Author’s note: Unfortunately, I have been unable to test the online modes as the servers don’t go live until release; therefore, this review is based on the offline modes of play only.
Whether you’re a fan of Rugby Union or League, you don’t have a plethora of options when it comes to rugby video games. The Rugby World Cup games are dreadful, and the Rugby League Live series is bad to average at best. I had such high hopes for Rugby 18, but after a few matches, I was left disappointed.
The game does offer quite a few modes for a not-so-popular sports game, which is nice to see, but once you scratch beneath the surface, you realise the modes are really hollow. Rugby 18 has your standard offline single matches and local multiplayer, a league mode in which you’re required to pick a team from the multitude of leagues on offer and take them through a season in the hopes of winning the league. Then there is Rugby 18’s version of Madden and FIFA’s Ultimate Team modes. You pick a club to take its badge and kit then pick your starter squad using in-game currency, which is earned by playing matches and completing objectives within games, like making a certain number of long passes, etc. It then puts you in a league and, again, you try to win it.
This is usually the part in a review where i would list off the game’s positives, but they are so few of them that I can do it in about a couple of sentences. The number of teams and leagues on offer is very extensive, which is very impressive for a Rugby game, but they all feel the same. When I played as Saracens or the British & Irish Lions, they both played exactly the same. The number of modes is quite extensive too, which is good like I mentioned before, but this is where all the positives end. There is a nice touch of putting trivia questions in the loading screens that test your knowledge and are nice ways to pass the time.
Now onto the negatives; first of all, the menus are so bland and include possibly the most stupid mechanic I have ever seen: You use the right stick to change settings in the menus, and this took me a while to figure out. Who thought that was a good idea? The left stick changes which settings menu you are in, not the left and right trigger like in other games.
Another negative is that the game is just so boring to play. My first ten matches ended in either 0-0 ties or 6-0, one way or the other. The principle function of any game is to be fun to play, and this game is one of the most boring games I have played in my lifetime. Every game is just ruck after ruck, with the odd scrum thrown in for good measure, and you will tear your hair out no matter what difficulty you put it on, they all feel exactly the same. Even when you somehow break away through the defensive line, the defender will always catch up to you and make the tackle every single time no matter how fast a player actually is in real life. To add more to the negatives, when you run with the ball, it feels like you are running through treacle.
The developers, in the hopes of being revolutionary, thought it would be a good idea to change some controls from other Rugby games. The passing system now requires you to hold down the pass button longer to pass further, which in theory sounds like a good idea, but getting it into the second bar for a longer pass is near impossible as you will be wiped out before you can reach it.
Rucks have also been changed, now instead of frantically pressing A (or X on PS4) to win the ball, you have to gradually add players to it and outnumber the opposition; again, good idea in theory, but because the player AI is quite thick, it takes ages for them to join the ruck, and by the time they do, you have lost possession. Lastly, the penalty and conversion mechanic is so bad that I don’t even know why you would put this in there. You don’t get an arrow to direct the ball completely and adjust for wind direction like in other games, that would have been too easy, I guess. This game makes you push the right stick forward and quickly aim a minuscule arrow towards the posts, but even then you can barely adjust the direction of the ball.
On the field, the game has so many issues. All the stadiums feel exactly the same with the exact same crowd noise, and the crowd and player likenesses look like what you would see on an early Xbox 360 game, very rough, and they look like they have had a whole tub of Vaseline rubbed all over them.
Then there is the awful commentary, all the lines sound like they are all jumbled together to make a sentence, for example, when the ball went in to touch, the commentator said: “And that….is a line-out…for……Saracens”. The dots are to show how long the pauses were in between words. I understand that this isn’t a game that was made by a big studio, but they should still make an effort with the most basic components.
Rugby 18 is not just one of the worst Rugby games I have played, but it is close to being one of the worst games I have ever played period. The World Cup games have more slack when it comes to being rushed or lacking features as there is not much you can do with that kind of game other than playing a World Cup. I had higher expectations for Rugby 18 as the developers do seem passionate about creating an authentic Rugby experience. All their effort has been in vain though as Rugby 18 commits three sins that are killers for any game: It’s boring, ugly and difficult. The difficulty is cheap and makes the game feel like the developers haven’t tried to make it so that once you play and get a feel for the game, you may actually win.