World Class Rugby: Five Nations Edition logo

Everyone knows the story behind rugby. It was invented by some fool at public school, it’s played by men with odd-shaped balls and has traditionally been confined to the playing fields of high schools, where socially maladjusted teachers encourage freezing first-years to beat the hell out of each other in the name of sportsmanship.

It is a documented fact that no English person, above the age of 14, and who isn’t a masochist, plays rugby. Those who feel the need to ‘scrimmage’, ‘maul’ and ‘ruck’ in several feet of mud should either take a course of expensive therapy, or else play a computer simulation of rugby. And – hey! - here comes a rugby simulation right now.

Boots, brains and bashing bits
In Five Nations Edition you can take part in both the World Cup and the Five Nations Championship. Both competitions are pretty similar, consisting of a number of large men leaping at each other. Before you can take part in either contest, or indeed in a practice friendly match, there’s the usual rigmarole of clicking on endless option icons. You can fiddle about with the condition of the pitch, the wind speed, the length of the match, the pitch perspective, the action replays, the more obscure rules, the strip colours… well, you know the sort of thing.

The more interesting options involve the players themselves. In best management tradition, each player has a set of statistics that determine just how beefy and fleet of foot he is. You can alter these in any number of thrilling ways, or switch them off altogether so that, to coin a phrase, all men are created equal. Fiddled to your heart’s content? Right, onto the game itself.

This is standard Kick Off fare, with lots of fast scrolling and computer-controlled action. By pressing fire you switch control to the player nearest the ball, and a little roving dot in front of the sprite shows the direction any pass or kick will be made in.

The inevitable flashing arrows that identify which player you’re controlling tend to get lost when the game heats up. A neat-but-ultimately-too-small-to-be-of-real-use radar flashes away in a corner of the screen, showing the swarming dots of your team-mates.

Gameplay is a case of hurling yourself at the chap who is carrying the ball then legging it away before the others get a chance to realise what has happened. An impressively sneaky feature is that you have to pass the ball to gain any ground – if you try to run straight up the middle, your player gets rapidly tired and slows down to a mere jog.

World Class Rugby forces to you think strategically, which is a bit of a mixed blessing. On the one hand it makes for a more involved game, because you have to keep track of where your players are, so that you can pass to the best possible position. On the other, not being able to nip off to where the fancy takes you slows down the action somewhat. The fact that every single tackle seems to result in a time-consuming scrum doesn’t help the pacing of the game either.

But then again...
On the flip side, some of the cleverest bits of the game occur when the ball is not actually in play. In dead ball situations, a set of pre-arranged moves pop up on screen. You select which manoeuvre that you want your chaps to execute, then just sit back and watch them rush purposefully about. When you see an opening, you bash the fire-button and take control of the ball-carrier again. Cunning, dashed cunning.

Summing up in the traditional last-paragraph fashion, I’d say that World Class Rugby – Five Nations Edition is a fun little game. If you think you can cope with the jerky pacing and the sometimes confused graphics, there’s plenty for you to get stuck into. A quiet, little success, methinks.

World Class Rugby: Five Nations Edition logo

It's back, and - yes! - it's much better.

For those of you who didn’t see the January edition of AMIGA POWER, this game is quite familiar to me. You see it was released in an earlier incarnation, called simply World Class Rugby. In my original review I found the game tricky to control and with a few playability problems.

And now here I am again with the new version and yes, it’s much better. Indeed, it’s now at leat as good as its only real rival, Domark’s Rugby: The World Cup. As well as being very playable in either two player or computer opponent mode, it has one over Domark’s version through its realism (something I’ll get to in a minute).

The main selling point of this new version is, of course, the Five Nations Championship – you can now play as either England, France, Ireland, Scotland or Wales in a bid to win the Grand Slam. Without going into too many details, the scenario is handled well, and with the World Cup mode still available as an option, adds scope to the game.

Whichever mode you pick, the game is a joy to play – much easier to control than the original version and, with its atmospheric sound effects and well crafted animation, a joy to play. Don’t fret about the 30 quid price tag – if you like rugby in any shape or form then I’m sure that you’ll find it’s money well spent.

The rest of the game is much the same as before. There are oodles of conditions and options (normal or muddy conditions, individual skills levels, match times, rules, types of replay, whatever) as before, but this time the controllability is now excellent, the simpler controls making for a much more playable and enjoyable game than the original.

In fact, there’s only one big downside – there aren’t enough scrums. Instead there are rucks (for those not familiar with the term, this is a kind of human pile up on the rugger field where the ball must be won wit the feet) – slightly unrealistic, though at least they provide opportunity for players to be sent off (good fun when it’s one of the opposition, a pain when it’s your own guy).

A great game then, and fine competition for Domark’s rugby bash. If you like rugby, and you haven’t bought the first version of this game, well worth a punt.