Cyanide really hits the ground running with it's 2005 edition
What is it that makes management games so popular? Why do people feel that they need to have a 'second' job on their PC managing a bunch of blokes in either Rugby or Football to win championships? Who knows, but whoever came up with it, struck gold. For some reason watching blobs on the screen is extremely addictive. We are not being cynics here, we are agreeing, because last year Football Manager 2005 really showed gamers how it's done. Cyanide is back for its second crack at the Rugby style of game and have improved immensely on last years game. Even Sports Interactive could learn something from this game.
As you would have guessed, the game revolves around managing a team in one of the world's famous Rugby tournaments. Along the way you will have to deal with players wanting to leave, getting injured, retiring and bringing in young lads to the team to get the trophies the club chairman wants. As with last years game you begin with controlling one of the many club teams in the game, and once you begin to win trophies, you may be called for national duty to take your team to the world cup. Again this year you can get straight into the internationals via the exhibition game mode, but it leaves you unfulfilled due to the lack of management.
Cyanide have put a great deal of work into getting this game even easier to play and it really is one of the easiest management games around. That's not to say you will be winning trophies straight away, but in terms of knowing where everything is and controlling the team, it doesn't get much easier. There ares a few reasons for this. First of all, the game doesn't let you skip past important issues and provides links to everything it feels you definitely need to look at such as training. It also provides a lot of graphical detail so rather than having to look at lots of text, images are used frequently and you no longer have to use the lottery of the simulation to skip the 3D engine.
A 2D engine has been included this year and those familiar with CM and FM will instantly recognise it. We see a few problems with it however. First of all it takes a great deal of time to complete, even with the simulation at 4x speed. This is unfortunate because it makes it a less viable option for those who just want to know results. Also the commentary is rather lifeless in comparison to FM. Rather than having commentator text, it just says things like 'he kicks the ball' etc. It's a small difference but enough to keep you out of the 2D mode and in the 3D game mode, which is the best mode, but also the longest. The 3D game mode has again been refined and has some improved graphics. The best thing however is the on the fly calling. You can give individual commands to players or as a team give commands to defend left, run right etc all while the match is going on and to top it all off commentary in the 3D mode is also included.
As you would expect with a game of this nature, licenses are included. The Zurich Premiership is included with all teams and all stadiums recreated in high detail plus other tournaments such as the French leagues, the European cup (not licensed) and African leagues. Player names are also not licensed for a lot of teams which is a shame, but there is an editor included. For those which are licensed you get a great deal of information about them although Cyanide is quick to point out contracts are fictional and in no way represent the real money players get. Players are now also influenced by your management style as well. Do well and they will increase attributes via training. This needs the right mix of morale and fitness however. There is something which is a bit confusing and that is the injury management. The game offers to give you the chance of MRI scans with some injuries, rather than do it automatically. It's just another option which really doesn't need to be there considering a MRI really is a crucial element.
Visually for a management game it is superb. Highly detailed players and stadiums, graphics used well to increase the usability and even small details like crowds changing clothes during bad weather. The weather also affects how the players play and of course the look of the game. You can zoom in and out of the action including small cut scenes to break up the action sometimes. The commentary is quite good but still not on the level of FIFA, and the crowd sounds are fairly standard.
Pro Rugby Manager 2 takes everything that was superb about the original game and improves on it to make an even easier to play simulation. The inclusion of licenses helps the game but it would be nice to see a few more from outside Europe as well. What really helps this series is the control during matches and that is something SI could learn from, as it gives new players some interaction in the games. There may be two major Rugby games coming this year, but this is definitely going to be tough to beat.