Developer: Eko Software
Genre: Sports, Simulation
Platform: Xbox One
Age Rating: 3
Release Date: 23/01/20
A code was provided for review purposes.
Sport in a Time of Lockdown
As the world starts to come out of hibernation, and sport is slowly returning to the screens, it felt like the right time to turn my hand to Rugby 20. Being a fan of the game – playing it – and admittedly a dedicated follower of major tournament rugby only, I was all too eager to get my hands on the game.
I am always partial to a sports game and was lucky enough to review NHL 20 for this site earlier in the year. But how does rugby translate from the pitch to the console? Does it score a try, or should it be relegated to the sin bin quicker than Saracens during a salary audit? Keep reading this Rapid Review to find out.
Missing that Matchday Atmosphere
What can you say about the audio for sports games? If you’ve watched a game of football recently then you have heard the soundtrack for every sports game out there. It’s the athletic equivalent of canned laughter for a TV show. It is what it is, and much like other sports games that came before, and those that will come still, Rugby 20 does an admirable job at creating that match day atmosphere. However, it falls way short of anything set by FIFA or any of the other EA titles I have played. The sounds of the game were flat and uninspiring.
The commentators have some nice lines albeit a relatively shallow repertoire and their voices lack any real passion or sense of urgency. The text is delivered and presented for exactly what it is. A prepared script read and inserted into something. The game sadly lacked the interaction and responsiveness that larger budget, and dare I say, larger audience games will have.
Likewise, from the look of the game. It’s clear the model that they have copied is the same as used by EA Sports, but somehow just manages to miss the mark and come off looking like a cheap imitation. I would rather have seen the development team try something new rather than fail at something standard and unoriginal.
Lacklustre Gameplay and Modes
The game offers several different play options, in true EA imitation. You can play an online game, a single exhibition match, a season with your favourite club or create your own team in what amounts to an incredibly weak version of Ultimate Team. This is complete with points, levels and packs.
I know I have mentioned EA Sports repeatedly in this review, but it cannot be argued that love them or hate them, they are the name in sports games. Rugby 20 is like a younger brother, desperate to imitate their older sibling(s) but, despite wearing their clothes and copying their mannerisms as best they can, they always come off looking like a cheap second-rate imitation.
One thing I found particularly strange is that while they had licensed teams, they did not have real stadiums. They had licensed players for the club teams, but on an international level, certainly for England – the only international team I played as – the players were as fictional as they come. Not even following the old school Pro-Evo logic of changing a couple of letters for a punny alternative. This just seems strange.
The league format is basic and runs from game to game with no interaction or additions to make it interesting. The ‘my team’ option was equally bland and lacked any depth to make it halfway interesting.
Sluggish Controls Made for a Disappointing Experience
Likewise, the gameplay felt stale and lacking any real impact. Yes, you could hit a few nice crunching tackles within the right analogue stick, but it never felt as though you were immersed in the game. The controls were sluggish and the animations, while acceptable, just felt sub-par for a game of this day and age.
Rugby is a different sort of game to football or ice hockey, and that comes through in the finished product here. I was entertained for the first few games but after that, it became an uninspiring slog. Even I was ready to boot my controller into touch as soon as I heard the gong.
It’s a shame really, as rugby had the world’s attention with the recent world cup, and I feel there could have been a good opportunity to deliver a game that filled a genuine gap in the market.
Time to Hang Up my Boots
There is a strong degree of repetition to any sports game. You play the same game over and over and over for season after season. But when it comes to Rugby 20 enough is soon enough. I played through a regular season and a few seasons on the My Team mode, and I can happily say I am ready to hang up my boots.
There is no draw for me to return to the game, or to hunt down the different achievements or bonus challenges whatsoever.
Could Have Been So Much More
I was very disappointed in Rugby 20, yet, at the same time, cannot help but feel that I should have expected it. It is not that this is a bad game. It is just that it feels like a low-quality imitation of grander games available for other sports.
I dearly wish that this had been better, as stated at the top of the review, I enjoy sports games. They are not my core genre, but I enjoy them and own several. They are perfect for an easy evening of gaming distraction. Sadly, however, with Rugby 20 I was always aware that I was playing a game. A problem compounded by it being a largely unenjoyable one at that.
There is a lot of room for improvement, but I would be hesitant to even consider picking up a copy should there be a Rugby 21 announced.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can buy your copy of Rugby 20 from the Microsoft Xbox games store today.