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Rugby 06 PlayStation 2

Published by EA Sports
Developed by HB Studios
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £39.99

Rugby 06, an introduction.

For years fans of rugby were largely neglected when it came to console games. Whilst football games have always been popular rugby games have always been few and far between. In recent times things have got better, a certain World Cup win for England did no harm for the sport's appeal, and games have been arriving on a fairly regular basis. Here we have the latest in the EA Sports Rugby series, Rugby 06.

What's the game about?

Rugby 06 attempts to correct a lot of complaints that gamers had with Rugby 2005 and it certainly does a good job. There's a wealth of new features that help make the game flow better and these are definitely the best improvements the game offers (we'll come to these in a moment). The game includes a Tutorial and Practice mode and a variety of tournaments for you to play. The included tournaments are World Championship, Tri-Nations, RBS 6 Nations, Ten Nations, Super 14, European Trophy, World League, Lions Tour and the Guinness Premiership. As you can tell from that, club sides have been included so if you fancy playing as Edinburgh, Toulouse, Ulster or Saracens etc., you can now do so.

What's good about the game?

Rugby 2005 was a solid enough rugby game but there was plenty of room for improvements. The pick of the new modes has to be the World League mode which gives you the chance to play the game with more management options. Basically you'll pick one of the lesser sides (I opted for Treviso) and begin life in Division 3. The idea is to turn the club's declining fortunes around. You'll have full access to transfers and practice sessions etc. as you bid to make your team of no hopers into a force to be reckoned with. Even if you ignore the extra modes and club sides, Rugby 06 has a wealth of new features that make the game more enjoyable. Offload passes have now been included so if you've been tackled, but not completely brought to ground, you can offload the ball to a team-mate to keep the play flowing. Likewise quick penalties and quick line-outs have also been included and again this helps to keep a more fluid motion to the nature of the game. Big hits (a high aggressive tackle) can now be made which is a great way of stopping an opponent dead in their tracks but it's also risky and may get the offending player sent off. You can also select several new set plays which is actually a good feature as you can tailor your attacking tactics to suit the way you like to play. EA have also included what they call Impact Players. Essentially this is a star player system which gives the better players individual characteristics. You'll notice real world star player performing better than other players and having their own special moves. This is something we've seen in other EA Sports series for quite a while now so it's great to see this finally brought into the Rugby series.

What's not so good about the game?

The biggest disappointment is the lack of an online mode. I'm pretty sure had the game included online play it would have made the overall package more appealing but sadly you're confined to 2-player games unless you own a Multitap device (which of course will give you 4-player games). As we'll see in a moment, the game could have been better for deaf gamers and it's a shame there are so many omissions. The game's tutorial isn't anywhere near as comprehensive as it should be. I already had a basic knowledge of Rugby but had I no knowledge of the game there wouldn't be enough here to actually make the game understandable. You'll have to play at least half a dozen games or so before things start making sense if you're not au fait with the rules and regulations of rugby.  The default camera angle (a side-on view) isn't good enough. You can change the camera angle to something more useful so it's not a major complaint but nevertheless the side-on view shouldn't have been the default camera angle.

How does it look?

Graphically Rugby 06 is pretty much what you'd expect it to be. The graphical quality hasn't really improved much from last year's game although the animations look more natural this year and some of the new features such as offload passing certainly highlight this quite well. The ball physics seem OK, although the ball does move unrealistically at times. The frame rate remains smooth throughout which is good to see. Load times aren't bad either which is always nice to see.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Like most sports games Rugby 06 isn't going to cause deaf gamers any real difficulties but it isn't without problems. The bulk of the tutorial isn't subtitled. Thankfully a controller display and some brief text instructions compensate somewhat for this. However the part when you are taught about line-outs is problematic as you are given verbal instructions to keep the respective throw button pressed down whilst the receiver instructions are explained. Nothing is shown visually for this and it does stop the tutorial dead in its tracks unless by some large stroke of luck you happen to get the timing right. You can get around this problem by relying on trial on error but nevertheless it makes the tutorial pretty awkward for deaf gamers.  The section that's focused on explaining the new features that are in the game isn't subtitled either. In the goal kicking section of the practice mode there are two sound effects that signify either a successful goal attempt or an unsuccessful one. There are no captions for these sound effects. Match commentary isn't subtitled but whilst this is unfortunate it's not really that damaging. You may miss out on some of the ambience but you can still enjoy the game without the commentary. Whilst most decisions during a game are explained in text, I didn't notice any visual notification of advantage decisions.

Final thoughts.

There can be little doubt that the EA Sports Rugby series is improving and Rugby 06 is the best the series has delivered so far. The extra tournaments and the new manoeuvres have all managed to make the game more satisfying than last year's game. The tutorial could be better though and the game could be more deaf gamer friendly. Online play wouldn't go amiss either. Still all things considered this is a solid purchase for anyone with an interest in the sport.

Overall Game Rating: 7.9/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

(Click the letter or here for details)

Rugby 06 represents a good improvement upon Rugby 2005 and the new additions all work well. Online play and a better provision for deaf gamers would have made it an even more appealing product.