STAFF REVIEW of Rugby 22 (Xbox One)

Tuesday, March 22, 2022.
by Adam Dileva

Rugby 22 Box art Before I got together with my wife I had never watched a Rugby game in my life outside of some highlight clips. Being in Canada, Rugby has a following, but it’s all about Hockey here, which is probably why I never really followed it. Well, after marrying a Kiwi from New Zealand I was given an allegiance to the All Blacks, and since learning the sport I quite enjoy watching my boys smash the opposition. Since learning the sport's intricacies, I even have my own official All Blacks jersey and enjoy watching our team dominate when World Cup occurs.

With nearly every other sport getting their own games mostly yearly, I was always curious why Rugby didn’t get the same treatment, as it is quite a popular sport in other parts of the world. After reviewing Rugby 20 two years ago I kind of understood, as it’s a harder sport to recreate with all of its special movements, rules and gameplay. Rugby 20 was “OK” at best, so with a two year gap in-between releases, I was hoping there were going to be some notable improvements and additions with this year’s entry, Rugby 22.

The lack of most sponsored teams really made Rugby 20 hard to enjoy, as you generally want to play as the teams and players you know and own jerseys of. So when it was announced that Rugby 22 was going to have the All Blacks officially joining the roster, I was of course excited and needed to play this entry. Now, I’m not going to call it a bait-and-switch, because the All Blacks are definitely in the game, but there’s some massive caveats to that claim. Also, there are still some glaring omissions of big teams, as only 10 of the National Teams are included, but more on that shortly.

Rugby 22 has crafted a Career Mode, and if you’re familiar with how FIFA games do their Ultimate Team Mode, you’ll know exactly what to expect. There’s no ‘story’ per-se, instead starting in the lower tier leagues and work your way up the divisions as you rack up wins. Completing and winning games earns you a currency which can then be used to buy packs of cards which are tied to certain players which you can add to your team. See, just like Ultimate Team.

FIFA’s Ultimate Team is insanely popular for a reason, as you get to collect virtual cards of your favorite players across teams to create your best team possible. Finally flipping that card over and seeing your favorite player is exciting, and I was hoping to get that here with my All Blacks, hoping to see cards of the Barret’s, Whitelock or iconic players like Ma’a Nonu, Richie McCaw or Dan Carter.

This is where Rugby 22 falls into a weird place, as it does have the licensed team, but virtually none of the players are included aside from a few. This means you open packs to players with silhouettes and fake names and stats, deflating the whole purpose behind having a setup like Ultimate Team. Of course you’ll start with low stat players unless you manage to pull a good card or two, but you’ll be needing to improve your team in many facets if you want to take on better competition. This is where buying packs come into play, as does improving certain aspects and stats of your team.

There’s a handful of different modes to play depending on where you want to focus. Quick Match, Career, Online or League are your main options where you can play and adjust various settings based on how you want to play and in what league. Before you even begin though you’re thrust into a training mode that shows you the basics of the game which is great in theory, but there’s quite a few aspects missing that doesn’t even get explained that had be wondering why it was omitted.

If you just want to play a game right away, Quick Match lets you do so against a friend or AI. Online Mode is there, but I’ve been unable to find a single person to play against, which is the same problem I had in Rugby 20 as well, so I can’t comment on how good the servers are unfortunately. League is where you can choose from the licensed teams (though generally just in name) from National, URC, Top 14 and Pro D2. Being a newer and more casual Rugby fan, I was more excited to play as the National teams, but once I get into the included teams, you might be disappointed to know that maybe your team didn’t make the licensing cut this year.

With over 50 Teams included in Rugby 22, keep in mind that is across all of the different leagues. Notice how there’s been no mention of Premiership teams? That wasn’t a mistake unfortunately for those Rugby league fans. The teams for URC, Top 14 and Pro D2 are here, but for National you’re going to notice a few glaring omissions.

The current roster of National teams are as follows: All Blacks, Wallabies, France Rugby, Irish Rugby, Wales, Scotland, Italy, Japan, Flying Fijians and Georgia. That’s right, just those listed 10. Surely a disappointment for England, South Africa and a laundry list of other teams that are sorely missing. Making matters worse is that even the teams that are included don’t have the full official roster either, which is like rubbing salt into a wound.

While I could get over the lack of licensed teams and players, though I’ll admit, I’m willing to give a pass because MY team is included, Rugby 22’s enjoyment will come down to its gameplay and if it’s simply fun to play. This too is a mixed answer. Attempting to recreate the sport’s intensity, some gameplay portions work really well like its Passing and Rucks, while kicking and scrums aren’t as polished.

Starting up Rugby 22 for the first time thrusts you into a tutorial match without any warning. Sure, no problem, this is where I thought I was going to learn all the ins and outs of the gameplay elements and controls. Well, you’re taught the very basics of how to run, move, pass the ball, rucks, throw ins and scrums, but that’s basically it. You’re shown how to add more players into a Ruck (simply pressing B, or holding if you want to add more than once at a time), but not how to Jackal or even kick the ball to avoid getting tackled. Scrums are briefly explained, but is a little confusing without performing them a few times over. This is going to make it very difficult to get those Tries for beginners or new players to the series.

I quite enjoy Rugby 22’s passing mechanics, using the Bumpers to choose which direction and the length the button is held to throw further. It’s not perfect and sometimes it doesn’t go to the player I initially intended, but when it does work and you can get the ball to the Winger and score that Try, it feels great when your strategy works. In general, passing feels fluid and will play into your specific strategies to find holes in the defense and feels better than it did in Rugby 20, though that may be due to the slightly quicker pacing.

Team, kits and stadium licensing is most likely going to be the biggest disappointment for hardcore Rugby fans. Rugby 22’s visuals are passable, but certainly won’t impress. With no real likeness to actual players there’s not much to compare to, but does seem to be a little dated overall when compared to the larger sports titles. As for its audio, well, it’s there, but the commentary is also nothing dynamic or exciting, with many lines repeated.

Rugby 22 is a slight improvement from Rugby 20 and is clearly the best choice for a simulation of the sport that’s recent, but it won’t compare to the FIFA’s, NHL or NBA games in any way for realism, though I doubt developers Eko Software had anywhere near the same budget to be fair. With some friends to play against, Rugby 22 could have some shelf life, but for others, the serious lack of licensing makes it feel stuck in a ruck.

**Rugby 22 was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 6.3 / 10
Gameplay: 6.5 / 10
Visuals: 6.5 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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