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Rugby 08 PlayStation 2

Published by: EA Sports
Developed by: EA Sports
Release Date: Out Now

We are only a few weeks away from the start of the Rugby World Cup, so the timing is perfect for the release of a rugby game. Of course a rugby game that is also fully licensed for the Rugby World Cup 2007 and allows gamers to pick a nation of their choice and attempt to lift a virtual Webb Ellis Cup is especially welcome. Rugby 08 manages to both build on the previous game in the series, Rugby 06, by adding some rather useful features and also includes a fully licensed Rugby World Cup 2007 mode to get you in the mood for the real thing which begins this September.

Rugby 08 isn't just about allowing you to play through a virtual Rugby World Cup. In addition to the Rugby World Cup 2007 mode there is also a Challenge mode, a Practice mode, a Tutorial and a Tournament mode. The Tournament mode allows you to take part in the Tri-Nations, RBS 6 Nations, Super 14, Guinness Premiership, European Trophy and World League. The Challenge mode provides a wealth of scenarios from the 1987, 1991, 1995, 1999 and 2003 Rugby World Cup competitions. In each mode the game has three difficulty settings, Club, Pro and Elite so you can make your matches (or scenarios) as relaxed or as challenging as you wish.

So how does Rugby 08 improve upon Rugby 06? The new drop goal shootout has been added to help resolve matches that are tied after extra time has been played. Essentially this is the rugby equivalent of football's penalty shootout and five players are picked to attempt a drop goal from behind the 22-metre line with the team scoring the most drop goals winning the game. The scrum and maul controls have been enhanced and you can now drive a scrum up field at any angle, resist the drive and wheel the scrum when defending. The line-out controls have been enhanced to make line-outs feel more realistic. Perhaps the biggest plus with Rugby 08 is the improvements made in the AI behaviour. The AI seems far more competent in how it plays the game, particularly in how it defends. 

There are a few disappointments with Rugby 06. Whilst the game is generally easy to pick up and play, even for those who have never played a rugby game before, there's nothing here to explain the rules and regulations of the game to a rugby novice. Once more the developers decided not to include any online play options which is a real shame, especially as you could have really had a lot of fun playing your very own virtual online Rugby World Cup 2007.You could also argue that there are far too many high tackles from the AI which can be a little irritating. I daresay many would have also liked to have seen the inclusion of Rugby Sevens but sadly it's been left out once again.

Graphically the game is practically the same as Rugby 06, with the exception of up to date kits. The game looks about as good as it possibly can on the PlayStation 2 and in truth there's little to complain about with the look of the game. It could be said that the player likenesses aren't that great but in all honesty it's not something you'd really notice when playing a match. There are some new camera control options which allow you to view the game exactly as you want to. The player animations are all good. The frame rate holds up nicely throughout and the load times are all fairly respectable. The series is going to have to wait until it moves to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 before it can look any better than it does here.

The previous EA Sports Rugby titles we've seen haven't been that great for deaf gamers. As with all sports games there are no subtitles for the match commentary. Once again the bulk of the tutorial isn't subtitled and gamers will be completely unaware of the helpful comments that are given out. Thankfully the controls and basic instructions are shown in text so the tutorial is still of some value for deaf gamers.  From the main menu you can select the EA Sports Extras option to find information on the controls and game help, which gives you text and information to explain what the various player speciality icons used in the game means as well as information on player form and morale, out of position players and player positions and roles.

There can be little doubt that the main attraction with Rugby 08 is the ability to play through a fully licensed Rugby World Cup 2007 tournament with all the official nations, kits and stadia etc. Taking the Rugby World Cup out of the equation, it's fair to say that this isn't a big improvement over the Rugby 06 although, with that said, it's definitely a game players of Rugby 06 will want to pick up. Despite there not being many differences between Rugby 06 and Rugby 08 (the Rugby World Cup aside of course), the differences do make a difference and Rugby 08 is the best in the series so far. It plays a solid game of rugby and is arguably one of the best console rugby games to date. The lack of an online mode is unfortunate, especially as the ability to play an online game such as, Rugby World Cup, would have been great, but I daresay this is something we'll see when the series finally moves over to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. If you are currently in the market for a rugby title then Rugby 08 is definitely the game to go for.

Overall Game Rating 7.9/10

Deaf Gamers Classification

DGC Classification D
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Rugby 08 is one of the best rugby games you can currently purchase and offers slight improvements over Rugby 06 as well as a fully licensed Rugby World Cup. The lack of an online mode and a fully subtitled tutorial is disappointing though.