I managed to play Pro Rugby Manager 2015 for just over half a season with a Bath team that was almost hilariously under-represented in the stats department (this is the team that just crushed Leicester 45-0). Then a patch arrived and now all of the text has disappeared and the game crashes to desktop every time I try to interact with the user interface.
There's been precious little for rugby fans to get excited about in the world of video games. Rugby Challenge and its sequel had a fair bash at replicating the sport, but there was little by way on on-pitch tactical play to be had, no real way to organise a coherent backline, and the action on the pitch devolved into a mess of limbs and scrambling bodies without much organisation. Admittedly, that's fairly accurate for Gloucester matches, but any fan of the cerebral, strategic nature of the game would have found little solace in that title.
Of course, Pro Rugby Manager was supposed to fix that. But, having waited a decade for a new rugby management sim, I sort of wish Cyanide hadn't bothered.
It's not just that PRM 2015 is a buggy shambles that should never have been released in this state, it's that the game itself is a dull, soporific affair that sucks the joy out of the sport rather than celebrating the nuances that the 15-man game can provide. Oh, and almost nothing under the hood appears to have changed from 2005.
I'm going to try as best as I can to soldier on with this review and actually attempt to take a look at some of the woefully flawed and under-developed systems in the game beneath the blanket of game-breaking bugs, but you should be aware that the game is damn near unplayable. As in, I literally haven't been able to play it for the last few days; days that include several reinstallations.
There are many issues with PRM 2015, but by far the biggest for me (aside from the fact that all of the in-game text has disappeared and the game crashes if I click anywhere) is that the game doesn't make any attempt to provide any sort of depth. You choose your match day squad, you pick a training regimen from a tiny, position-oriented, drop-down menu, you occasionally send injured players to the hospital and decide whether to pay for them to return quicker and in better shape, and you upgrade facilities with star ratings. Occasionally, when it actually comes to on-pitch tactics, you might have to decide what your fly-half tells the backs to do, or which jumper the hooker should throw to in the lineout. And that's about it.
There are some vague sliders labelled "Forwards" and "Kicking" that seemingly have no effect whatsoever on proceedings, there's no way to fine tune your defensive setups, no options for man-to-man instruction, no way of engineering specific types of play. You can't change your place kicker, you can't call for crash balls, tell players to hold the ball up,work to favour mauls over going to ground, give instructions to your scrum's back row, or place specific players on specific opponents.
Worse yet, there are blatant rules simply being ignored (or perhaps they simply haven't been updated), like matches running to 40/80 minutes dead and lineouts being called from the point of kicking if the ball goes out on the full. Penalties and free kicks are called without explanation, there's little information to take in as a prospective manager, but that's okay because you wouldn't be able to do anything about whatever it was anyway thanks to the supreme lack of options.
There are database errors galore, player ratings that make no sense (how the hell Francois Louw, a world-class flanker with significant international experience, is only rated at 2-stars, I cannot understand), players out of position, an abundance of spelling errors, a lack of international teams, foreign players blanket refusing to move despite absurd amounts of cash, kickers missing penalties right underneath the posts (Wilkinson? Really?!), job offers after a slew of losses, 100-match bans for unexplained infractions, the list goes on and on.
PRM 2015 isn't just a broken game, it's a bad game. It's appalling, frankly, an insult to rugby fans and eager consumers across the world. Its UI is simple and effective, but it belies a game lacking in depth, with confused and erroneous content operating amongst systems that make no sense in a fundamentally flawed and decrepit framework. It's unfinished, sure, but even were its issues remedied, it'd still be a dreadfully boring title, bereft of depth or tactical interest -- yet another rapidly tossed of game to appease a niche audience who, sadly, have nothing better to represent the sport that they love.
It's because of that niche appeal that games like this happen -- execrable affairs, poorly planned and pushed out of the gate too early, that only serve to tar everyone involved with damnable infamy.
- The UI makes sense... when the text actually appears
- Some of the players are in the right positions
- Illustrates that there might be a gap in the market for a rugby management title that works
- It's basically PRM 2 repackaged and given a shinier UI... with 150% more bugs
- This actually costs money
- Unlike Ashes Cricket 2013, this is yet to be recalled
The Short Version: Pro Rugby Manager 2015 is an utter disgrace, a broken shambles, bereft of depth or quality, worth neither your time nor your money. It's frankly insulting that niche audiences continue to be exploited in this manner, and 505 Games should be utterly ashamed of themselves.
Developers: Cyanide Studios
Publishers: 505 Games