Genre: Sport Developer: Publisher: Tru Blu Games Classification: G Release Date: 18th Mar 2010 Platforms:Wii
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I like to pretend the real problem with Rugby League 3 is it was made by New Zealanders. You might as well get Victorians to make a game about Cricket, Queenslanders to make a game about Union or New South
Welshman to make a game about Cricket, Union, League or losing graciously. All jokes aside, every year we see another FIFA, another Madden, another NBA 2k10 and I think "where the hell is my Rugby League game?" At this point I'd settle for a Rugby Union game as good as Jonah Lomu Rugby, but what I'd really love is a League game with as much attention to detail as say... UFC 2009 Undisputed.
On one hand Rugby League 3 gives me hope in the idea that at least Rugby League 4 couldn't conceivably be worse. On the other, RL3 makes me wonder if they'll even make an RL4. The problems with Rugby League 3 range from gameplay specific to aesthetic, and while the game does have strong points there are numerous failings negating each.
Let's open with the control scheme. The game uses either a Wii remote control system, a Wiimote/Nunchuk combo control system or... the Gamecube controller (not the Classic). If you have a Gamecube controller lying around, consider yourself in luck because you're going to get the single most functional experience out of the game.
The Gamecube control setup allows the game to be played like any other game might - imagine your FIFAs or Maddens and you're looking at a similar experience. The game still has flaws but it's easier to overlook in light of a functional controller setup. Of course, most people who own a Wii will be restricted to the Waggle control combos - Wiimote and Nunchuk unbelievably being the worse of the two.
To pass the ball with the Wiimote you need to waggle left - imagine the Wiimote is a ball, and pass it in the direction you want the ball to go (remember to put your wrist strap on blah, blah, blah). When it works, the ball will go to another player. Should you be too enthusiastic in returning your hands to the normal playing position the ball will return from whence it came, which is such a deceptive move it will confuse not just your opponent - but you as well.
Kicks are a source of great entertainment as well. For a decent kicking game a player needs to play Rugby League 3 perched on the edge of their seat so they can easily thrust the Wiimote downwards for a grubber kick. It works like this - you pass the ball to your favourite grubber specialist, hold the one button and thrust downwards sharply. If it works, you sprint after the ball (by holding in the B trigger with the middle part of your middle finger, because that's comfortable), pick it up and reap the rewards. If it doesn't, you thrust the wiimote quickly up and down again - and the up motion registers for a bomb kick.
Outside of control woes, the game has a number of other flaws. The statisticians for the game decided the Melbourne Storm is a better team than Queensland's State of Origin team, statistically. Other statistics are stuck in August 2009 as well meaning St George Illawarra are apparently as good as the Kangaroos - the best team in the game. The Bulldogs are better than the Storm.
And as big a fan as I am of little Billy Slater I find it tough to believe that the only man he can't stomp over is... Billy Slater. Seriously, if you made the mistake of purchasing this game load up a match of the Storm versus... anyone, give the ball to Billy 'The Terminator' Slater and let him hit-up his way to your victory.
Gameplay-wise there are some curiosities. Take scrums, for example. The advantage of having only a back line in defence is constantly negated because the animation of the halfback when he picks up the ball is clunky and slow - upon gathering the ball your advantage is all but gone as the forwards have moved back into the field of play.
Playing the ball after a tackle is handled in a very similar way - the tackled player will play the ball immediately, but both sides are frozen in time until the dummy half rolls on over to continue the game. The game doesn't properly assign multiple markers either - sometimes there's one and sometimes two - if you attempt to drag a second marker in you'll often get penalised for offside. It makes the game clunky and ugly to watch.
Speaking of clunky and ugly to watch, the animations range from amusing to eye-opening. Stepping and tackling will often glitch out - making players glide across the world as they complete their movements. It's easy to make tackles simply by smashing the 2 button when you're near an opponent - even if they pass the ball there's still a chance that your tackling player will ice skate across to tackle the new person.
The graphics look worse than those of Rugby League 2 - a game created for last generation's consoles. You can typically pick players based on their faces, but overall the game pales in comparison to the likes of Madden or FIFA (even on the WII). It's not all bad - the commentary is ok, if not fantastic. It's better than Madden 10's effort, for example. The other sounds are pretty decent too - hit-ups sounds, whistle blows and crowd ambience all sound fairly good, lending to a good aural atmosphere.
The other winner is the Franchise mode, which is surprisingly in-depth (if you want it to be). You're able to control your chosen team over a dozen or so years - you can manage almost every part of the game as you drag them through season after season - you can sign players from the various different leagues (and there are quite a few represented, with over 80 teams available in the game), train them to suit your play style (if you can work out a play style beyond 'waggle and pray') and deal with their injuries (if they happen).
Of course, any goodwill generated by Franchise mode is moot - you're still going to have to wrestle with the controls at some point. The argument from fans of the game will probably run with something like 'just use a Gamecube controller' - the fact of the matter is, most people who own a Wii certainly didn't own a Gamecube. They might own a Classic controller - but the Classic inexplicably isn't supported.
The more you play Rugby League 3, the more you get the feeling it might have been shovelled out simply to make money - when Rugby League fans are starved as they are for video games that they would learn the ins and outs of American Football or continuously crack out Jonah Lomu Rugby (a 13 year old game, by the way), you could spit out anything out and these RL fiends might lap it up.
The surprisingly good Franchise mode demonstrates an attention to detail non-existent in the rest of the game - which only serves to highlight the almost contemptuous nature of what's on offer. While the rest of the world is playing Skates, FIFAs, Maddens and UFCs it's disappointing to think there are millions of potential customers out there, and none of them are being satisfied.
Don't buy Rugby League 3. Don't even rent it. Gamers and Rugby League fans truly only have one option when it comes to sending developers a message - vote with your wallets. Send them a message - Wii shovelware is not a good enough option when other sports have so much better.