The East Terrace - For the rugby football enthusiast

We compare the latest rugby video games

EA Rugby 06
Action from EA Rugby


EA SPORTS Rugby 06 & Rugby Challenge 2006

Which game should you buy?

If soccer video gaming fans have the opportunity to gorge themselves on dozens of digital soccer titles each year, rugby gaming fans are left more like Kate Moss: picking around a few scraps left on the table. Thankfully, the start of 2006 has seen two new rugby titles enter the market: Rugby Challenge 2006 (Ubisoft) and EA SPORTS Rugby 06 (EA SPORTS). In rugby terms that is a veritable feast of gaming. But are they any good or will we just pretend we enjoy them as we grateful to have anything to play on at all?

The East Terrace has had a little time with both titles and thought we’d give you an in-depth comparison of our first impressions of them. We wanted to give some of our initial impressions for those who want to rush out and buy a copy and want to know which game is better to waste away all your valuable free time with.

Please note that we were provided with the PS2 version for Rugby Challenge 06 and both the PS2 and Xbox versions for EA SPORTS Rugby 06. We have broken our reviews down into comparisons on the major gameplay points such as passing, kicking, set plays, etc. We then give our verdict on which one we feel is the better overall in each of these categories.

Scrums

EA SPORTS Rugby 06:
Once again, EA have decided that scrums travel as fast as Bryan Habana does when he gets the ball in open space. If you manage to get the shove on the opponent you will make about ten yards in about two seconds flat. Meaning that it is almost impossible to stop a five-metre scrum when defending against a decent team. Surely executing such a play should require some skill on behalf of the player?

Rugby Challenge 2006: This game has the same method for scrums as mauls. The player has to press a button in rhythm with an on-screen marker to get a good shove on. It works well for mauls but not so well for scrums. Seeing the ball magically leave your number eight’s feet and travel to the other side of the scrum when your opponent has better timing is a bit daft.

Verdict: We give it to Rugby Challenge as we are so fed up with EA’s 100 miles an hour, unstoppable five-yard scrums.

Lineouts

EA Rugby 06:
Nothing has really changed here from last year. You select your jumper and thrower and have to time the interaction between both. Practical and works well enough. Could do with more options for short lineouts and variations though.

Rugby Challenge 2006: This game offers you seven, five and three-man options. Which we like.

Verdict: We are giving it to Rugby Challenge as they offer more variations. However, neither game offers anything as innovative as peel at the front or back of the lineout.

Gavin Henson’s Hair

EA Rugby 06:
The spikes look more like an Elvis quiff. What will Gavin think?

Rugby Challenge 06: With the stylish look of the game’s graphics, we had high hopes for Gavin’s hair. Sadly, it doesn’t do his wonderful head justice. Far too scruffy.

Verdict: EA has Gavin on the box so it makes sense they got his hair right(ish).

Rucks, mauls and turnovers

EA Rugby 2006: Turnovers are the bane of rugby games. EA has always decided that it is impossible for a team like Samoa, Fiji or Scotland to keep the ball for more than about two phases against the likes of New Zealand or England. As for getting turnovers in your favour when playing as Samoa, forget it. Things seem slightly better here in the 2006 edition, but there is still a frustrating amount of ball turnover for no reason against a superior team, whilst crunching the Kiwi fullback when he is isolated fails to gain you a turnover. The balance is still wrong. Getting speedy ball from a ruck is still not really possible either.

Rugby Challenge 2006: We like the mauling technique (see our scrum section) but the rucking is ridiculous. You cannot really force turnovers or seem to suffer any when playing the computer. In some of our two player games we could get three or four tries with countless phases on each one and the only time the opponents got the ball is whilst kicking it back to us after the conversion. We have even had a couple of matches go to the 120th minute as we take as long as we want to go through dozens – and we mean dozens – of phases. It destroys the game and is the biggest single reason to not buy this game. It undoes so much of the games more positive aspects.

Verdict: EA Rugby 06, no contest (no pun intended).

Read page two of our in-depth review