Usually I use this blog to promote Caveman Craig 2 and our upcoming games, Nightbear and Stadium Builder, but tonight I was given an opportunity to be one of the first fans to play the new NRL game, Rugby League Live 2. So I believe an exclusive review is highly necessary!
For our regular Parabox Games followers who are not from Australia, let me give you a quick run-down of the sport and its history in video games. Rugby League is one of the most popular sports in Australia and New Zealand, but due to our relatively small populations (on a global scale) Rugby League video games have been largely neglected in the past, as there isn’t a huge market compared to sports that are popular worldwide. Understandable. A few RL games were released throughout the 80’s and 90’s, and then a series of 3 games by New Zealand developers Sidhe, Rugby League, Rugby League 2 & Rugby League 3 (exclusively a Wii game) hit the shelves throughout the 2000s. While they were good for a RL games, and I played them to death, I felt that they never quite hit the spot. They never measured up to the standard of other sports games available at the time. Then a different company, Big Ant, took on the next family of RL games when they released Rugby League Live in 2010. Sadly, this was one of the worst RL games of all time, and many fans hated it (including myself – sold it on eBay the day after I bought it).
However, Big Ant is out to right their wrongs by daring to make a sequel, the game I played tonight, Rugby League Live 2!
Let’s start with my first impressions…
Graphics and Visuals
The graphics in this game are simply excellent! The player likenesses are also very good. I played as my beloved Panthers and was impressed with a few cut scenes that showed Luke Lewis and Kevin Kingston… they were spot on. Unfortunately, people skipped through most of the cut scenes, but from what I could see, they were very good. Big Ant was generous in all the small details when it came to creating the visual atmosphere of a RL game. Cameramen, flags in the crowd, referees, refs throwing their flags in the air after a goal, and… cheerleaders! And I’m not talking about low-polygon objects in the background… these were fully-detailed dancing cheer girls. The detail they put into this was admirable.
Each team has a good selection of jerseys. For my Panthers, I could choose home, away, heritage and also a classic 1991 jersey… inviting players to consider making their favourite teams from history. They were very accurate, however, some teams are without sponsors (namely ones with alcohol and gambling advertising – I don’t have a problem with these being left out)
The menus in the game looked very impressive also… like something you might see on Fox Sports.
There’s a huge list of stadiums in this game, and from what I saw, they are more than sufficient and reasonably accurate.
I noticed in some of the screenshots released recently that all the players have the same bodies…. and yes, this is a fact, but you don’t notice once you’re playing the game. The ball is also too small, meaning that intercepts and offloads often go unnoticed as both opposing players suddenly lose track of where the ball is.
There’s a generous selection of different camera angles to play with (at least 4 or 5) with side angles, and views that sit higher in the sky, allowing you to see out to your wingers. This, however, makes it even more difficult to see the ball.
We only had the opportunity to play quick ten-minute games, but the Big Ant representative also boasted some extensive player creation/customisation, including over 70 different tattoos.
You don’t need to worry about frisbee-ing your game out the window because of frustrating gameplay. RLL2 is going to easily be the best RL game ever.
This game has very extensive controls, which has potential to be its strongest or weakest point. There are 4 different types of tackles, which sounds great!.. but nobody really mastered the controls on the night. Are 4 tackles necessary? It looks like this is the type of game you’ll have to sit down and play solid for hours and hours – rather than casually pick up a controller and play. It’s difficult. I like getting a few mates over to play sports games, but I can imagine most of my friends would get frustrated trying to learn the game, rather than just having fun.
To change players, you had to use the pass buttons, or press two of the triggers to change to the closest player. This was very disappointing for me. I would rather they had one less tackle button.
60% of the time somebody made it over the tryline, they did an embarassing grubber kick, rather than ground the ball. I would’ve hoped that once you’re over the line, any button you press grounds the ball. Mastering the kicks took a while for most people too, but they weren’t bad.
Passing was ok. You can double-press the pass button to do a quick pass to the player on your immediate right or left as they run onto the ball. I tried this a lot, but got nowhere. You can also hold the pass button and do cut-outs, but many balls go to ground, or float forwards. You have to pass straight away, or all your players will be in front of you, and you’ll throw a forward… don’t bother running from dummy half.
They play the ball very slowly, but the tackle animations are VERY good… and you can hold players down in the tackles to make it even slower.
The sad thing about passing was that occasionally the players would do a massive impossible pass halfway across the field. At one stage there was a glitch where a guy tried to pass the ball right, and instead, it flew up in the air and floated 60 metres LEFT over the sideline (it was the only glitch I saw on the night, so it can be excused). Still, the passing was an improvement on previous titles.
If you get tackled when you dive over the line, most times it will go to the video ref… but it’s ok, because the cut scene is pretty cool. The ref makes the TV screen signal, and we see the TRY/NO TRY screen come up – accurate to real life.
Most people struggled with goal-kicking, and kicking off. It wasn’t hard, just very different to previous RL games. You simple rotated your player (taking the wind into consideration) and held down the button and released at maximum power (without going too far). The ball even curls around depending on which foot they kick from.
Big players and forwards are capable of making good busts, and bouncing off tackles from smaller players. I saw someone playing as Manly and sent Brent Kite through for a try, after fending off two smaller players. It was awesome. Fends and sidesteps need to be properly timed. You won’t win a game by simply ‘skating’ up the field with sidesteps, like in previous titles.
There were a few ugly skeletons from previous games, with players often completely out of position. I was hoping to send the ball out to my speedy Penrith centres and wingers, only to find big Cameron Ciraldo positioned on the wing… no wonder I was beaten 22-0.
Commentary & Sound
Andrew Voss returns for the commentary in this game (they’ve recycled old commentary, but they’ve recorded new stuff too), but they’ve now introduced Phil ‘Gus’ Gould. Gus is a great addition to the game – I’m happy they added it – but you will hear the same lines over and over, even within the one game. He also says “no no no NO NO!” a lot, making you murmur “shut up Gus” all too often. The comments are appropriate though. If you score as a result of a mistake from the opposition, he’ll express his disgust at them giving the points away. If it’s a low-scoring game, he’ll comment on the solid defense in the match, and make comments about how good the game is, big hits etc.
I have a strong bias for Vossy’s work in this game (and previous titles) because I’ve worked with him in the past on a few projects and he’s a good guy. When I was a skinny teenager, we did a piece for Boots N’ All together – it’s lurking somewhere on YouTube. I also illustrated his book, and he made some glorious cameos in my – well worth checking out!
The commentary and crowd amps up as you get close to the tryline. The sounds are as you expect from the game. The menu music, from memory, was pretty decent.
The bad news from the night, was that the game won’t be out in time for the finals.
The good news is that the friendly Tru Blu Entertainment folks are sending me a free copy of the game when it comes out on the 11th October!
Truth is, I would have bought it anyway, because I feel that after a few solid hours in front of this game, it may very well satisfy that thirst for a decent RL game.