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Rugby League Live 4 is a Solid Effort That Probably Needs a Lower Price

Rugby League Live 4

Rugby League Live 4 is a Solid Effort That Probably Needs a Lower Price

Big Ant Studios is no stranger to the world of rugby. With their fourth iteration of Rugby League Live under their belt, Big Ant Studios has set out to replicate the tough, physical game in a way that hasn’t been accomplished before. The million-dollar question though is how successful are they?

Gameplay

Capturing the essence of a sport’s gameplay is always tough, especially true for non AAA titles, but Rugby League 4 does a fairly decent job at replicating the essence of a rugby match. From the start, the new layered kicking meter is a noticeable upgrade from year’s past. While it takes a lot of practice to master, the level of control you have in the kicking game is greater than ever. Once past the opening kickoff, the action settles into a familiar pattern, albeit with some improvements.

The quick on-the-fly tactics (up on the D-pad) give a new tactical dimension but the basics — passing and tackling — are simple and effective. The quick “best option” passing (LB/L1 or RB/R1 depending on the direction you’d like to pass) is effective, and if you like more control holding the pass button and pressing a face button allows you to choose your best option manually. Flat Passing, which allows your receiver to run onto the ball, is best used in certain situations, and in my opinion, towards the touch-line as there are less defenders there to intercept the ball. Get it wrong though and an interception could be costly.

Once you receive the pass, or play a quick start, the player movement is hit or miss. Jukes are pretty effective and momentum is respected with respect to player attributes. Defensively, without the use of controlled movement (LT/L2) tackling can be very difficult as foot planting isn’t really respected. Tackling, whether it be solo or with multiple players, is simple, relying on the left stick to get near the ball carrier to automatically trigger a tackle. Once you have the player wrapped up, the job is not done though as you can drag players or halt their momentum with the right stick. Ankle taps are pretty effective when the ball carrier gets behind your line and you’re on the chase, but if you time them incorrectly you will get goose stepped.

One of the new features is the “Foresight” meter. By pressing down on the D-pad, your players’ and opponents’ strengths and weaknesses are displayed in a thermal-like imaging map. I’ve found this to be a pretty effective tool at targeting tired defenders who aren’t fleet of foot when fully rested.

Overall, the gameplay is solid yet unspectacular. The controls can be a little bit overwhelming with the combination of button presses, but I suspect that with more time they will become second nature. Despite watching several tutorials (the in-game tutorial doesn’t offer much) the new kicking meter really takes some time to get used to, and in the meantime has become the biggest weakness in my game. Additionally, the big hit controls feel a tad overpowered and almost always causes the ball to be ripped away, especially by the CPU on higher difficulty levels. A gameplay-focused patch could address some of these issues, but it remains to be seen what kind of post-launch support Rugby League Live 4 receives.

Presentations/Visuals/Online/FanHub

For a non-AAA game, the visuals are pretty impressive. Stadiums, both those already in the game and those created, are well crafted, but it’s the player scans that really shine. I’ll be the first to admit that my knowledge of players across the various leagues isn’t the best, but the players I do recognize look spot-on, down to their tattoos. Player models are well done even if the average professional rugby player looks like a carbon copy of their teammate, minus the height differences of course. The pitches are replicated fairly well although field degradation is missing. The commentary flows pretty well and is dynamic. Within my career, I have heard different commentary lines pertaining to certain situations/storylines, mainly me not making it out of my pool after losing the first two matches of the Auckland Nines.

Presentation is hit or miss. Cheerleaders are there and showoff their moves after a successful try as well as mark your entrance to the pitch, which is also accompanied by a little pyrotechnics. In-match stats are also included and generally are displayed at the proper time. Despite this, the presentation is a little predictable and can get stale in a hurry.

Online is surprisingly good for a title of this magnitude. I had no issues finding a match, and in the handful of matches I played lag was virtually non-existent. While I have no idea what country my opponent was from, I was happy that the passing and kicking game didn’t suffer in the lag department. Also, the ability to take your created players/teams online is a cool feature even if it can result in you matching up against super clubs. A filtering system would be nice to prevent this from happening.

If there’s one area that this game really shines, it’s the FanHub. Here users can create players, clubs, stadiums, etc. Not only can they be created, but they can be shared. Think College Hoops 2K Share. Any game that allows for a community to edit things such as rosters is a huge plus in my book. The possibilities are endless and the community has some dedicated users out there producing some high quality and creative options. Pro Evolution Soccer, take note!

Career Mode

Career Mode returns and offers three choices, “Star Player – take control of an existing player”, “Rookie Player – create a player”, and “Coach – Take control of a club”. Very similar to FIFA and PES, Rugby League Live 4 gives you control over sponsors and roster management while adding in a little RPG flavor with “Boosts” available before matches. Even the career mode menus mirror FIFA, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but some areas such as “News” could use a little more fleshing out. In my experience, the developers could borrow a bit from other sports titles. The ability to switch clubs/leagues in “Coach” mode would be a welcome addition as would a realistic progression/regression system. Another aspect I found odd was the omission of the ability to release players midseason. Lastly, I ran into some issues with the camera panning away from the action during a Career Mode match. Based off the ongoing commentary and clock, I could tell the play was still ongoing but was unable to see the action. Unfortunately, this bug only seemed to occur during this specific mode. Lastly, some users have run into issues using their custom squads within Career Mode resulting in duplicate players, skewed ratings and other bugs. While I personally haven’t run into these issues, mainly due to using the default rosters, the sense from the community is that this issue negates the great benefits that the FanHub offers.

Final Thoughts

If soccer is considered a niche sport in the States by some, then Rugby is a few notches below it. That’s not in any way, shape or form a knock against the sport, just the reality in which we live in. Picking up steam in the States is going to tough, especially at a price of $59.99 and released shortly before Madden. Rugby League Live 4 is a solid title, and for someone who wouldn’t consider themselves a huge fan of the sport, I can say that this game has been fun to play and has piqued my interest in the sport. Now, is this enough for someone to pull the trigger on a game with a pricepoint in-line with Madden and NBA 2K? Probably not, and I think Big Ant Studios might need to rethink that. All in all, it’s a solid effort but not worth the price. If you’re on the fence, I would wait until the price drops some and then give it a try.

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Discussion
  1. It really needs a better price point, but it is stuck in limbo.  I didn't get a chance to play RLL3 (too pricey) but 2 was a good effort.  It was not perfect, but it was a solid foundation.  The problem with price is this:  Where do you lose money?  League is a niche of a niche sport, so you're either stuck hoping someone sees it for 30 bucks and picks it up or you get 60 bucks out of the hardcore fans.
    I'm yet to get this game. I owned RL3 which was a pretty enjoyable game. The reviews on RL4 seem mixed. Some are, like this one, positive. Others seem to say the game is a step back from RL3. I think the one fact that is agreed upon   Is the price point.
    Not sure if many realise but in many countries Rugby League isn't a niche sport. 
    In New Zealand, Australia and England its many peoples number 1 sport and in many countries NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL are niche sports.
    This game wasn't made and isn't marketed with the American market in mind.
    Same as a criket game wouldn't be. Why should a game maker give it a cheap price point to sell in America and lose money in its key markets
    Even at half the price it wouldn't sell well in the states.
    For the record with Rugby league fans that live and breathe the sport the Live franchise has a good reputation.
    Where as the Union offering "Rugby Challenge" doesn't so much.
    worldwide Rugby is a massive sport. It's why Xbox one/ps4 has four different options! 
    Rugby 15, Rugby World Cup, Rugby Challenge and the two offerings in the Rugby league live series 
    Yep go to New Zealand it's all about the All-Blacks & in Australia it's the Wallabies & it's league teams. Basically RLL4 in Australia is the equivalent of Madden in north america in terms of popularity. I'm new to Rugby League but have learned about it pretty quickly. Niche games to me are titles like horse racing, fishing & hunting.
    stocksy
    Not sure if many realise but in many countries Rugby League isn't a niche sport.*
    In New Zealand, Australia and England its many peoples number 1 sport and in many countries NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL are niche sports.
    This game wasn't made and isn't marketed with the American market in mind.
    Same as a criket game wouldn't be. Why should a game maker give it a cheap price point to sell in America and lose money in its key markets
    Even at half the price it wouldn't sell well in the states.
    For the record with Rugby league fans that live and breathe the sport the Live franchise has a good reputation.
    Where as the Union offering "Rugby Challenge" doesn't so much.
    worldwide Rugby is a massive sport. It's why Xbox one/ps4 has four different options!*
    Rugby 15, Rugby World Cup, Rugby Challenge and the two offerings in the Rugby league live series*

    The difference is that the international following for the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL are much bigger than it is for Rugby outside of those few countries you mentioned.
    Look, being considered "niche" isn't a slight to the sport at all. Most sports have to grow to reach a higher international profile. I'm just a believer that this game would/will have a hard time attracting new fans of the sport with a $60 price point.
    Hell, I enjoy the game and I will probably fire it up in a few minutes.
    I think you under estimate the appeal of a sport that has a proper World Cup, in France, Italy, Agentina, South Africa, Ireland, Japan, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji (I could continue but you get the idea)... these counties Rugby is a bigger draw than any of the American sports\leagues.
    Do you guys realise that they can set specific price points for each market? Why not sell it at a budget price in emerging markets to try and develop the game and the code in general?
    Because in this day and age people will just import it. 
    If Madden was sold in England (very much a niche NFL market - no matter what the NFL claim) for half the price of America - people would buy it from England and not America... Americans I mean - also as a fan of the American sports I can tell you that even all of them are very much niche in England their price points are usually higher than America! 
    I guess its to do with mass production in that country etc. 
    I think this game is as good as some of EA's lesser titles, NHL and NBA specifically. It has features like the fan hubs those games lack. It's not like I"m going to buy this game every year it was a lot of fun for something I don't have any experience with.  I am happy to have paid full price for it. 
    tomski182
    Do you guys realise that they can set specific price points for each market? Why not sell it at a budget price in emerging markets to try and develop the game and the code in general?

    I'm curious enough to give it a try at $40. I believe the current price point (along with the learning curve) is too high for most consumers that aren't very familiar with the sport.
    stocksy
    I think you under estimate the appeal of a sport that has a proper World Cup, in France, Italy, Agentina, South Africa, Ireland, Japan, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji (I could continue but you get the idea)... these counties Rugby is a bigger draw than any of the American sports\leagues.

    Stocksy, I def don't underestimate the popularity in those countries but outside of Japan and maybe France/Argentina those aren't major markets and tbh, Rugby isn't the #1 sport in France, Italy, Argentina, Ireland, and Japan. Don't get me wrong, I agree with your earlier points but see below.
    TerryP
    I'm curious enough to give it a try at $40. I believe the current price point (along with the learning curve) is too high for most consumers that aren't very familiar with the sport.

    Exactly. This is ALL I was trying to say. More people would be inclined to give it a go if there was a demo and if the price was lower. It would help in emerging rugby markets.
    The price point is definitely a problem. And the fact that you can guarantee that it will never go on sale or budge from that $60 price is more frustrating. Rugby League Live 3 never did. It's still at $60. Meanwhile, I bought Madden 17 about a month ago for $13 on the PS Store.
    For whatever reason the developers/publishers for the Rugby Challenge and Rugby League Live series don't have the relationship (or interest) with the PS Store to ever have sales. Rugby 15 and Rugby World Cup 2015 were both on sale tons of times. I don't get it.
    I want RLL4, but I'm not paying that price for it. I paid full for RC3 since I was a union player for 13 years, and a big fan. I just can't justify the price in sports game season. If they had it at $29.99 I would have been in already.
    Nne of the rugby games from rll3 to rc3 have gone down in price and neither will afl evolution OR rll4.
    Esp on PC and we wont see a "deal" on them in the psn or xbox stores...
    IF we were to import it like we do other import games wed be paying well over 90 WITH shipping.
    so basically the thught has to be is this a game you'd rather play then your stateside games.
    rll4 LOOKS much better and can actually have stadiums created from scratch(something I WISH Pro evolution soccer did I mean even down to the adboards we can edit in rll4!)
    I really wanted rc3 but it NEVER went down in price still 59.99 after about a year now.
    Now is the issue of deciding which one id want?
    rll4 is better than rll3 hands down.
    rc3 is better than rll3
    I guess the problem lies in what leagues countries you wanna play in.
    also the camera angles in both differ. rc3 has a REAL GOOD broadcast camera when the rll3 camera was an afterthought. Im unsure if rll4 has had that sorted into something more tv brpoadcastish?
    Tomba

    rc3 is better than rll3

    If you have some settings, sliders, or team tactic settings which make this true, I'm all ears. I'd love to dust RC3 off and have a solid union game to play.

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