Cyanide return to the rugby management genre after a decade away with a new title in the Pro Rugby Manager series, Pro Rugby Manager 2015.
As a keen rugby fan I was delighted to hear that the series was being brought back with Pro Rugby Manager 2015. For the past week I’ve been playing around with the game, but it’s not been easy and there’s major cause for concern.
The game’s review build has been updated a couple of time this week and on Monday the game was functioning, but only to a degree. The main issue has been constant crashing on load or crashing on clicking menu actions. Despite these problems I did manage to play through a few seasons of the game playing as Edinburgh, but only just.
Readers of IncGamers will know that Peter is our regular Football Manager reviewer, and, while I know a lot about rugby, management sims are not something I have delved into as frequently as him. With that in mind I pinned him down to get an overview of what I should be looking for.
Pro Rugby Manager 2015 promises most of what you would expect from a sim of this type. Aspects such as player purchasing, tactical match decision making, training and the challenge of shuffling players around with injuries.
The game looks a little rough round the edges, and has a tendency to feel soulless, though this may just be due to the standard ‘spreadsheet’ management sim presentation. Information menus include everything you’d expect to see in terms of player stats and information, and as there are official license tie-ins with a few major leagues – including the Aviva Premiership Rugby (England), PRO12 (Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy) and TOP14 / PRO D2 (France) – all the players and clubs you’d expect to see from those competitions are included. But there should really be more leagues from all over the rugby world represented (even if licensing issues prevent the use of real names,) and the fact the team roster is so limited is one of many indications that this game was rushed to release.
Prior to the season starting there’s plenty of time to get a team in order and make any transfers before the window closes. The season then kicks off in earnest and, as manager, you’re bombarded with requests for increased salaries, what to do about injuries, better facilities, scouting, and all the other major bases. Once it has settled down, week to week management of a team is quite formulaic and in some senses predictable.
International players are also a concern as I found out when the Six Nations came about. For some reason, I missed any note to say that X player would become unavailable for X weeks so I ended up not having enough props in the roster to make a full team for the next weekly game. That, in turn, meant having to withdraw from the game. This happened for about six weeks as the season started to wind down. Despite missing a load of games I was actually poached by a French side to become their manager. Surely this would never happen; I’d just forfeited six games in a row! Very odd.
After dealing with the week’s office work, it’s time to select a team for each match. Red players are either out of action or ineligible to play, and you can clear the team sheet to start over or let the automated system handle it. The feedback from the game is not brilliant though, and sometimes you’re left scratching your head as to why the roster is incomplete to start a match.
The game does come with both 2D and 3D options for watching matches unfold, and there’s a time acceleration function to skip through them too. You can also just let the game instantly calculate the result. If you do opt to micro-manage the game, there are tactical decisions to make such as whether to play more defensively or opt to kick more. Both of these are handled by sliders. There’s also the supposed ability to select line-out jumping positions, scrum tactics before scrums and back moves on put-ins.
This all sounds great in theory, but I’ve seen some seriously strange in-game anomalies such three penalty kicks in a row being missed right in front of the posts. This does not happen particularly often in real, high-level games. Unless you’re Gavin Hastings. Remember that classic miss for Scotland? What a legend.
Due to the nature of rugby it can be incredibly hard to direct and follow a game unless you know your teams and players; and not just the ones that take to the international stage. It becomes even harder when you consider there are the U-19 and U-17 players listed on the club’s roster. Pro Rugby Manager 2015 demands that level of knowledge, but somewhat ironically it’s those very same specialist rugby fans who will be most likely to pick out the obvious flaws in the simulated matches.
During games players will get injured, and as the manager it’s your job to decide what care and attention they should receive. There are different levels of hospital treatment with each being more expensive. As the manager it’s up you whether players go for MRI scans or surgery, so the players are in your capable hands. NHS care is the ‘cheapo’ option, which is pretty harsh considering I received fantastic NHS care after a rugby injury.
When it comes to transfers and requests to leave the club, you can either tweak the salary levels of players to encourage them to stay or just let them go. There’s also the ability to throw in some extras. I’ve not managed to entice a single foreign player yet, because every time I attempt it they come back with “I’m not interested in playing in your country.” I’ve tried to throw bucket-loads of cash at them and they still never come. Edinburgh is a lovely city so I’m really not sure what their problem is.
Players can be penalised and given match bans, but Pro Rugby Manager 2015 can take it to the bizarre extremes. I had one guy banned for 100 games! What exactly did he do, shoot the ref?
This review has to be cut short at this point because technical issues have made any further progress in the game borderline impossible. As of this evening a small update was applied, but it’s actually made the problems worse. All the text from the menus is now missing and if you attempt more than two clicks on anything, the game crashes. With that in mind this is obviously not a title I’ll be dipping into for some time.
It’s clear this game is not ready for release. In the long run it needs more polish and more features, but there are urgent technical problems to be addressed before that point. As a rugby fan I’m gutted that Cyanide has not managed to release a stable game. Then again, Cyanide do have something of a track record there.
Pro Rugby Manager 2015 may some day end up being a decent management sim, but for now steer well clear and wait to see how much post-release support it will actually receive.