Rugby World Cup 2015 Review

The Rugby World Cup kicks off tonight, with England squaring up against Fiji in the opening game at Twickenham. Yet, while it’s a sport with a strong following in many parts of the world, it’s one that’s underrepresented when it comes to videogames. If Rugby World Cup 2015 is anything to go by, it would be better for it to remain that way.

The fact that the game takes up just 1.7GB on your hard drive is ominous enough, and then there’s the annoyance of having to download a 1.7GB patch which effectively replaces the entire game from scratch. Of course, as soon as you see the game in action, you understand why the game can be so small.

Simply put, it looks awful. Each of the players is made up of a simplistic character model, wrapped up in terribly low-res textures, running around one of just three nondescript pitches. You’re kept at arms length from this for most of the game, but it becomes terribly obvious when a penalty kick or conversion takes place. You see the blurry textures on your kicker’s back, the fuzzy sprites that make up the crowd and all the rest. It’s just awful.

As you might have guessed, there aren’t any official stadia in the game, but perhaps even worse, there are barely any official teams either. Wales, Scotland, America, Canada and a few others are all represented with each player having their name, stats and headshot included within the menus, but England, Australia, New Zealand and other major hitters have none of the real world players. There is at least a squad editor so that you can replace names and tweak stats to your heart’s content, but for a game to have the Rugby World Cup license and not a full roster of players to fill the national teams is simply ludicrous.


While a series like PES also lacks an official license for football teams and player likenesses, that series has a degree of prestige and refined gameplay. RWC 2015 doesn’t even vaguely come close to playing well. At the very least, HB Studios have recreated the rules and the general form of the contact sport, but while the gameplay mechanics have the right idea in a few places, they tend to stagger and lurch from one moment to the next.

A simple ruck, for example, is broken down into three parts. First, the tackled ball carrier places the ball within a window of several seconds, before both sides compete to be the first to match the right stick position with the one shown on screen and pull the right trigger as the meter is in the green, and finally the winner gets to sit and ponder for a few seconds what they then wish to do with the ball. It’s a system which is prone to handing out penalties, as the game suddenly changes the desired stick position, but worse than that, it brings the game to a standstill. You can see that HB Studios have identified the several constituent parts of a ruck, but they haven’t been able to find a smooth and fluid way of translating that from the sport and into the game.

It’s with a great deal of irony that the commentary track occasionally praises you for fast and fluid play, between chastising any failures at a ruck with one of just a handful of stock phrases. All rugby players, it seems, are like boys at a candy shop who just can’t resist reaching out and handling the ball.

The same right stick mini-game is brought into play during scrums and driving mauls, but against the AI on medium difficulty it’s very easy to beat the opposition to the ball or bring their advance to a standstill. Even mighty teams such as New Zealand – with an overall rating 7 points higher than even the second best team – could be halted in their tracks, pushed back by punishing diving tackles and turned over. However, where the rucks have several stages to them, none of the prescribed routine of a scrum is translated across and the attempt to recreate line-outs are laughably simplistic, with little to no possibility to contest the ball in the air.


Playing against another person is a lot better in that regard, with a more genuine contest of reflexes at each of these opportunities. It makes more sense in this situation to allow the ball carrier to deliberately place the ball before the contest in the ruck starts, to give the attacking player a slight advantage, even if you basically just want to push in the direction you’re facing and pull the trigger.

To HB’s credit, the controls do start to make sense after a while, with a nice distribution of various kick types to the face buttons, the R2 trigger for passing, the right stick for directional control and so on, it’s just that they match up to the game in such an unsatisfying fashion. Player speed, acceleration and momentum is all over the place, a single animation can see the ball leave a player’s hands at seemingly any angle and float to its destination, there’s rarely any attempt to animate picking up a ball, and player collisions looking universally terrible. Then again, players only properly connect two thirds of the time…

There is some amusement to be had, though it’s largely at the game’s expense. There is the satisfaction of breaking through a staunch defence, but it’s juxtaposed with the absurdity of a player picking up a missed long range penalty kick and then being able to run the entire length of the pitch, past an opposing team who simply seemed to run straight towards the ball carrier. There’s actually a trophy for running the entire pitch, it turns out, but it’s fitting that winning the World Cup itself has no congratulatory cinematic or recognition of any kind.

What’s Good:

  • It has the same rules as Rugby Union.
  • Hints of some good gameplay ideas.

What’s Bad:

  • Shambling, stuttering gameplay.
  • Shoddy graphics.
  • Lacking player licenses and official stadia.
  • Poor execution and low production values in every department.

If you’ve been waiting years for a good rugby union game, the wait will continue for some time yet. There is little to redeem the myriad of fundamental flaws and inadequacies that are apparent throughout.

Score: 2/10

Version tested: PlayStation 4


  1. Ouch.

  2. “The fact that the game takes up just 1.7GB on your hard drive is ominous enough”.

    Wow, most games have bigger patches!

    Feel sorry for anyone that buys this – hopefully they can return it as not fit for purpose for a full refund.

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