|Since I started working for AMIGA POWER, I've had a
lot of abuse from various quarters.
Readers, rival journalists, complete
strangers in the street, my own parents, they've all had a pop. It's all water off a
duck's back, of course - I'm from Scotland. Now, though, for the first time, something's
happened that's made me seriously consider my future. I'm faced with a two-page review of
International Rugby Challenge, and I really and truly don't think I'm going to be able to
find the words to adequately describe how dreadful it is.
Let's set out our stall by starting with a quick comparison. The previous lowest-rated
game ever in AMIGA POWER was European Champions by Idea, which got a less-than-impressive
4% in issue 17. It is, approximately, 50 times better than International Rugby Challenge.
Now (gulp), let's get specific.
The only way to do this, I think, will be to be methodical. So let's start with the
options screen. The default set-up puts you playing England, against Scotland, using mouse
control (of which more later) in a 40-minutes-each-way match. To change any of these
options, consult the manual to find out what the icons mean, then jerk the pointer slowly
across the screen with the mouse and hold the fire button down for a couple of seconds
until some options come up. Mostly, these are fairly obvious - if you don't want to play
as England, click on the little team crest icon until it changes to the side you want.
If, however, you want to change the opposition (or if you want to play as Scotland, who
you can't choose at first because they're your opponents), things get a bit more
complicated. First you have to go to the 'Number Of Players' menu and select two players.
Now the game allows you to click on both the team crest icons and you can choose your
favourites. Go back to the 'players' menu and choose one player again. Start the game.
Suddenly you realise you're still using the utterly ridiculous and unworkable mouse
control. Quit the game. This brings up a stats screen full of great info like how many
'trys' you've scored and how much 'possesion' you've had, so have a bit of a chuckle then
choose the 'Manage' option which in fact gets you back to the initial options screen.
Choose joystick control, and for good measure read the instructions on how to operate it
properly. 'When not in possession of the ball, click FIRE and hold to retain
possession.' Mmm, sounds like a good one. Right, time to start the game properly. You
didn't forget to choose a shorter match length, did you? Because the game IS prone to
locking up in the middle of a scrum if you play a longer game. Good.
Damn. Being methodical isn't going to work, there isn't enough space. I'm going to have to
go for the 'edited highlights' approach instead. Like how in two-player mode, you can't
both use a joystick. Like how it's practically impossible to tackle or be tackled, and
hence the game consists almost entirely of one team kicking off, you picking up the loose
ball and running it straight in for a try. Like how when you cross the try line, you
automatically put the ball down without getting the chance to run it in behind the posts.
Like how when you kick a conversion, your player's strip changes to white shirt and black
shorts whichever team he's playing for. Like how the line judges are always the same
number of pixels tall when you kick the conversion, and hence look six inches tall when
you're doing a close-in one. Like how players try a diving tackle, then immediately do
another one from the ground, then another one and another one, so they're flapping around
looking like they're swimming a 100 metres butterfly race.
Like how the ball catapults around senselessly at random and frequently disappears
completely off the screen, leaving the scrolling to catch up with it five or six seconds
later. Like how the player you control is almost never anywhere near the opponent with the
ball, even though he's got three of your men practically standing on his toes, or how if
the ball's loose one (or more) of your players can actually run right over it without
picking it up or coming under your control. Like how sometimes you can actually have the
ball, but be controlling one of the players in your own team who isn't the one actually
Like how the ball's so small and difficult to see, and when the other team's got it the
player in possession isn't highlighted, that you can never tell where it actually is. Like
the 20-second loading delay before and after you kick a conversion. Like how you can throw
the ball backwards for easily 40 or 50 yards. Like how a ruck consists of the two teams
lining up in single file behind each other a couple of feet to the side of the ball, which
eventually leaps off one way or the other of its own volition. Like how lineouts are
awarded without the ball ever going out of play. Like how when you play Scotland against
France, the two teams play in two practically-identical all-blue strips (both wrong, too -
Scotland and France play in white shorts, you clowns) which are impossible to tell apart
in the heat of play.
Like how the game calls the French national stadium the Parc de Paris instead of the
Parc Des Princes. Like how the computer side will happily run around for 10 seconds with
the ball lying in their try zone, waiting for one of your players to come and flop down on
top of it and score a try. Like how when you pause the game, the action freezes but the
clock doesn't - start a 10-minute game, score a try, pause, wait for 10 minutes and
unpause, and you've won.
This hasn't been much fun to read, has it? Not much zing, not much zip, not many jokes.
Fact is, I haven't even started to list the awful, awful flaws in this game. (Well,
obviously I've started, but I haven't covered even half of them.) You really have to see
it in action to believe it. I took two days of convincing before I'd believe that this was
a finished version of the game and that someone wasn't trying to set me up. I've been
playing video games now for about 16 years, and I've never seen anything this bad. The
longer you play it, the worse it gets (the sound is a sick joke too, by the way). I loved
Domark's original Rugby - The World Cup, but this, a year and a half's development later,
is so inferior it utterly beggars belief. That's inferior to everything. In the world.
LIFE'S A BITCH, THEN YOU PLAY INTERNATIONAL RUGBY CHALLENGE
Rugby Challenge is bad. But exactly how bad is it? We decided to set up a scientific
comparative test with some of the most-bad things we could think of in an attempt to find
out precisely the scale of this software crime.
THE WAR IN BOSNIA
Hundreds of thousands of deaths, terrible atrocities committed in the name of 'ethnic
cleansing', the disintegration of entire nations into endless warring factions pitting
brother against brother and father against son.
Badness Rating: Not Nearly As Bad As International Rugby Challenge.
THE FAMINE IN SOMALIA
Hundreds of thousands of deaths, relief supplies being looted and plundered by corrupt
officials, starving people being shot by the opposing sides in a prolonged and pointless
Badness Rating: Close To, But Not Quite As Bad As, International Rugby
THE RODNEY KING BEATING
Slight speeding offence punished by life-threatening assault with heavily weighted sticks,
perpetrated by four armed police officers against defenceless man lying motionless on the
ground. Led to huge riots in Los Angeles area, causing millions of dollars' worth of
damage and several deaths.
Badness Rating: Approximately Half As Bad As International Rugby
DEPLETION OF THE OZONE LAYER
Wanton destruction of section of the planet's atmosphere by entire population. Causes
increased incidence of skin cancer and global warming, which in turn brings on melting of
the polar ice caps, causing widespread flooding of much of the world's arable land and
hence massive food shortages. Combination of these effects almost certain to lead to
complete eradication of human life on the planet within the next 200 years.
Badness Rating: Would cause death of Jeremy Beadle, therefore Still
Not As Bad As International Rugby Challenge.
HAVING ELECTRODES ATTACHED TO YOUR GENITALS AND BEING FLOGGED SENSELESS WITH A KNOTTED
Badness Rating: Actually, This One Probably Is As Bad As International
Rugby Challenge. But It's A Close Thing.