A few years ago HES put itself on the map with the first NRL game in a long time. After taking the license from EA, HES enlisted Sidhe, a New Zealand developer to get the game done. The result was a quality title that showed so much potential if Sidhe was given more time and more money to develop a second title. That second title is now here and Sidhe is now a much bigger developer. Rugby League 2 gives fans exactly what they want but still has a few issues to contend with before jumping to the next generation of consoles.
As with the original game, most of the game modes revolve around the NRL Telstra Premiership. You can play a season or exhibition match for a quick play but for the true die-hard NRL fans, franchise will be the order of the day. The franchise mode is new for Rugby League 2 and mimics that of many higher profile sport titles such as Madden.
The default camera is top/down but Sidhe have really worked on the TV style presentation and we found the dynamic camera to look the best while remaining playable. Aside from that really Rugby League 2 is a graphical update of the original game which to be honest is a little disappointing. Sidhe had two years to build this game, and decided the animation engine they used for the original was enough. Don't be surprised if you feel a little too familiar with the game when you first start playing if you have played the original game.
With that said, the guys have worked very hard on getting this year's game right. The AI has been reworked and generally offers a much better challenge to gamers this time around. The days of passing five or six times and sprinting to the try line is over. They have also heavily worked on the presentation but on the PS2 version this becomes more an annoyance than anything as it greatly increases the load time between plays. We found ourselves turning this off within the first match as the game flows much better without it.
In terms of animation, it appears not much has changed. The tackles seem all the same and this was one of our biggest disappointments with the game. It is obvious Sidhe has worked on many aspects but this is not one of them. However there are also many positives to the game. The franchise mode has given Sidhe the option to add recruitment and long term injuries to the game as well as the judiciary. The game only comes up with a ticker to indicate the amount of suspension. It would be nice to have the option to watch a replay and decide whether to contest it or not in the next edition of the game.
In terms of licensing, Sidhe does not disappoint. The game includes both the Telstra Premiership and English Super League and the grounds that make those competitions up and like the last game the representative teams are all here with the Blues and Maroons, International Teams and even City vs Country. The difference is with the franchise mode, this like the real world can affect your ability to play due to injuries or suspensions incurred while on rep duty,
The actual grounds have been updated once again and again appear be the real standout feature. Sidhe has put a huge level of detail into each structure right down to the advertising boards and surrounding areas of the stadiums. Even so, this also adds a little disappointment as we expected Sidhe to really re-work the graphics engine. It's not a bad engine, but it's also not that much better than the original. The game is also on console exclusive to Playstation so this obviously has limited the work that could be done to improve the graphics.
Rugby League 2 is hopefully a stop gap until a better game for the next gen. The addition of franchise is what makes this game probably worth buying for NRL fans but for those who can wait and have the original, it's almost as good and the upgrade is not worth the money in our opinion.