Published by Tru Blue Entertainment, Rugby Challenge 3 sees new developers Wicked Witch Software showcase their skills - they previously developed games based around Australian Football on the Playstation 3.
Throughout the history of video games, sports games have always been a mainstay. In the past, there was a major game for nearly all sports. In the last ten years sports games with an illustrious presence in the market have dwindled to Madden and NBA2K for the United States, FIFA and Pro Evo for the rest of the world.
There is a valid argument that with each release these games bring nothing new for players, as they predominantly feature minor graphical upgrades and a new roster.
There have been some games that have broken from solely being purchased by sports fans, to being a part of any respectable gamer's collection - such as Brian Lara Cricket on the Megadrive and Jonah Lomu Rugby on Playstation One.
Rugby Challenge 3 does not break into either of these categories. It’s a good Rugby game but lacks the level of polish that EA and 2K sports games have. There are issues with the gameplay and learning the sport that will stop it from being easily accessible for all gamers.
However, if you are a rugby fan looking for a game, this is the best you can get. You will have a lot of fun playing it, but there will be instances where you will be raging at the screen due to the title's AI.
Don't get us wrong - when the AI is behaving correctly the game is a joy to play and matches are full of tension, strategy and excitement.
Yet the computer controlled players of your team can at times be completely devoid of any intelligence of their positions. The backs will be perfectly lined up when there are scrums or lineouts, instances when play has stopped and been reset.
But in rucks and mauls they will be all over the place, even if you leave plenty of reasonable time for them to line up. The most annoying issue is when players stand offside during or after a ruck and make no attempts to move into the correct position
This is really annoying as you want to be able to play a quick and free flowing game of rugby it's the positioning of your team mates that cause issues.
The sound quality of commentary during games is shoddy. It’s reminiscent of the sports games on the Playstation One with it sounding like it was recorded in a cardboard box. The delivery can be a mixture of acceptable to insufficient, depending on the situation on the field. Commentary is provided by Grant Nisbett and Justin Marshall
Graphically the games does not reach the levels of an EA sports game, it’s at the lower levels of what the current generation of consoles can produce, but it doesn't distract from the action in the field. Everything is clear and easy to recognise, and there is not trouble in recognising the ball player movements.
The game features a wealth of licenced teams to play with from different competitions including, Super Rugby, Aviva Premiership, ITM Cup, National Rugby Championship, Currie Cup and Internationals. There are forty-three different stadiums to play in and changes can be made to the weather and time of day.
These changes are primarily aesthetic and do not impact on the gameplay, with the exception of the wind for tackling.
I did not find that playing games in the rain resulted in the ball being slippery when passing or getting tackled. There was no increase in mud on the players or the ground being slowly torn up with the studs. It was simply a rain filter applied to the screen.
The game features tournaments, leagues exhibition matches, online and a Be a Pro Mode. This mode allows players to start as a rookie at their club and rise through the ranks to captain over multiple seasons. There is a Fan Hub that gives players the opportunity to create their own character and customise teams
For the first time in the series the game features Rugby Sevens matches with international teams. The core rules and gameplay stay the same, but like real life Sevens matches, it becomes a faster and more risk-taking game.
I have to compare the game to the Madden series due to the respective sports' shared origins and concepts. Conversions and Kicking is too easy in this title. You can easily score a conversion from by the sidelines with correct timing - and kicking the ball during play is a simple touch of the button.
The tutorial system is lacking in full explanation of most of the gameplay mechanics. It explains how to perform all of the elements such as rucks, lineouts and mauls, but does not explain how to win these situations when on defence or how to adequately keep the ball when offence,
Turnover of the ball during these instances, or via pass interception, quickly changes the camera perspective with no time to reconfigure your brain or controls. It would be nice if the game paused for the second that Madden gives you to process what has happened.
All of the complaints being said, I enjoy playing Rugby Challenge 3, and it’s edging into my "thirty minutes after work" games that mostly consists of Mario Kart, Pac-Man Championship DX and Street Fighter V.
The load times are near non-existent, I can boot up the game and get into a match in less than a minute. When the matches flow they are perfectly executed.
Although it is the third game in the series, it lacks the sophistication that other sports games have from being released every year.
It’s an average, bare bones rugby game that is fun to play and I hope the series will go onto become better.