Electronic Arts is the powerhouse of sports video games, and they continue that trend with their release of Rugby 08. Even though rugby may never be as popular here in the US as it is in other countries of the world, EA has definitely built a game that captures the excitement of the game for the seasoned pro and made the interface easy enough for newbies.
I have to admit that I didn't know much about the sport at the time I picked the game up. Since my teen and pre-teen beat me regularly at baseball, football, and basketball — and don't even get me started about the Tony Hawk games — I figured if we played a game that all of us were unfamiliar with, it might level the playing field, so to speak.
I had limited success. My teen and I started out pretty even, but his natural ability with the gaming interfaces knocked me out of the running within a few hours. I could win one every now and again, but the percentages were against me. I can still play at a pretty competent level against my ten-year-old.
In addition to the two-player mode, players choose to sharpen their game with the single-player versus the computer in single games, or venture to season-level play. This seems to help a bit, but the heckling of my teen has limited my gameplay time to whenever he's not around. I've decided you have to have a certain amount of dedication to this game to get a return on your investment.
Rugby 08 features opportunities to play as one of the international teams. You can play a six-week campaign in the World Cup that is complete with player rotation and injury management, which is really overkill for me or anyone with a passing interest in a pick-up game to play against the kids or with a buddy. Some people really get off on managing all those aspects, but I just want to play ball and heckle whoever I'm playing.
A challenge mode allows a player to pick through several different scenarios and play them. In addition to short bouts of fun, a player can pick up necessary skills and tactics to further understand the game.
One of the best aspects of the game is the ability to control the camera, slow the action, and replay game action. My teen took great delight in this, showing me again and again how he blew the socks off my guys. Embarrassingly, it took me a little while to figure out how to do the same to him, and by that time, my great plays came few and far between.
I was really let down to see that there was no online capability. That's where fathers get their true revenge: watching junior go head-to-head with other online players that can kick his butt. I live for that in Counterstrike and the Halo games because I hardly have time to draw a breath in those before he kills me. After getting seriously trashed again and again, I would have loved to heckle from the sidelines while someone else handed him the comeuppance he so richly deserved after all the flack I'd taken.
Although the game comes with a soundtrack and commentary, I got tired of both in short order. The music was good and the commentary was fun at the beginning, but after playing it for awhile, we both got sick of it, turned the sound off, and cranked up the MP3 player in the game room to provide our own soundtrack. And my son continued to deliver the cutting commentary as I went down in flames again and again.
All in all, Rugby 08 is a game that can be enjoyed by the whole family. I've even seen my wife eyeing the game. However, she's a serious football fan — NFL and AFL as well as video games — and I'm really never going to be in the mood for that kind of pain.
Rugby 08 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: PC, PS2, PS3, and Xbox 360.