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Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge Review (Sidhe/Madcatz)

The last title to bear the name of New Zealand great Jonah Lomu dates all the way back to 1997 when Jonah Lomu Rugby was released for the Sony Playstation, PC, and the Sega Saturn. It was a great title and is still regarded as one of the best portrayals of the sport to date.

Rugby enthusiasts were simply thrilled when the release of Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge was finally announced. The game slated for a late October/early November launch will only appear on the Xbox 360 despite early rumors that the game might be headed for the PS3 and PC as well. A launch towards a single console is a glaring weakness for the title, considering it leaves out at least half of the gaming population when you account for the colossal amount of Sony and Nintendo users.

One negative, but dozens of positives from this Sidhe title. The game is accessible to anyone thanks to a comprehensive array of tutorials. You can go from “What is rugby?” to “I can play this” in a matter of 30 minutes. The gameplay is smooth and fluid, which is amazing considering rugby isn’t the easiest sport to recreate in a video game. Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge captures the pure physicality of the game as no one has before.

The biggest strength of the game is its depth. The amount of licensed teams and leagues is impressive. You can play for teams like New Zealand’s All Blacks, Australia’s Wallabees, and USA Eagles. Leagues and competitions include AU/NZ Super Rugby teams, the Aviva Premiership, ITM Cup, TOP 14 Orange, RaboDirect PRO 12 among others. If you are looking for licensed South Africa or Argentina teams or the Rugby World Cup, you will have to purchase Rugby World Cup 2011 from HB Studios.

There is no shortage of quality mode thanks to the aforementioned Tutorial Mode, Quick Matches, Competition Mode, and the multi-year Career Mode that reminds me of something created by EA Sports. The Career Mode gives you countless hours of gameplay and actually serves as a game within a game. This is a feature never before seen in a rugby title here in North America.

You can’t forget the multiplayer opportunities that can be found online, including head-to-head matches and a leaderboard competition.

There are a wide array of customization options throughout the game so that the gamer can really take ownership of their experience. The commentary is excellent thanks to Grant Nisbett and Justin Marshall, who offer realistic opinions and thoughts on every game. It’s like having John Madden in the booth.

You can’t forget the visuals, which are not only realistic, but can best be described as stunning. Players, stadiums, and the crowd all look great. The game atmosphere is promising as well and feels very authentic.

This title captures the true spirit and passion for rugby union at both the club and international level. Hopefully this game will help spread rugby’s popularity, considering the large spotlight that the Rugby World Cup has put on the sport. You can tell that the developers of this title actually know and love the sport and did not see this as just another project.

Purchase the title here.

Score: 9.5/10

We like to keep things simple here at ISN. We use a 10 point scale for all of our reviews with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest.  This fits in with many of the gamer-specific sites out there on the Web and provides a system that is easy to understand.

Universal Sports Network Showcases the Final Four Teams Competing in 2011 IRB Rugby World Cup

The final four teams of the 2011 IRB Rugby World Cup face off in the semi-finals exclusively on Universal Sports Network. On Sat., October 15 at 3:45 a.m. (ET), Universal Sports will showcase Wales vs. France, with a re-air of the match at 5 p.m. (ET).  On Sun., October 16 at 3:45 a.m. (ET), Australia vs. New Zealand will compete, with a re-air of the match at 5 p.m. (ET). The two winning teams will advance to the Rugby World Cup Finals, aired on NBC, while Universal Sports will feature the Bronze Finals.

Fans can watch these matches on-demand the following day on as part of an online subscription package.

Universal Sports’ match coverage will feature a studio pre-game show and halftime and post-game shows with Fred Roggin and Bill Seward alongside former USA Rugby Captain and Universal Sports analyst Brian Hightower.

Fans can also interact throughout the 2011 IRB Rugby World Cup on Universal Sports Network’s Social Scrum. Available at, fans can engage with the event as well as each other as they cheer on their favorite team and catch up on scores, standings and updates. Social Scrum will display Twitter feeds from fans around the world who are talking about the Rugby World Cup and provide live updates from the event.

The 2011 IRB Rugby World Cup is the latest Universal Sports Network event to be featured in the network’s national marketing campaign alerting viewers about its transition from over-the-air distribution to a multi-platform, high definition cable, satellite and IPTV service beginning in 2012.  Viewers can make their voices heard by calling 1-800-55-GET-US to speak with their TV providers, demand access to Universal Sports Network and upgrade their experience through Universal Sports in HD, or by following this link: I Want Universal Sports.

Universal Sports, a partnership between NBC Sports and InterMedia Partners, LP, is the premier multi-platform media destination for Olympic-related sports programming in the United States.  Universal Sports is available over the air in 52 markets nationwide, including all of the nation’s top 10 media markets and 20 of the top 25, and on DIRECTV.  Major world championship sports events aired on Universal Sports include track and field, skiing, swimming, gymnastics, marathons, figure skating, cycling and rugby.  The network’s website,, delivers an immersive user experience via live and on-demand competition coverage, interaction with top athletes through interviews and blogs and in-depth access to Olympic sports news and information year-round.

Rugby World Cup 2011 Review (HB Studios/505 Games)

Rugby World Cup 2011 for the Xbox360 and PlayStation Network is a gem, especially considering that rugby games are quite hard to come by in North America. This fall is a rarity in that two games will be launched, but only one is an exclusive product and will feature every aspect of the Rugby World Cup inNew Zealand.

RWC 2011 is produced by HB Studios, which is the industry expert when it comes to creating realistic depictions of rugby, a sport that is difficult to transfer to a video game setting. HB has been involved in previous incarnations that were published under the EA Sports umbrella.  This year 505 Games, the name behind the Backbreaker football series, will be the force behind the title.

The release of Rugby World Cup 2011 coincides with the actual event currently taking place in New Zealand.  Again this is an exclusive title that will not see any competition for at least a month when Madcatz releases their Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge title here in the U.S.  That head start is massive, putting more pressure on the competition.

Many gamers will make the purchase of RWC 2011 out of curiosity, wanting to learn more about a sport that is rich in history and diversity.  Unprecedented media coverage and broadcasts available to the mainstream means more people are learning about a sport that sparks curiosity among even the most casual of fans.

Hardcore rugby fans will find this to be a “must have,” just as FIFA 12 is a no-brainer for the footy fan.  Either way the customer will be thrilled with this purchase even though the title is not entirely perfect.  The pros heavily outweigh the cons as you will soon see.

The stadium and player models are true to life and spectacular in every regard.  The atmosphere of the real event is transferred to the gameplay experience thanks to smooth music and customized commentary. This is reason enough to make the purchase considering that rugby is difficult to make into a video game.  HB Studios did that and did it very well.

Menus are clean and easy to navigate. The amount of gameplay modes is exhaustive.  Full tournament, international test, warm-up tour, place-kick shootout, and online play are all options for the customer.  A glaring deficit is the lack of a practice mode or a series of tutorials for those new to the game. This would have been a literal game-changer, opening up the sport to the masses.

We absolutely loved the warm-up tour, which allows you to play a series of exhibitions to prepare for the real tournament.  The number of licensed teams was impressive, putting out 10 of the top teams including England, Argentina, South Africa, Canada, and of course the U.S.

We encountered just a few minor issues like repetitive cutscenes and limited online play. Some of the crowd graphics get a bit old after seeing them over and over. We admit that we had a bit of trouble finding quality competition in the online play mode, but this is sure to get better as more and more people purchase the game.

There were little differences between the Xbox360 and PSN versions of the game.  The HB Studios team made sure that both versions were equally good.  That is not always the case as some developers look to the platform that is selling the most copies.

We felt the PSN version was ultra-convenient, considering it can be downloaded quickly without a trip to the store.  If you want the Xbox360 version, check out Gamestop for the best price on the Web.

Score: 9/10

We like to keep things simple here at ISN. We use a 10 point scale for all of our reviews with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest.  This fits in with many of the gamer-specific sites out there on the Web and provides a system that is easy to understand.

Rugby World Cup 2011 from 505 Games and HB Studios

We had the pleasure of speaking with Alastair Jarvis, General Manager of HB Studios.  HB Studios is responsible for developing the exclusive Rugby World Cup 2011 video game for the Xbox360 and PlayStation Network.

Listen to the audio here.

If you have trouble accessing the audio, visit International Soccer Network on iTunes.