It’s been a long time between drinks in the Rugby League series. After the second installment won us over in 2005, there was much speculation as to whether the series had a big enough market to continue.
Well, it’s taken four years, but Rugby League 3 is finally here. And while the majority of you blockheaded league fans wouldn’t be caught dead with a Nintendo Wii in your house, the fact of the matter is that it’s all we have.
That may be the case, but what the hell were Sidhe Interactive thinking? Rugby league is the stuff of tabloid media, sexual assaults, and moronic tomfoolery (in the last year alone), not the sort of thing that you’d expect your five-year-old to be waggling away at on his Wii. And while I hope that the sport is able to rectify its poor standing in society over the course of this season, the developers have really dropped the ball with this Wii-exclusive decision.
As we realized after the title was announced, most gamers keen to pick up Rugby League 3 own either a 360 or PS3. Honestly, what sports series have been successful on the Wii? Even EA have had to dumb down their FIFA releases on the system. Porting it over to the PlayStation 2 would have at least opened the market up a little bit more.
But what’s done is done, and the game needs to be assessed on how well it plays, not what system it is restricted to.
Rugby League 3 will doubtless blow you away with the number of new codes on offer: in addition to NRL, Super League, State of Origin, and Trans-Tasman Tests, players can now enjoy two complete World Cup series, Four Nations tourneys, and even the highly successful Toyota Cup.
Sidhe must be living on rice and water for all the teams, players, and stadiums they have managed to license for Rugby League 3. The game crushes previous iterations in terms of realism – think FIFA vs. PES – but that’s about where the improvements stop.
Most that have played Rugby League 2 would remember that god-awful looped soundtrack – I call it a soundtrack, but it was really just a 60-second guitar riff on repeat. Well, apparently that sort of thing gets the developers off, because they’ve done it again. While it’s not the same song, it is a frustratingly bogan guitar track that never ends. And while this may not be a hassle to the casual gamer, for anyone looking to get in-depth with Franchise mode, you’ll soon be wishing for the sweet release of death at the hands of Fuifui Moimoi.
Commentary is equally excruciating. Andrew Voss is the lone wolf guiding each play-by-play with all the realism of a magic penis potion. Listening to him “commentate” is like taking a step back into the dark ages of gaming, where voice actors spoke as few lines as possible before the devs cut and pasted all the speech together. The result? Terrible commentary that thrives on abnormal voice inflection, bad timing, and a script that screams inexperience. Oh, how I long for the ARL ’96 days of Ray Warren and Fatty Vautin.
Unfortunately, the audible catastrophe is nothing in comparison to gameplay mechanics. It seems that instead of improving upon Rugby League 2’s obvious flaws, Sidhe have decided to over complicate the controls in the hope that players won’t realize that they’ve changed absolutely nothing. Movement still looks choppy, you’ll once again only have about a 50-50 chance of pass from dummy-half coming off, and just forget about kicking altogether.
You’d think that with three different control options, the developers would have got at least one of them right. Well, you’d be wrong. Using the WiiMote horizontally is a recipe for disaster, the Nunchuck combination will have you tearing your hair out at its extreme difficultly, while the lack of Classic Controller compatibility is baffling. Your only real choice is using a Gamecube controller, and unfortunately that’s just another expense on top of an already pricey Wii title.
Franchise mode will appeal to hardcore fans of the sport. Being able to manage your team in almost every aspect has always been a strong point in the Rugby League series. Player contracts, training, and injuries can all be managed by yourself, or shoveled off to the assistant coach; with 12 years to perfect your favorite team, there is plenty of time for tweaking. But when the management becomes more entertaining than the gameplay (which it does in this case) there is obviously something wrong.
The line-ups are also not up-to-date, either. Play a game with the Brisbane Broncos, and you’ll still find Karmichael Hunt (who has buggered off to Rugby Union and AFL) and David Taylor (Rabbitohs) starting alongside the great Darren Lockyer. Whether it was time restraints or sheer laziness that caused it, releasing a rugby league game in such a state is a cop-out to the fans.
Without the addition of multiplayer, the game would be basically impossible to recommend. However, with up to eight players able to take part in multiplayer events, it’s more than a little fun knowing that your opponent is getting just as frustrated at the ridiculous controls as you. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, it’s not even a redeeming factor, but it will give you something to do during the Friday night football commercials.
Rugby League 3 is a big ball of “what could have been”. Previous titles were able to get away with mediocre graphics and gameplay elements due to the fact that they were released on earlier systems. RL3 has no such place to hide. In a market where FIFA and NHL titles are breaking barriers every single year, Sidhe can only feed us predigested slop. And no, it doesn’t taste good.
Looks like PS2 era game. Sounds like PS2 era game. It must be PS2 era game! But you wouldn’t be buying a Wii game for looks anyway, now would you?
|How does our scoring system work?|
For the first few games, you’ll just be trying to get used to whichever controller setup you selected. When you finally realise how poor the game mechanics are, you’ll probably wonder why the hell you spent so much time memorizing the controls.
The pitiful quality of music, in-game audio, and commentary is unacceptable in this day and age.
For those that can look past everything else that makes this game a big ball of frustration, you’ll find plenty of different leagues, tournaments, and special events to compete in. Multiplayer also adds a rare element of fun.
There are so few entertaining features offered in Rugby League 3 that it’s basically impossible to recommend it. Perhaps if you’re a video game sadomasochist you’ll derive some deranged sense of fun from this game.