Over the weekend I got my hands on the latest instalment in the Jonah Lomu Rugby franchise, Rugby Challenge 2: The Lions Edition developed by small New Zealand outfit Sidhe Interactive.
Rugby simulation has always been a tough nut to crack but the developers over at Sidhe are relentless in their mission to deliver an authentic rugby experience, using feedback to build off the 2011 original.
The title boasts just over 110 teams including the All Blacks, Australia and the esteemed British and Irish Lions which compete across 50 authentic stadiums.
The game also looks and feels a lot like FIFA with clear, crisp menus rich in customizable content. The game-play mechanic has been updated to include the latest adjustments to the IRB rule-set following calls for a more enhanced and accurate experience.
Other changes include on-the-pitch improvements. Offloading from the tackles can open up defensive lines but can result in a loose ball more often than not without a tight support player. The basic mechanic of the ruck still follows the quick and heavy binding system but players are now able to unbind and rejoin the defensive line.
The game is fluid, granted the ref doesn’t make the wrong calls, but sometimes there’s so much happening on screen that it’s difficult to tell exactly whets going on – much like the real thing I suppose.
The core mechanics are still there. Tackling, passing, kicking and running have been slightly refined, transition is now smoother with a lot of focus placed on the reliability of the A.I. The addition of a bullet-time reaction when kicking during phases does somewhat impair the ebb and flow of the match but does little to detract from the overall experience.
Visuals are also fairly decent, nothing like EA Sport’s new ignite engine but impressive considering the size of the developing studio.
The only major gripe I have is the licensing or lack thereof. South African teams particularly can only be recognised by their origin city rather than club name.
Sidhe have done their best to compensate by developing an impressive customisation and editing system where players can make do until the problem is hopefully resolved in Rugby Challenge 3.
Overall the title fairs incredibly well in the world of sports simulation and delivers the rugby experience many fans have been craving, at least till the developer can establish itself within the industry.
Regardless, anything has to be better than EA’s dismal attempt at its own annual rugby franchise.
You can check out more on Rugby Challenge 2 at the official site here.
Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge 2: The Lions Edition will release on 13 June for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, with a PC release yet to be confirmed.