Rugby Challenge 3, the third (really, Captain Obvious?) iteration of the Rugby Challenge series and the first to hit the new consoles, invites you to take the bad with the good. This is unavoidable, unfortunately, as developer Wicked Witch and publisher Tru Blu aren’t the most well-heeled of studios. If you just went ‘who?’, then you know exactly what we mean.
It’s also your best crack at a fully-fledged rugby video game in years, since Electronic Arts stopped making their own series in 2008. For starters, the teeny little studio that did also went out and licensed all of the major teams, players and tournaments.
Getting Your License
Expect to find official Springbok, England, Aussie and All Blacks players, in addition to numerous other players – sometimes the same ones in different kit – from regional teams from around the world. That’s quite the coup and it does a lot to elevate Rugby Challenge 3 above the sub-standard competition from 2015. The Currie Cup, World Cup and Quad Nations are just the few that explicitly feature SA but you can partake in Super Rugby events from around the world if you desire.
RC3 has extended the licenses beyond just the player appearances for the major countries and the major contests. Iconic stadiums have also been reproduced, which goes a long way to enhancing realism. The regional leagues and even the Sevens series which has been included are quite the detailed lot, beyond what we could have reasonably expected from a title that was made on a budget. Already you’re lucking out but there’s more to come.
If there are any players that you’re particularly keen on having in your game which aren’t available at launch, there’s always the option to make them. Rugby Challenge 3 has a full-featured Customise mode that lets you tweak teams, competitions and actual players. You could turn yourself into a superstar (essential for Be A Pro mode) or recreate the greats from seasons past. Face and, body shape, and player statistics are at your command, as well as the basic details like name, country of origin and preferred gear. Or you could just download someone else’s painstaking work through the FanHub.
Having A Ball
The actual gameplay has had some attention lavished on it too. Player animations have a touch of realism to them and the gameplay is solidly put together. Handling scums and line-outs is simple enough, with intuitive controls for turning the ball over or throwing it out at the player’s command. Scrums are easy enough to win, if you’re a gamer. Timing analogue stick pushes to the on-screen prompt should be second nature. Line-outs are a trickier bunch, often resulting in a loss of possession. Maybe we just suck.
Straight gameplay is what you’d expect if you played any rugby title released on consoles since 2008. The shoulder buttons let you pass the ball, with longer presses equalling longer passes. Handy for getting to the outside. You’ve got four different kinds of kick to choose from and getting used to those will take an hour to two and there are only really two tackle options: Safe and unsafe. Use them wisely.
There’s a major criticism, in that winning possession of the ball outside a ruck or scrum gives the screen a nauseating flip by default, one which can send players bumbling the wrong way in confusion. You’ll get used to it but it’s jarring. If it gets bad enough, you can kill it in the settings so it’s not all bad.
And then there are the other problems. Yes, Rugby Challenge 3 has been made on a budget and the player models, replays and commentary – even though it features Grant Nisbett and Justin Marshall in that capacity for the English assessment (there’s French as well) – can’t disguise the fact. More money would have meant more polish and when we look at what they’d done with what they had…
Still, you have single games, entire tournaments, a full career mode, online play and then the Be A Pro mode, which owes more than a little of its existence to the EA FIFA’s mode of the same name, at your command, with official, named teams and official locations. We can overlook a few flaws in order to finally play a rugby title that has some legs and a whole lot of options.