Game reviews: Madden NFL 16 and Rugby World Cup 2015

It's a tale of two titles, as American football and rugby games go head to head - and one comes out much worse

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 September, 2015, 8:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 September, 2015, 8:00am

Madden NFL 16

EA Sports

American football gets a bad rap from Europeans, some considering the sport a padded out, childish version of rugby. But there’s no doubting the sport’s entertainment value – especially when transported to the virtual world. A stadium full of atmosphere, visceral mano-a-mano thrills, strong violence and unusually high scores all combine for a good old time with a controller in hand.

Madden is the digital sport’s go-to brand, and unlike other sports series that would pass off outdated versions with a shoddy spit-polish (just wait for the second review down the page), Madden NFL 16 is an impressive display of a developer consistently keeping fans satisfied. EA could’ve taken the easy money-grubbing route through a simple roster update and shiny new cover, but it’s cleverly built on its franchise to welcome both fresh faces and seasoned fans. Toss in the disc (available for the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One) and you’re immediately thrown into a fictionalised Super Bowl 50 match between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals. Its semi-scripted drama is a little corny, but the starting match gets you to grips with the updated gameplay dynamics, including the spanking new receiving game.

For too long, passing has been left in the hands of misguided AI, but as the NFL evolves, so too has its gaming counterpart: three catching possibilities put full control in your hands, while fresh quarterbacking skills offer a variety of choices beyond simple lobs and bullets, constantly keeping you aware of the opposition. Defensive rejigs were a big part of last year’s release, but additional options here allow you to play the thrower or the receiver, offering greater flexibility during the essential goal-line halt.

Long-term players will no doubt stick to fan-favourite modes Connected Franchise and Madden Ultimate Team, both of which make welcome returns. Some might say they were already faultless, but EA has loaded up each with additional challenges to gain all-important XP and confidence, and they all offer plenty of opportunities to fine-tune your team.

Madden NFL 16 is a prime example of how a sporting series should evolve: enhanced simulation dynamics, creative additional modes and full control in our hands. Some might fault the real-life incarnation of the sport itself, but it’s hard to say the same for its virtual counterpart.

Rugby World Cup 2015

HB Studios

This is nothing short of embarrassing. On one side, we have American football and its virtual counterpart in Madden NFL 16, an impressive game that heightens the thrills of that gloriously over-the-top pastime. On the other, the sport’s forefather in rugby is horrifically represented in World Cup 2015. How did it happen?

Plenty of reasons, but it comes down to one that will rile some readers: rugby just isn’t made for video games. Perhaps it’s too complex to fit the mould. Translating those kicks, rucks and mauls into a genuinely fun video game is a balancing act, between accuracy to appease die-hard fans and arcade-friendly thrills for casual players. Developer HB Games already dropped the ball badly last year with Rugby 15. With its latest in World Cup, available for the PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, timed to cash in on unsuspecting fans who might be caught up in this season’s hype, we were hoping for some kind of an improvement. But the game is just a shoddy rehash of the terrible earlier effort.

Admittedly, some effort has made to update the gameplay. Remember that frighteningly bad AI, where players would stand lobotomised until you reacted? That’s no longer the case. Now they run around aimlessly, without any sense of tactics or formation. At least they’re moving though, right?

Add in strange camera angles and a still-frustrating penalty system, and you can imagine the game: a rugby match where you can’t really see where you’re going, but players are randomly chasing an oblong ball like roided-up beefcakes, while the opponent’s AI constantly tackle your teammates without penalty and nobody ever scores. Sound like fun?