Hands On: Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge

Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge (or All Blacks Rugby Challenge in New Zealand and Wallabies Rugby Challenge in Australia) features 1,500 players, 93 teams and 31 stadiums. Some of these are licensed, including all 14 stadiums that will host the forthcoming Rugby World Cup; others are close approximations such as the ‘South West London’ stadium rather than Twickenham.

Everything can be customised, from renaming stadiums to creating an entire team of custom players. If you play rugby in a local team you can recreate yourself and your entire team to play in the game. Each team member’s attributes can be altered. So, if you have a mate who can run like the wind but fumbles every other pass, he can be recreated perfectly.

[videoyoutube]Before delving into the game, it’s best to check out the tutorial section. A two minute training video covers everything from the number of players in the team to the rules and four levels of hands-on training are available.

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The basic level does what it says on the tin – how to move and pass – and the intermediate training will teach you how to pull off various types of kicks. The advanced level brings in scrums and rucks with the final professional level teaching you tips and tricks such as dummy passes and sidestepping.

The main menu gives you a choice of Quick Match, Online and Career. A nice touch is that when the game is loading, rather than a static loading screen, you and up to 3 other AI players are displayed on screen and you can practise your moves before the main match.

To say the Career mode is long would be an understatement; you can play for thirteen seasons taking in all the various tournaments and three world cups. Even with the individual game time set to five minutes it will take a good while to play through.

During the career, your players will age and you will have to manage your team effectively, bringing in substitutes for injured players or those sent off. How the team play can be affected by their morale, if you are doing well in a tournament they will play better – get too many red cards and morale will drop.

The usual options are available for online gaming, including private matches, invites, quick matches and leaderboards. Another nice touch is that everyone who plays online will have a reliability rating. This means ‘rage quitters’ will be flagged, so before you start the match you can check your opponent’s rating and if they have a a low score, cancel the game rather than waste your time.

One aspect I found particularly clever are the rucks. When one occurs, a large circle appears around the two players starting the ruck. The circle is divided in two, each half representing a player. To successfully win the event you have hammer X to bring your other players into the pile up. As your teammates join in, the circle gradually fills in with the colour of your team and when it’s fully filled, you win the ruck. It’s rather like a mini quick time event and line outs also have a similar feel as timed button presses are required.

Sidhe have created five rugby games before Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge and it certainly shows, I picked up the basics of the game within moments and my brief hands-on was very enjoyable, so much so that the PR people had to ask three times before we stopped playing.

Rugby Challenge faces some stiff competition from the official 505 Games Rugby World Cup game but when you look at the figures, Rugby Challenge wins hands down. It supports up to four players per console allowing 4 vs 4 online (505 only has 1 vs 1), it has more teams, more competitions and better customisation.

The title is scheduled for Q3 this year on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC and the team hope to have it out before the start of the Rugby World Cup. A PS Vita version of the game is also in development.

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21 Comments

  1. Hooorah!

  2. Sounds really promising and it’s great to see a sport that’s always been underrepresented in videogames get plenty of love and attention.

    • I *HATE* sports games. I really do. I liked this rather a lot. Think i’ll be grabbign a copy, it’s the perfect game for the “Whose turn is it to get out of bed on Sunday and wander up to the deli and grab the croissants” arguments.

  3. I didn’t think EA were doing the world cup game? I thought it said 505 games were publishing it? If it is EA I think I’ll have to go with that seeing as how they were behind the excellent PS2 games.

    • yes, it has gone to 505 games. I’ll amend the article, good spot!

    • Er no it is 505. Sorry, my bad. In my defense EA do every other sporting game ever :)

      • Haha that’s true, I sort of wish it was EA, they know why they’re doing when it comes to sports games.

  4. Lol, is that youtube video in ‘tallscreen’ instead of widescreen?

  5. Any sign of the Heineken Cup or the RaboDirect Pro12?

    • RaboDirect Pro12 is in the game, no Heineken Cup.

      • That’ll do, I suppose, especially if they throw in a custom tournament option.
        I just wanna play as Munster…

  6. No Heineken Cup?! Please tell me they’ve got the Magners League?

    European clubs (specifically the European champs Leinster)?!

    • They have Rabodirect pro12(celtic league)the top 14 and premiership so thats Europe covered, i hope they have some sort of fake heiniken cup if tehy dont have the rights cos all the teams are there

      • Also, if Brian O’Driscoll’s not the best player in the game, it is inherently broken.

      • The RaboDirect Pro12 is the new name fore the Magners League.
        And Brian O’Driscoll isn’t the best player in Ireland, never mind the world.

      • The man’s an icon, but true, he’s getting on. Still think he’s in the top 3 in the world though, with McCaw and Carter. Shaun O’Brien/Johnny Sexton are the future of Irish rugby though.

  7. Can’t wait for this. The gameplay video makes it look very solid indeed. Think I’ll definitely be getting this over the official World Cup game.

  8. Already pre-ordered WC’11, but now I’m tempted to cancel that and wait for this.
    The button-mashing ruck thing I don’t like the sound of though. Any word on a demo? Tempted to just get WC’11, I could easily trade it in for this if it’s better when it does come out…

  9. Couldn’t decide which one to get but I think it will this one.

  10. The game looks great! I’ll be getting this instead of the World Cup game, and instead of FIFA 12. I’ve been waiting for a rugby game since the PS2 days!

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