STAFF REVIEW of Rugby 20 (Xbox One)

Monday, February 17, 2020.
by Adam Dileva

Rugby 20 Box art I’m married to a Kiwi, so I’m obligated to watch and like Rugby in our household, specifically the All Blacks. This isn’t against my will mind you, as I did fall in love with the team and sport after learning its many intricacies. Hell, I even own an All Blacks jersey, so you could say I’m a real fan. I even stayed up to watch the most recent World Cup as well, which is when I was curious as to why there hasn’t really been a great Rugby game that I’ve played before. There’s been a few here and there, but there really hasn’t been a standout in many years. This is where Rugby 20 hopes to cash in.

The problem with Rugby is that it’s a challenging sport to convert into a game, which is probably why there’s only been a couple of decent Rugby games in the past. Rugby 20 does a decent job overall, especially with its Tackles, Rucks, and Passing, but there’s also a handful of letdowns, like its terrible Kicking mechanics and lack of licensed teams.

While you can jump into quick play exhibition matches, sports games thrive on their career modes. At first, I thought Rugby 20 was lacking said mode, but as it turns out, Solo mode is where your traditional career-like gameplay begins. Here is where you’ll be spending most of your time, as you’ll create your team and earn currency to buy new card packs. That’s right, it’s essentially like FIFA’s Ultimate Team. As you earn new cards, you can build your team how you like, hopefully constantly upgrading your lesser ranked players with higher ones.

As you play more matches and win you’ll earn more currency, allowing you to buy bigger and better packs, but it’s a long arduous grind. I do wish I was able to play Solo with a real team, but alas, you’ll need to create one from scratch and work your way up the leagues. You do get to design the uniforms and logo, but it’s quite basic and there’s not a lot of options aside from colors and a few patterns.

As you begin, you’re only able to compete in two of the smaller leagues, but as you level up and play well, you’ll be able to enter into the higher leagues as well. Keep in mind, you can also be demoted to the lower leagues again should you start to lose again. You’ll also need to manage your team, healing injuries (this is hard hitting Rugby after all), improving player skills and more, but it’s very cumbersome how it needs to be done.

For starters, the prices are exorbitant to heal players, and when you need to constantly do so, it’s hard to keep up with the costs. It won’t let you play your next match if you have an injured member on your team, so you’ll need to unequip that players’ card if you can’t afford to heal them. This may mean that another player will have to take his spot on the team, even if it’s not the position they excel in, lowering their effectiveness. Eventually you’ll earn enough cards where you can swap in more than enough players on the fly, but it takes a long time to get to this point, even if you simulate a handful of matches.

Rugby 20 boasts a handful of different teams and leagues. You can compete in the Top 14, Pro D2, Gallagher Premiership and Pro 14 leagues, and international teams are included as well. While this is all welcome, the biggest letdown is that international teams are NOT licensed. This means I can play as a team that resembles my All Blacks, but it’s not them in appearance, logos, names or stats. The flip side to this is that the small leagues appear to be licensed, but I was really hoping to play as my favorite players from the team I wanted.

As noted above, Rugby is a difficult sport to translate into entertaining gameplay, usually due to its slow moments. Rugby 20 seems to have found a solution to this, as you’ll get to experience all stages of Rugby plays, from Rucks, Tackles, Passing, Kicking, Line-outs and of course, Scrums. While you’re on the pitch, you’ll need to assess the situations and tweak your strategies accordingly. You’ll be able to choose specific tactics and plays which makes for a more realistic Rugby experience overall.

By far, the highlight of Rugby 20’s gameplay is its Passing. Tossing the ball from side to side is seamless and simple to do with the Left and Right Bumpers. The longer you hold the button, the further you’ll toss the ball, trying to find that open space in the defense, aiming for those elusive Tries. Passing feels fluid, responsive and I was always able to quickly pass to whom I was trying to easily.

On the other side of gameplay, Kicking for goals is absolutely terrible. There’s a meter that you’ll need to pull down on the stick, then up, like in golf games, but you also need to aim in the direction you want somehow at the same time. Even after doing the training a number of times, I’m still unable to Kick where I want on command and opt to just give up.

Rucks happen constantly, and on the lower difficulties, you can essentially keep the ball in possession almost the whole game. Rucks also are simple to perform and transition into a Pass or Kick whenever you wish. Scrums are also quite simplistic, with a quick Quicktime event to start it off, then keeping your cursor over a moving target to indicate if you keep control and possession of the ball.

Rugby is certainly a dangerous sport, as you have massive men running and tackling into each other without any protective equipment. Tackles in Rugby 20 also feel authentic, as there’s a timing aspect that’s important, and successful attacks feel like they are hard hitting with some oomph behind them.

Multiplayer is included, local and online, though I suggest having friends come over or others that have also purchased the game, as I was unable to find a single match online every time I tried during my review period, so unfortunately I’m unable to speak upon the online quality and features of matches.

Visually, Rugby 20 isn’t going to impress in any way. The camera options are quite far back, though purposely so you can play more tactically, but close up shots of the players and areas aren’t anything pretty to look at. The animations on the other hand are quite decent and appear as if they were authentically motion captured. If my team was licensed I would be able to see the comparison to their real life counterparts, but we’ve already spoken about that letdown. As for the audio, the commentary is passable, but it doesn’t seem to flow realistically at times with audio clips that sound like it’s obviously spliced together.

Rugby 20 is certainly a passable experience for the sport, one of the better ones in previous years, but it doesn’t do much more that’s exciting. The lack of licensed teams was its biggest letdown, but those wanting an authentic Rugby experience really has no better option out there right now, even if it’s a moderate try at best.

Overall: 6.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 5.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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