Somewhere high up in EA’s crystal towers, somebody is sleeping well tonight, safe in the knowledge that gaming’s equivalent of Skynet is one step closer to global domination. Because to even the most casual of fan it’s clear that there’s no better console version of Rugby Union than EA’s spanking new shiny version. Case closed. Job done. Captain licensing money has saved the day again.
But at least EA has won this battle through sheer development class rather than financial brute force. Yes it boasts the poncy FIFA graphics engine and yes it looks fantastic as a result (if anything, Rugby 06 could well be the best looking sports game on this generation of console), but there’s far more to this beast than simply flashy visuals, slick presentation and yet another increasingly mainstream soundtrack.
Rugby 06 works because it boasts that sporting Holy Grail mix of simple controls and satisfyingly deep tactics. Running, passing, kicking, barging, shoving, swerving: pretty much all the standard rugby moves are quick and easy to come by. There are some slight hang ups - the lack of shoulder buttons on the Xbox means lateral passes have been switched to the face buttons, which doesn’t feel quite so intuitive, and continually switching between players when you’re on the defensive takes some time getting used to - but for the most part, getting a good game of egg-chasing out of Rugby 06 is easy stuff.