Review – Rugby 22

I find it somewhat amusing that Nacon and EKO Software take their time with their rugby games, releasing them every two years instead of the traditional yearly sports title release at the second half of the year. On one hand, I find that great: each new iteration of their Rugby titles is vastly better than its predecessors. On the other hand, they are still far from being considered the definitive experiences in the genre. Rugby 20 was good, a step in the right direction, but still beyond flawed. Rugby 22 follows suit. It’s better than Rugby 20, and infinitely better than the disastrous Rugby 18, but we’re still a long way to go before reaching the quality of the older rugby titles from the mid-2000’s.

Rugby 22 All Blacks

How do you add the All Blacks in your rugby game, but not their haka? That’s like asking for a cheeseburger without cheese.

Oddly enough, almost every single positive and negative aspect I will list in Rugby 22 sounds exactly like my Rugby 20. EKO Software improved upon what was already great, but, with the exception of one particular area, most of what wasn’t ideal in Rugby 20 is largely untouched in this iteration. Let me get those out of the way: the amount of licensed teams is still subpar, with the game not featuring any Southern Hemisphere team. Some national teams are unlicensed as well, with really hideous “alternate” kits, such as South Africa and England. Why England is wearing an orange kit is beyond my comprehension, but hey, what can I do? Where is the Premiership? The career mode is still card-based and beyond demotivating to play as well.

My biggest complaint with Rugby 20 was its visuals. It was an atrociously hideous sports game, with players moving around the pitch like robots, and looking like their models had been taken straight out of FIFA 2002 for the PlayStation 2. EKO Software did improve the graphics and animations in Rugby 22, thank goodness, but there’s a catch. Sure, the animations have been improved, with players actually moving around like humans, and the lighting effects and framerate have received some buffs, but the game is still ugly. Not PS2 levels of ugly though. Let’s just say that instead of looking like FIFA 2002 for the PlayStation 2, it now looks like FIFA 2008 for the Xbox 360. Still far from ideal, but a step in the right direction nonetheless.

Rugby 22

It might still be hella ugly, but Rugby 22’s controls are great.

The gameplay was one of Rugby 20‘s highlights, and I’m glad to announce that Rugby 22 plays even better. Thanks to the more stable framerate and some tweaks in how you perform side passes, the game feels incredibly intuitive and responsive. Very rarely did I feel like I lost possession because of a bug. Sure, it happened once or twice, but it was pretty rare, all things considered. Converting still feels less than ideal, however.

Rugby 22, as a whole, is still best enjoyed as a quick, “pick up and play” experience, rather than a full-fledged simulation. Being able to create your own club in one of the main single player modes is nice, don’t get me wrong, but when the game lacks on so many league licenses, you can’t exactly hire players from the Premiership or Super Rugby, making the experience feel a bit lackluster. You cannot download community-created teams either, something pretty common among mid-tier sports games. Picking it up to play a quick match by yourself or with a friend, on the other hand, feels downright excellent. Little to no loading times, smooth gameplay, and even an excellent tutorial section to teach newcomers everything they need to know about rugby union.

Rugby 22 Conversion

I’m still not a fan of how conversions work in this game.

We’re getting there. Rugby 22 is still a flawed game, but it’s better than its predecessor, which was already a massive improvement over the disastrous Rugby 18. The core gameplay is there and the mechanics have been translated well into a gaming format. EKO Software now needs to improve the game’s presentation and fill it up with more content. This is the first rugby game released in almost fifteen years in which I can safely call it “good” and recommend it without a hitch, without any caveats, and that alone is worth celebrating. I can’t wait for the sequel.

Graphics: 5.0

Still an ugly game, but miles better than the visuals presented in Rugby 20. Players are now animated like real human beings, even if they don’t look like humans. At the very least, the framerate is excellent.

Gameplay: 8.5

What was already good is even better in Rugby 22. It’s a perfect combination of complex and simple. It’s intuitive without feeling dumbed down. I still don’t think converting feels ideal, but this is a noticeable improvement nonetheless.

Sound: 7.0

I really enjoyed the soundtrack in Rugby 22, being way better than the one in Rugby 20, but sadly, I do think the quality of the commentary took a nose dive.

Fun Factor: 7.5

It still suffers from an overall lack of licenses and a baffling career mode, but as a quick, “pick up and play” rugby experience, Rugby 22 hits the spot.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Rugby 22 is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X and PC.

Reviewed on PS5.

A copy of Rugby 22 was provided by the publisher.