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Rugby World Cup 2011 hands-on

Rugby is one of those sports which few people know much about, yet is hugely entertaining in videogame form. You don’t need to understand the offside rule or be able to tell the difference between a ruck and a mall to get satisfaction from hurling your team forward and battering the opposition. It’s the same as NHL games, whose popularity extends beyond the sport’s fan base, regardless of the actual knowledge of the rules governing it.

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It’s odd then, that it’s been three years since we last saw a rugby game. In fact, the sport hasn’t been represented on this generation of consoles at all. Rugby World Cup 2011 will soon change that.

At an event in Twickenham – the home of English rugby – we got to see and briefly play HB Studios’ upcoming title. The structure is as you would expect from any other sports world cup game: exhibition matches, qualification and the finals. The gameplay hasn’t changed much from what we remember from past games either.

In the match I played – South Africa vs. Wales – the action was fast and fluid, although it was difficult at first to figure out how to switch player. There have been clear attempts to make sure the game is accessible to those who don’t fully understand the game, which is a promising sign. On the easier difficulty levels, your players simply can’t move into offside positions, thus reducing the frustration of unintentional rule-breaking by novices.

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For what is a relatively low budget production, Rugby World Cup 2011 looks the part too. While the player characters might not look quite as detailed as some EA titles up close, in a normal game on a big TV, there’s little difference to be seen and nothing jarring to take you out of the action.

While our time with Rugby World Cup 2011 was brief, it’s clear that it has the potential to make the wait for a next generation rugby title worthwhile. Look out for it on Xbox 360 and PS3 later this month.

The author of this fine article

is the Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in November 2000. Get in touch on Twitter @PhilipMorton.

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