nope he just kept sticking it to them over 25 days of the best cricket on the planet - Cricket loving C&VG Ed)?
Well, Electronic Arts, distinguished purveyor of the annual sports update, has been busy ferreting away, putting the FIFA and NHL teams hard at work to produce this little effort, possibly the finest looking rugby game we've seen yet. And boy oh boy, what a chock-full little baby it's shaping up to be as well.

The Six Nations, Lion's Tour, Tri Nations, Guinness Premiership and Super 14 competitions will form the backbone of the gameplay, allowing you to take part in just about every major event in the rugby calendar. But EA has been learning a few lessons, so it seems. As well as cramming Rugby 06 with the usual licensed names, players, sponsors and tournaments, the fundamental gameplay mechanic has had an overhaul.
EA is proudly boasting that Rugby 06 'mirrors the real thing', and has introduced all manner of previously unseen and untested fancy-pants rugby tactics. You can now use the off-load pass to get rid of a ball when set upon by impenetrable walls of opponents, just as you can take quick line-outs to keep the momentum of the game going. We remember a few really rubbish rugby games on PSOne that were notorious for stop-starting every few yards for line-outs, but Rugby 06 is about keeping the game alive, and keeping it on its toes. If you like your games slow, tedious and full of hundreds of incomprehensible by-laws, you're probably a statistics-obsessed American and will be wanting some sort of dull NFL game.

Penalty-taking has now been streamlined too in an attempt to keep the game 'momentum driven', and also to encourage plenty of attacking. Another new feature, something EA is calling 'Impact Play', will enable you to cherry-pick from a selection of players and dictate precisely what strengths the squad should have. This, EA hopes, will enable you to consistently keep any rival player on his toes, as you shift from being a forward-driven, attacking squad to a more defensive one, depending on your opponent.
You'll also be able to take all these great new features and tournaments and put them to use in the settings of just about every major ground in the world. 'Fortress' Twickenham, Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, grubby old Lansdowne Road and the imposing 1970s car park of Murrayfield are all in so far, while rugger pundits Ian Robertson and Grant Fox do the honours behind the mic. All we need is a post-match bath simulator for the ladies and a Gameface mode powerful enough to recreate Shane Byrne's horrible teeth, and we reckon this could be the best rugby game seen on Xbox.

Official Xbox Magazine staff

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