Rugby 2004 features three modes of play, training, play now and tournament which is the main game of Rugby 2004. The main tournaments are the World Cup, Tri Nations, Super 12, Domestic and Master league plus friendly matches are available. As anyone who knows the sport the main differences between these tournaments are the teams that take part. With all these competitions and the 1500+ players you will find all the movers and shakers in the world of rugby. Rugby 2004 also boasts a huge number of stadiums, well 65 in fact and I'm glad to say that they haven't missed out the mecca of rugby which is Twickenham. If you find a player or team for that matter, you can create your own player using a points based system. This system rewards you for playing the game and accomplishing goals with points that can be used to create or exchange players.
Playing Rugby 2004 is pretty simple thanks to the control layout which lets you to tackle, switch players and pass using the top shoulder buttons. You can now make use of the analogue control sticks for moving your players, which was not available in the first Rugby game for the PS2 from EA. When the ball goes loose in the field you will find it is not very easy to recover the ball by selecting the closest player to it. This is because the opposition team will jump all over the ball to control play, so you must try to intercept a pass or force an error to retrieve the ball after loosing it in the first place. I the previous rugby game you might remember that there was a scrum meter, this is now absent and you will have to practice a little to effectively get the ball from the scrum. Rugby 2004 is a simplified version of the real game in terms of the controls and it has kind of worked, but the gameplay could have done with a good polish.
Graphically Rugby 2004 isn't that great but the animations are reasonable as the players appear to have crunching tackles. The blending together of the different animations could have been smoothed out a little because you can get some pretty ropy transfers at times. The player models are all different but from afar they do look similar, as the games go on the player shirts will become dirty. The player's models are not as good as those from the FIFA series; this is much more noticeable when you view the players at close quarters. The crowd is the main let down, they are made up of a very basic blurry graphic that has been animated with a couple of frames, at a distance though, the crowd does look ok. Rugby 2004 sounds pretty good, the best part of the audio though has to be the commentary from John Inverdale and Gordon Bray.
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