Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge was launched just in time to cash-in on the Rugby World Cup 2011.
New Zealand developer Sidhe is behind the title. With no real popular games to their name, we didn’t know what to expect from Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge.
From the start, I was pleasantly surprised with close-ups of some of the game’s most popular faces. The biggest disappointment is that only the New Zealand, Australian and American National teams are licensed.
On the menu screen you are faced with either online gameplay, a quick match, one of the many tournaments, or starting a career as a club player, an international player, or both.
The tournaments include ITM Cup, Aviva Premiership, Top 14 Orange, Rugby 15, World Rugby Championship and Tri Nations.
While loading, you can run around with three players while passing and kicking the ball around, as seen on the likes of FIFA 11. This makes a rather short loading time feeling even shorter.
As the players walk on to the field, you can’t help but feel like part of the action as the players line up for the national anthems and even the famous Haka is featured when playing against or with New Zealand.
Within the actual gameplay, things feel a bit disorganised with players running all over the place. Gameplay is however really smooth and smoothly transitions from one scene to another.
The set pieces are well thought out, with the scrum leading the pack in this regard. The line outs are a real easy set piece to master as it is only pressing any one of three buttons at the correct time. If this is done correctly you will win 100% of all your line out balls.
The same goes for defending a line out; if playing against the “computer” you are guaranteed to win the opposition’s ball quickly.
As you play the game you will quickly notice that there isn’t a lot of structure. A lot of players are standing out of position, so it is not uncommon to find a lock or prop in the backline. This leads to a lot of frustrating knock-ons.
Even when passing the ball from the base of the ruck there is the odd forward pass that creeps in quite regularly. As you pass the ball down the line you also have to deal with the occasion where the ball is passed backwards towards your try line.
Defence is messy at the best of times. You either have the option to select a player closest to the ball or a player to the left or the right of the player that is selected at that moment in time.
There’s an option of two tackles. A normal tackle or a more aggressive tackle; with the latter stopping the opposition but potentially leading to a penalty. Breaking tackles is quite easy as this is only a push upwards with your right analog stick.
There is no option of a quick line out or a quick tap from a penalty. When awarded a penalty you have the option of taking a quick tap, but the AI resets the opposition to the mandatory 10 metres away from the penalty spot. There is no option to drive from the line out and you either tap the ball to the scrumhalf or come down with the ball and set up a ruck from there.
When you do score a try there is always the risk of a player trying to tackle you in the in-goal area. This will lead to your player trying to break the tackle automatically, and cross the dead ball line which will result in a 22metre drop out for the opposition.
There are no set play moves to choose from and no pick up from the back of the scrum by the eighth man.
The opposition also tend to have a high rate of off-loads. This leads to a scramble on defence, but not a major problem.
Sidhe has recently launched a patch which is available for download. This rectifies the issues where the ball is passed backwards towards your try line and the forward passes from the scrumhalf to a nearby player. They have also included some sliders that gives you the option to change the off-load rates of the teams.
There is a really extensive customisation option where you can change almost all features of any player and team. With some time spent on this you can change all names of your team, if unlicensed, to represent your favourite players.
The biggest shortcoming is the lack of licensing. Licensing aside, Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge is a proper rugby game with good graphics, sound and gameplay.
Online I could not find an opponent to play against; as matchmaking was automatic, it was out of my control.
After completing a few tournaments on a competitive level, the longevity of gameplay will die down quite quickly.
Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge review (PS3) << Comments and views