This is the fourth attempt at a rugby league game (this includes the World Cup edition of the game released last year) from the folks at Sidhe. Previously, the game had been released on the PC, Xbox and PS2. This time around it's the Wii that gets the Rugby League treatment, complete with Wii Remote motion controls.
As a fan of Rugby League and videogames, I've played every single league game since the release of ET's Rugby League way back in 1992. Since then, I've wished for a decent Rugby League game. Something that was enjoyable; had some depth and most of all captured the essence of the greatest game on earth. This game is probably the most fun I've had with a Rugby League game in long time.
The big selling point for Rugby League 3 is probably the use of the Wii Remote motion controls to play the game, unfortunately this is the one area I found to be the biggest downfall. The idea is great - pass and kick the ball by flicking the remote, it's just that the controls can be very unresponsive. I found it hard to sometimes pass in the right direction, let alone string a few passes together. This problem became annoying when I couldn't mount any sort of attack, so forget about even trying to copy the flashy attacking style of a team like the Wests Tigers.
Luckily the game includes GameCube controller support. This makes a huge difference in the way the game is played. It feels more natural using the shoulder buttons, and it is more responsive. There are other reasons the game works better using the controller, as it is easier to pull off sidesteps, fends and aggressive tackles. I played against friends who were using the controller, while I used the Wii remote, and the result was always the same - a loss to me. So my recommendation is to get yourself a GameCube controller, as you'll have a far more enjoyable experience.
It's also a good idea to have a few Wii remotes and GameCube controllers available as the game supports up to eight players. So that's four Wii remotes and four GameCube controllers, which equals an intense multiplayer gaming session. It can get confusing on-screen at times, but what can you expect with eight people playing all at once.
An area of the game that impressed me greatly was the kicking in general play. When kicking, time will slow down, similar to bullet time. This feature allows players more time for precision when kicking for a 40/20 or trying to place the ball in the in-goal. The slow down time could have been sped up a little, as I thought it gave advantage to the kicking team. The game includes most types of kicks used in Rugby League; these include punts, grubbers, chip kicks, bombs and drop kicks for kicking field goals. Another positive aspect of the kicking in the game was that it was easy to do using either the Wii Remote or the GameCube controller.
In terms of the content, Rugby League 3 includes 80 licensed teams from the NRL, Super League, State of Origin and Internationals. And for the first time ever, the Under 20s Toyota Cup competition is included. There are plenty of real stadiums such as the Sydney Football Stadium, to compete in. The teams are from the 2009 season, so included are names such as Karmichael Hunt, who as fans know left the game to play AFL, while the game is missing names like the recently returned Lote Tuquri.
The stadiums are accurately modelled, and they actually look reasonable. Player likeness in models was more of a hit and miss affair, as some players looked very much like their real-life versions, while others not so much.
The player animations look clunky and could've been more fluid, but I didn't feel as if this hindered the gameplay at all. The previous games played slow and clunky, but this version feels much smoother. An area of improvement was the side steps as before they were slow and unrealistic, but now are quick and sharp, and can actually be used to beat the opposition.
All good sports titles have some sort of franchise mode, and Rugby League 3 is no different. The game offers a multi-year franchise mode, complete with player signings and injuries. The ability to sign players from other competitions is a plus, so if you're playing as a team in the NRL, you can scour the Super League ranks and sign up some players and vice versa. A downside to this mode is the exclusion of the Toyota Cup. It would've been great to somehow incorporate it in, so you had the option of bringing in the young players to the top squad.
The sound in the game was disappointing, as the generic rock soundtrack used in the game gave it a cheap and tacky feel. While Andrew Voss' commentary wasn't too bad, an additional voice that he could interact with, say someone like Phil Gould, would have been great. This would have given the game a more television broadcast feel to it.
Rugby League 3 doesn't boast the visuals, gameplay or animations of the bigger sports franchises that have bigger financial support, but it does exceedingly well in capturing the exciting play of Rugby League. Fans of the game will have a great time, be it playing against the AI or a mate.