Big Ant Studios

Full Version: Review + suggested improvements
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I’ve had enough time with the game to have formed what I consider to be a fair and in-depth perspective on the gameplay, presentation, modes and bugs/omissions. 
 
On the whole, I will say up front that so far I have had a lot of fun with this and think that Big Ant have done a solid job progressing this series to a point where it increasingly feels like a real game of Rugby League.
 
With that said, it feels like gameplay is a good place to start. The gameplay in Rugby League Live 4 is the most authentically Rugby League like I’ve experienced so far in any video game representation of the sport. Big Ant answered a key criticism of fans that forwards appeared useless in prior iterations and have overhauled the way the game is played by introducing forward momentum. Moreover, the addition of foresight mode and set-plays (although, I’d contend “set running lines” would seem a more accurate description) has added greater depth to general play. Finally, the overhauling of the place kicking system to play more like a golf swing makes this the most realistic feeling kicking system to date.
 
So on the whole the game has done a good job of building on its foundation mechanics to make a deeper and more “Rugby League-like” feeling game. That’s the good stuff, but plenty remains that needs work from a mechanics angle.
 
I’ll start with an old bug-bear of mine: 

Passing and offloading.
The passing mechanics for the game remain frustrating and difficult to predict with anything that’s getting a little complicated. It works fine off runs for straight hit ups and down the line, but anything more complicated like inside balls – even with the set play system – remain very hit and miss.
 
I’m not sure if it’s the underlying architecture of the programming, but it’s difficult pass at the defensive line as well (you can push the pass button quite clearly before you run into contact and yet you won’t get the ball away). Moreover, too many passes go to players the ball isn’t intended for when you’re moving forward and there’s a few players around you. What’s more the issue with passes being easily picked off as intercepts remains an annoying issue that stifles creative play. Playing conservatively prevents this somewhat, but when the AI still seem to be able to pass with impunity and time their offloads such that they’re never at risk from intercept. To balance intercepts better, I’d suggest something fairly simple: make 30% of intercept attempts a knock on. In real life intercept attempts aren’t guaranteed catches – plenty get knocked on, so it would add a greater risk/reward element to the play if this was a risk for players an AI alike.
 
That brings me to offloads. Offloads haven’t functioned properly in any rugby game since Rugby 08 in my view. There’s no consistency with offload availability and it’s extremely difficult to judge when an offload might be on. Given how important offloading is for creating second phase play in real games of footy, this strikes me as one area that needs priority attention.
 
The fix is fairly simply in my view too. There needs to be two key innovations:
1.    Passing buttons need to appear above close by potential receivers when an offload is on, with it fading/turning red as the risk of it turning into a knock on or going forward increase.
2.    There needs to be an option to wrestle an arm free when in driving tackles to get a pass away. The windows/risk for these ought to be greater, but it needs to be an option.
 
This would address the clearly asymmetrical nature of our access to information when playing the AI, addressing the fact that the AI currently has all the information on when it can make an offload, whilst ours is limited at best.
 
Tackling/ruck
Next up is the tackle area itself. This has certainly been improved with the advent of driving tackles with directional control and player steadying, but the system still feels a little shallow. The forward drive is a good start, but a prop shouldn’t automatically go down in a tackle when it’s one on one even if he’s not busted the tackle. Rather, in certain miss-matches with one on one tackles it should trigger a contest where the forward can drive through the tackler with a bit of a button mash. The tackler should have 2 options: hold on and slow them down, or call in a 2nd or even third man to wrap the player up.
 
The benefit of a system like this would be that offloads would still be an option and thus the middle of the field could open up more.
 
Whilst we’re on the topic of the middle of the field, the play the ball is an area I would describe as a significant disappointment. The whole system remains entirely automated and lacking nuance. The game desperately needs a varied play the ball system that allows for quick play the balls when you’ve been tackled around the legs one on one – it shouldn’t be automated, but rather something that’s selected. You either go for a quick play the ball, regular speed or slow (for when you’re buying time for set plays etc).
 
Tactics
I’ve list tactics as one of the positives, but in their current iteration they feel half-baked to me. Selecting them often doesn’t even bring the players into position and it’s just not at all clear how they’re intended to work. What’s more, is the inclusive of tactics seem to have supplanted the previous option to drop the playmaker into the pocket – a very useful option for when attempting 40-20s.
 
The idea of adding in set-plays is welcome, but there needs to be more, they need to be properly explained and they need to be responsive for them to be genuinely useful.
 
That’s it for my views on the core gameplay. It’s improved, but problems remain and plenty more depth needs to be added for the game to be truly great.
 
Presentation
Moving on, from a presentation standpoint the game has made some improvements and gone backwards in some areas.
 
The addition of player scans undoubtedly add a greater level of accuracy to the feel of the players, but somehow the stadiums look more plastic this time around and the turf looks less detailed. You can see it very clearly when you’ve got a close-up, but the blurry grass of RLL4 in particular looking significantly better in RLL3 – where each strand of grass was visible.
 
On a more general level, the crowds are extremely generic. It’s a small thing, but given this is the 4th instalment I think we ought to have some individual character to different stadiums. For instance, it feels like that it wouldn’t be very difficult to take some footage of the big games of each club and take note of the flags the members areas hold up and include them in the game along with their chants when their side is ascendant or under pressure.
 
As an Easts fan, it would be great to see some of the common Roosters flags that are mainstays of the chookpen along with the drum chant of “Easts” when I’m playing a home game. It’s a bit of extra work for the graphics and sound guys, but it would provide the game with some much needed polish and attention to detail.
 
Game play modes
The game’s modes remain largely the same, and career mode doesn’t appear to have been evolved in any significant way, and that’s a bit of a disappointment for many. Personally I’m a pretty casual gamer, so it’s not a deal breaker for me, but I can understand why a lot of people would find this annoying
 
It’s a matter of managing the company’s resources, but it seems like this is an area that could have used a great deal more attention.
 
So there you have it – that’s my view on the game. It’s solid, and definitely represents progress, but critical areas like passing and offloading (especially offloading), the ruck and play the ball and general play tactics remain a work in progress that need further developing. Meanwhile, the graphics and presentation have improved in some areas, but remain pedestrian and lacking individual character in others.
 
It’s a title the evolves the core mechanics, without revolutionising the experience.
 
7/10
On a more general level, the crowds are extremely generic. It’s a small thing, but given this is the 4th instalment I think we ought to have some individual character to different stadiums. For instance, it feels like that it wouldn’t be very difficult to take some footage of the big games of each club and take note of the flags the members areas hold up and include them in the game along with their chants when their side is ascendant or under pressure.


^ i So agree with that

Guess waiting on PC
On the subject of crowds, in game we have the supporters of each team mixed in and sat with each other.. it would be more realistic to have sections where the away fans are and the rest of the ground home team fans with masses of one colour.
(08-01-2017, 01:14 AM)BigMoz Wrote: [ -> ]On the subject of crowds, in game we have the supporters of each team mixed in and sat with each other.. it would be more realistic to have sections where the away fans are and the rest of the ground home team fans with masses of one colour.

Yeah, it strikes me as one of those things that you wouldn't worry too much about for the first couple iterations, but by the fourth title you'd really want to be adding in character to the crowd. Especially given there's an "Origin decider" match set from the start you'd think having areas like Blatchy's Blues would be a must.

Speaking of game modes though, one thing I didn't mention above was the strange absence of Stan alone competitions outside of franchise mode. It seems like an odd oversight, but you really ought to be able to play an origin series, 4 Nations or 9s series independent of career mode in my view.
It's really frustrating. The biggest let down in this game is the back ground stuff that is supposed to improve by default with each iteration. Modes. Crowds. Career depth. Minor details. They have all gone backwards or gone nowhere in RLL4. Another thing they can't get right after 4 attempts is the rage quitting online. We have said since 2008 make it like Fifa. Quit = loss. Still waiting
Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think there are losses counted in the game which just makes things worse.
(08-01-2017, 10:45 AM)Radman Wrote: [ -> ]Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think there are losses counted in the game which just makes things worse.

If this is true they need to hire someone else that makes these decisions. Some of the design choices are confusing at best and are not global standard with the AAA sport titles we are trying to replicate and don't say counting a loss online comes down to budget constraints and macro economics lol
(08-01-2017, 10:32 AM)ak47 Wrote: [ -> ]It's really frustrating. The biggest let down in this game is the back ground stuff that is supposed to improve by default with each iteration. Modes. Crowds. Career depth. Minor details. They have all gone backwards or gone nowhere in RLL4. Another thing they can't get right after 4 attempts is the rage quitting online. We have said since 2008 make it like Fifa. Quit = loss. Still waiting

It's likely because I'm more a casual gamer, but for me the biggest issue remains passing and offloading. I think in general they need to examine the underlying passing mechanics and they definitely need to make offloading a much easier and better communicated system than the current haphazard lottery we have had for the past 4 games.
They just released a passing tutorial. I've found they want us to use the face buttons rather than the traditional means of shoulder buttons which kinda throw random passes in this game
(08-01-2017, 11:20 AM)ak47 Wrote: [ -> ]They just released a passing tutorial. I've found they want us to use the face buttons rather than the traditional means of shoulder buttons which kinda throw random passes in this game

I try to do that as much as possible, but quick passes into contact are hard to do that way, and that still does nothing to fix the offload system.
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