In New Zealand there are two winter sports - Rugby League and Rugby Union. Over 15 months ago, Sidhe Interactive, publishers Tru Blue Games and distributors HES Interactive announced a sequel to their 2003 smash hit Rugby League game. What made the announcement unusual was that the game was to be made for the Playstation 2 and PC - but not the XBox. However, what is apparent right from the start is that the promised improvements from the original are vast. Navigation and the menu interface is polished and much slicker than in the first game and thanks to Weta Studio’s animation capture facilities - the graphics and animations are brilliant. Despite the detail required, Rugby League 2 still contains the likenesses of over 500 players and officials and all the famous faces can be easily identified on the pitch. This same technology is used to give you complete control over the appearance allowing you to make a “virtual you” or a whole team of your mates!
Since development on this sequel began in February 2004, Sidhe have been listening to what buyers of the first game had to say and have made many advances to the game in terms of extra features and gameplay elements. As you would expect Rugby League 2 includes all the major teams and competitions including the NRL, Super League, State of Origin, City versus Country, and a range of international teams such as Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, France, USA and more. Fixtures will be taken from the 2005 season with the current seasons sponsors and around 40 stadiums being included - all of which, unlike the AFL title, will include real stadium names. Besides single matches the game includes a Competition mode and a Franchise mode.
Competition Mode allows gamers to take their selected team or teams through a single year of a given competition. In fact if, for instance, you have several mates around, it will be possible to each pick a team and follow them through the entire season. The Competition Mode includes Super League, NRL, State of Origin, City vs Country, and more. Perhaps even more exciting is the news that Rugby League 2 includes an all-new Franchise Mode which lasts up to 10 years. This Mode allows gamers to take control of one team through multiple years of either the Super League or NRL and offers more advanced management functionality including player contract management, injuries, judiciary, and mid season representative games. It will even be possible to send your team off to training.
In terms of gameplay the developers have added several new features such as ball stripping, shoulder barges, diving on and kicking the loose ball, contesting the high ball, pass to playmaker and more. The game rules and setup can be adjusted with a variety of sliders however we can confirm that there will not be any fighting in the game - a decision made between the NRL and developers Sidhe. As if that wasn’t enough, another major addition that is certain to get most gamers excited is the inclusion of one-on-one online gameplay which will not only allow competitive and friendly play over the Internet but will also keep track of player rankings and statistics. Sadly it won’t be possible for a PS2 Rugby League 2 player to compete against a PC player - but I’m sure there will be more than enough PS2 owners to keep you busy.
The developers have also individually modelled the likenesses of over 500 players and officials. Finally, commentary in the game is being provided by none other than Andrew Voss of Channel 9. In what is a most welcome feature the game will even recognise up to 900 different created names in the game! If you’re a Rugby League fan, start saving for this game now. It looks like an essential purchase and a solid sequel that offers more than expected!