When it was announced that HB Studios, the development team behind the diabolically bad Rugby 15, were developing the official game based on the 2015 Rugby World Cup and that it was due to be released just nine months after their first effort, alarm bells started to ring all over the show. Would the developer take on the criticisms from the universal slating of their first game, or were we on track for the worst tournament-licenced sports game since 1986's almost violently terrible World Cup Carnival?
Well, let's put it this way. Judging by Rugby World Cup 2015, we're pretty sure that they didn't read any of the reviews of Rugby 15.
In fact, they've actually taken a game that was at least playable for about fifteen minutes and cut that maximum time down to a tight ten, providing you close your eyes and imagine that you're sat on a Caribbean beach with a drink in your hand for the first eight of them. In times like this, it's difficult to write prose that flows particularly well given that all we have to work with is a list of flaws, errors, and basic gameplay oversights. So, let's start with some of them and go from there.
This is an officially licenced game based on the Rugby World Cup, where half of the players – including those of the host nation, England - have false names. To make matters worse, the commentators only seem to know about five of those false names, so just sit there saying "it goes to the forward, passed to another forward, handed off to another one of the forwards" for most of the match. We're not even kidding. They didn't even think of doing something as basic as calling out player numbers, which was an idea that came to us in the four seconds it took to type this sentence. Still, with that licence in tow, we were looking forward to seeing how the developer had done with constructing a digital version of a stadium that we can see from the window of pX Towers. Indeed, Sandy Park, the home of the Exeter Chiefs, plays host to a handful of early matches in the tournament and is even pinpointed on a map of the UK which appears during loading in the game. Wow, this will be awesome! This'll be the first time one of our local teams has had their stadium represented in a game!
Oh no, wait. They haven't bothered replicating any of the stadiums. You play at grounds called "International 1", "International 2", or "Club."
Still, that would all be forgiven if the on-pitch action was decent.
Only, it isn't. In fact, "decent" is a million miles away. Come to think of it, Rugby 15 (which we scored 2/10) is a distant and pleasurable memory when compared to this. While playing Rugby World Cup 2015, we dreamed of Rugby 15. We long for Rugby 15. We've put a picture of Rugby 15 in a heart-shaped frame in our office, to remind us of better days.
But why is it so bad? Where do we begin?
The ruck system requires quick reactions in order to steal the ball, only the delay between you pressing buttons and anything actually happening means that it's impossible to use on any of the more challenging difficulty settings. Not that it matters, since the CPU just cheats and wins the ball every time on the Hard difficulty setting anyway – to the point that you can feasibly play an entire half of rugby without actually ever having possession, barring kicking off. Players run far too quickly in a comedy manner and bunch up like bananas, causing much hilarity as you pretty much lead every player on the pitch in a merry dance up and down the turf, should you manage to avoid being tackled.
Passing is unresponsive and slow, so you press the button to pass and then get tackled a full second later, without your player even having attempted to throw the ball. Kicking is even slower, so by the time your player is even close to kicking the ball, it'll have been charged down and you'll have given away a penalty for a knock on, every other time you attempt putting boot to ball. Scrums and mauls only work on medium or easy difficulty. On hard mode, even though you have a full power bar and the opponent only has half in the lock-picking mini-game that you have to play in order to push the opponent back, you'll find yourself losing twenty metres or so as the opposition just rolls you down the field.
Lineouts are nothing but a gamble. If the opponent is throwing the ball, you just have to guess which of the three positions they'll throw to and hope that you're right. If you're the one throwing it, you pick one of the three positions and watch as nine times out of ten, the opponent will grab the ball even though it was clearly in your hands. If you're tackled within ten metres of the sidelines, the ball will go out of play due to the fact that the "I've been tackled…I'm falling! I'm falling! I'm going over! I'll hit the ground in a minute! Why have you forsaken me, father?"-style animation takes about three and a half weeks to complete so you just roll over the touchline with the ball in hand. Interceptions don't happen in open play. Throw a pass right at a defender, and it'll go through him. Not just sometimes, but every time. However, on the top difficulty setting, you can be running with the ball and then find that for no reason whatsoever and with no players within five metres of you, the other team now magically have the ball and are running away for a try. There's no tackle or collision animation. You didn't lose the ball in a ruck. You didn't drop the ball. You just don't have it anymore because...well...reasons. Sucks to be you.
But the worst thing by far, has to be the dive tackle. Players seem to arbitrarily just wander through standing tackles whenever they feel like it, but if you aim and press A, you can launch your player head first into an opponent like a Bullet Bill. It sort of looks like a rugby tackle if it was reimagined by ex-WWE wrestler Edge. You can almost hear Jim Ross bellowing "SPEAR! SPEAR! SPEAR! With God as my witness, he is broken in half!" as your 260lb defender somehow rockets toward the opponent at 100mp/h and knocks him to the ground, despite the ball carrier being 15 metres away and having three other players in front of him as protection.
So if you can't kick properly, can't pass properly, can't control mauls and scrums properly, can't take lineouts, can't tackle with any regularity and can't run without bursting into fits of laughter over the diabolical animation, you may be wondering what's left in a rugby game that could possibly go wrong.
What is this, amateur hour? You've totally forgotten to think about game-destroying bugs!
Game-destroying bugs such as the one where everybody decides to stand still and wait for the clock to run down and none of your controller inputs do anything. Game-destroying bugs where the clock has stopped and the CPU refuses to put the ball back into play, meaning that your only option is to quit the game and suffer a 30-0 loss, which is pretty damned devastating when you're halfway through playing a full World Cup and are in the knockout stages of the ONLY GAME MODE THAT IS AVAILABLE aside from free play.
Not enough for you? Well how about graphics that – and we said this about Rugby 15 and aren't too ashamed to say it again – look like the game is playing on an original Xbox?
It may sound like we're just sat here hammering Rugby World Cup 2015 without trying to find any good points about it to balance things out. We assure you that isn't the case. The problem is that trying to find good points about Rugby World Cup 2015 is like searching through a cluttered drawer for a pen, only to find that someone's filled the drawer with used hypodermic needles, your shoes have been glued to the floor, the house is on fire, and someone has replaced all of your pens with pictures of the saddest things that have ever happened to you in your life anyway.
This is nothing but a disgustingly blatant cash-in. Rugby World Cup 2015 is Rugby 15 with a new (yet somehow just as ugly) coat of paint, less teams, less game modes, and more bugs. Still. At least they're "only" trying to charge £30 for it in stores, even if it is somehow £45 digitally.
It's as if the developers of Rugby World Cup 2015 hate you for daring to hope that they'd made up for the near-intolerable Rugby 15. If you've shelled out for this then it's fair to say that you'll hate them right back. This is easily the worst game available for Xbox One - sports or otherwise - and is without any shadow of a doubt one of the worst officially-licenced sports games of all time. Absolutely atrocious on every single level.