Rugby 20 Review: Scrum down for the Six Nations in style

Bigben’s latest release features four licenced leagues as well as a whole host of international sides.

Phil Pangalos by Phil Pangalos

Rugby games are hard to execute.

Whenever a new game is being released, multitudes of rugby fans think back to the gaming greats of Jonah Lomu Rugby, Rugby 06 and Rugby 08.

We didn’t know how good we had it back then, as ever since gamers have been led down a path of spirit-crushing disappointment when it comes to rugby games (I guess this is how it feels to be a Scottish rugby fan?).  

Things have died down since the Rugby World Cup in Japan, with the Six Nations, the next top on the rugby calendar.

Eko Software is looking to convert on this opportunity.

Release Date

Rugby 20 will launch on 23 January, just nine days before the start of this year’s Six Nations championship. The game is available on PS4 and Xbox One.

The Beta version is already available for those who preordered the game through the PlayStation Store or the Microsoft Store.

Graphics

The graphics in Rugby 20 aren’t bad. Game faces are accurate enough, but players’ bodies seem a little disproportionate, with most players having very wide-set shoulders and torsos.

However, once you’re in a game, player graphics are more than passable and the stadiums look fantastic. 

BREAD OF HEAVEN: The Welsh national team look on point

In addition, motion-captured player animations are realistic, bringing the game further away from the arcade-style of rugby games past, and more towards a realistic rugby simulator.

Don’t expect FIFA or PES levels of detail, but Rugby 20’s aesthetic is certainly good enough for a returning rugby game.

Gameplay

Rugby 20 gameplay is a bit of a mixed bag. When you first pick up the controller expect to be slightly bewildered by the sheer volume of controls.

This is because Eko Software has introduced several new gameplay features, including the ability to style your own preset tactics and select custom set plays. 

PLAY YOUR WAY: Attacking and Defensive custom tactics can be preset in Team Management before a game

These features are conducive to a more immersive rugby experience but do leave you a little confused to start with.

The new controls will take a few hours to get your head around but ultimately it’s worth it if you’re seeking the ultimate rugby simulator.

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In terms of game fluidity, Rugby 20 allows you to play fast and expansive attacking rugby; the ability to extract a ball early from a breakdown means you can maintain a quick game speed, mirroring the play styles of the top teams in modern rugby.

Player’s are rarely in acceptable positions, however, with your fly-half often offering a short ball from the ruck, a forward standing at first receiver to the backline and wingers too far away from the three-quarters.

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Conversions are a little tricky as you have to hold the right stick back before flicking it in the direction of your kick; however, you can add effect to your kick during the run-up allowing you to correct any wayward aiming.

KEEP ‘EM GUESSING: You can switch between preset set plays in-game to keep every move unpredictable.

One downside to gameplay is the defending. It’s difficult to track the opposition, and you cannot rely on your AI teammate to make tackles, or even set up in a correct defensive line.

This leads to you having to manually position your defenders before tracking opposition attackers yourself, which makes it near on impossible to defend effectively inside your own 22.

It’s a shame because the pre-game defensive tactics are so detailed, but your team just doesn’t seem to carry out your instructions, albeit with little impact.

Game Modes

Rugby 20 allows you to play either single player quick matches, or multiplayer (offline or online) matches.

You have the choice of playing with club teams from the English Gallagher Premiership, Pro 14, French Top 14 and French Pro D2.

GREAT SCOT: How far can you take Scotland on Rugby 20?

Internationally, Canada, France, Georgia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Namibia, Russia, Samoa, Scotland, Tonga, USA and Wales are all licenced.

Other rugby heavyweights, including Australia, England, New Zealand and world champions South Africa are all on the game, but feature fake players and generated kits. You cannot edit their squads, so you will not be able to put Saracens’ Owen Farrell in the England squad.

Game modes

Outside of Quick Match, there are multiple game modes to play.

Online Match

Think you’re a pro? Take on friends and the rest of the world, battling online with a club of your choice.

League

Compete in a season in one of the league’s available on the game. These include:

Premiership Rugby

Pro 14

French Top 14

French Pro D2

Nations’ Trophy (World Cup)

Sadly, there are no licenced stadiums in Rugby 20.

My Squad

In this mode, you create your squad in the colours of your choice!

You can then take this squad into the “Solo” or Online modes.

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Use points you collect in any game mode to build your team, slightly similar towards the EA Ultimate Team model.

Solo

Use your created MySquad to embark on the “Solo” Career Mode.

Start out with your club in the bottom division (five) and end up to finish out on top.

RIDIN’ SOLO: It’s time to build your own rugby club

You are equipped with finances, enabling you to train and heal your players.

It’s a great concept, nut with only four group games in your first season, the mode perhaps needs more depth.

Challenges

Challenges provide a great way of boosting both your in-game “XP” and SP” tallies.

You can then receive greater players for your My Squad, and rank up on the online tables.

Verdict

Given it’s been a long time since the last rugby union game (the last was Rugby Challenge 3 in 2016), fans will be thrilled that there is another on the market.

INCOMPLETE: More licences following the Irish and Italian national teams would make the game a real hit

It’s great to have never-seen-before features like My Squad, and that will keep you entertained once the Six Nations is over, especially when we move in to the crucial end of the season.

The lack of licences for the Rugby Championship and England do cost the game, but if your a rugby purist following the club game, then there should be enough for you to give it a crack.

RealSport Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Phil Pangalos

First Console: GameBoy Color / Favourite Game: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood / Currently playing: UFC 3

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