Since I started working for AMIGA POWER, I've had a lot of abuse from 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 as a writer. I'm faced with a three-page review of International Rugby Challenge, and I really and I truly don't think I'm going to be able to find the words to describe just 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. And European Champions is, approximately, 50 times better than International Rugby Challenge. Now (gulp), let's get specific.
The only way to do this, I thin, will be to be methodical. So let's start with the options screen. The default set-up has 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 a menu comes 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 ridiculous and unworkable mouse control. Quite 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. International Rugby ChallengeWhen not in possession of the ball, click FIRE and hold to retain possessionInternational Rugby Challenge. 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 just isn't enough space. I'm going to have to go for the 'edited highlights' approach instead.
I've never seen anything this bad
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 stip 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 in height 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 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 who's holding it. 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 over 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 accord. Like how line-outs are awarded without the ball going out of play.
Like how when you play Scotland against France, the two teams play in two practically-identical shorts, you clowns) which are impossible to tell apart in the heat of play. Like how the game calls the French 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 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 for about 16 years now, and I've never seen anything this bad. The longer you play it, the worst 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. It's inferior to everything in the world. Ever.