Despite the game being released over 14 years ago, Rugby 08 has maintained a cult following amongst gamers. The Facebook group ‘Rugby 08 Enthusiasts Club‘ has over 20,000 eSports followers.
What made the game so popular that its legacy continues to this day?
Rugby 08 EA Sports holds still cult following amongst gamers
As soon as you turned on your console, the tone was already set with the introduction; a montage of epic rugby moments backed by an epic soundtrack. Think of the individuals featured; Richie McCaw (see main photo), Brian O’Driscoll, Percy Montgomery, and Bryan Habana. The list of player avatars is a ‘who’s who’ of the game from that era.
As well, add to that the ability to play the 2007 Rugby World Cup, there were various unique aspects to Rugby 08 from EA Sports.
The Rugby 08 World League
Ask any Rugby 08 fan about the World League and you’ll immediately see a nostalgic grin. It was such a creative concept to split the clubs across Super Rugby and the Heineken Cup [as it was then] into four divisions. Gamers would start with a depleted squad in the bottom league. Whichever club you started with had its best players removed, and replaced with fictional players with deeply flawed stats. These fake players have since become iconic figures to the Rugby 08 community.
This reviewer fondly remembers a friend and I signing the likes of Brian O Driscoll and Brent Cockbain to our Bristol team, only to keep the fictional G.Nawali on the wing. Most notable though was D.Heffler, the fly-half who would tide fans over through the early games, but would fluff most kicks at goal. Heffler has become a frequent meme to the aforementioned Facebook group.
It was incredibly satisfying to climb through the divisions with your own personalized squad. Additionally, having to manage the salary cap gave players the satisfying task of finding hidden gems to pair with established superstars.
Undoubtedly, the World League remains the best campaign mode of any rugby game.
Stacked Rugby 08 roster list
Unlike recent releases, Rugby 08 had extensive licensing. It allowed fans to play as the vast majority of the era’s blockbuster names. EA Sports did a tremendous job of enhancing the legendary status of certain players, with golden stars being attached to their names.
From Shane Williams’ audacious acceleration to Jonny Wilkinson’s gargantuan kicks, the game made these players feel superhuman. Brian O’Driscoll could reap carnage upon opposition defences by simply running in circles; this was a personal favourite.
Rugby 08 is an interesting game to revisit with hindsight. It’s great to play as individuals in their prime when their careers didn’t quite reach those same heights after. A peak Gavin Henson is the best example; he is an absolute force in Rugby 08. In 2021, it also provides an evocative reminder of legends who are sadly no longer with us, from Christophe Dominici’s mazy runs to the barnstorming carries of Jerry Collins.
Fast-paced fluid game-play features
Rugby’s more recent video games often felt a bit clunky. Rugby 08 offered fast-paced action. Grubber kicks, hand-offs, and big hits were all aesthetically awesome. Let’s not forget the commentary from Ian Robertson and Grant Fox, with classic lines such as “the lactic acid built up in his legs, but he had the stamina to get there!”
The ‘Challenge Mode’ kept the game stimulating for those who had mastered Single-player by tasking them with recreating Rugby World Cup moments with varying difficulty. Arguably, the AI was too predictable on Single Player, and so the game really thrived when a mate would come round for a game.
Could this be a candidate for a remastered Rugby 08…
🏉 We will keep dreaming for a game as good as Rugby 08 ☹️ pic.twitter.com/DLurOw4Q4B
— The Good, The Bad & The Rugby (@GoodBadRugby) September 27, 2021
During his bid to be elected as the Chairman of World Rugby last year, Agustin Pichot lauded the importance of a quality new rugby game. Rugby gamers will be skeptical of this occurring, with the amount of funding it would require.
What if EA could just remaster Rugby 08 with updated graphics for new generation consoles? How exciting would it be to play against other Rugby 08 fanatics online? Wouldn’t it be fun to rant about who and who didn’t receive a star rating? Imagine if one day, we could pick up our controllers for a high-definition World League.
Or dare I say it, the return of the king, D.Heffler.
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“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images