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.