Previews

Jonah Lomu's Rugby Challenge: Exactly what rugby fans have been waiting for

Taking the Jonah Lomu name to the next level...

In 1997, Jonah Lomu Rugby rose to the top of the division of ace Rugby Union games. Now, almost 15 years later, thanks in part to a lengthy list of seriously underachieving rugger titles, it hasn't budged.

Enter Jonah Lomu's Rugby Challenge (All Blacks Rugby Challenge if you're in New Zealand or Wallabies Rugby Challenge if you're down under), which is readying itself in the dressing room with a real chance to raise the bar once again.

Rugby Challenge is, however, NOT a direct sibling of the aforementioned Jonah Lomu Rugby but has (so we're told) been crafted in its image, taking its best bits and adding elements to make for an even greater, fuller gaming experience.

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When compared to its direct competitor, EA's Rugby World Cup 2011, it may seem as though Rugby
Challenge lacks a certain amount of get up and go in the official licensing department. But look again: there are 93 different club and national teams to choose from. The roster is certainly not one to be sniffed at, hosting the All Blacks, Wallabies, USA Eagles, Tri Nations, Quad Nations, Aviva Premiership, Pro12, Top14, ITM Cup, Nz & Aus Super Rugby teams. There's more than enough content there to slap hearty smiles on rugby enthusiast faces everywhere.

And, if you're deeply concerned that there's no Six Nations, relax, it's just been renamed Euro Nations. Similarly, the super 15's is now the Rugby 15's. You get the idea.

On the pitch the first thing you'll notice is the point of view. A lot of rugby or American football games position the camera centrally over the field but, in Rugby Challenge, the camera hovers behind the players in possession. It not only gives you a sense of being physically involved in the mayhem, but also helps you read the game more easily. You're able to make judgements at key moments in order to find gaps in the opposition defence and continue an effective attack.

The standard viewpoint also seems to fit perfectly with the controls, which are well balanced and intuitive, allowing for fluid and fast-paced gameplay right from the off.

SCRUMPTIOUS

Scrums are controlled by simultaneously pushing up both analogue sticks and line-outs are a doddle too, enabling you to throw the ball front, back and centre simply by pushing the appropriately assigned button.

Sprinting is a major factor. Without doubt the game's best moments see you dashing for the tryline while frantically twiddling the left stick in the hope of dodging some butch defender. Belligerently shoving the right stick upwards sees you make a last ditch attempt to hand the bruiser off before you unwillingly become part of a very unappetizing sack lunch.

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The other option is, of course, to fling the ball away from your precious fleshy body and hope the threat follows. With a simple press of the left or right bumper, you can fling a last second pass to your compatriot who will then hopefully proceed to dive to the line in a blaze of glory.

If you find yourself in the middle of the pitch completely alone and end up on the ground, worry not. By tapping X or A (whatever your persuasion), your team-mates will shuffle over and join the turf war to gain/retain possession of the ball.

The game has some added personality in regard to some of its effects, features and bonus material. As is, standard kicking is spot on, but the real star of the show is the bullet time styled drop goal mode that slows down time, giving you plenty of opportunity to survey wind speed/direction to guide the ball through the big H.

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