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World Class Rugby logo

AUDIOGENIC * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Out now

World Class Rugby. Hmmm, sounds a bit like World Cup Rugby if you ask me. And, my word if it isn't the Rugby World Cup this month, well knock me down with a feather and call me Susan if that isn't one of the most remarkable coincidences this century. And bugger me if there isn't another rugby game reviewed next month. How do I know? I'm psychic, that's how.

Rugby to the uninitiated is a complex game - hundreds of rules make up the sport, covering every possible situation. But it isn't really necessary to know more than the basics if you want to play or watch a game.

This version, by all accounts, tries to take in all of the basics and some of the more complex ones, but to include every single rule and couple it with the infallible logic of a computer would mean that you might as well start carving a headstone for playability right now. Fortunately you don't have to.

The match can be a friendly, in the league, then the League Cup or the World Cup. The four options give you the opportunity to play loads of opponents in all sorts of environments, and the chance to fight your way to the top in three different arenas.

On the pitch at any one time you will have fifteen men - eight forwards being the ones who make up the scrum. The idea is basically to run up the field with an oval ball, get it behind the goal and touch it down. The problem is that you cannot pass it forward - it must always be passed to someone behind.

This sort of sport involves heavy contact which may mean that the ball gets trapped under a pile of men and the game effectively grinds to a halt. This is where the scrum comes in, or if someone was at fault, various penalties. The scrum, or the ruck when the game hasn't been stopped, involve a large group of men being punched forward by the waggling of your joystick.

Coloured arrows show the position of the ball and whether you are in control of it. If the ball goes out of play you get a time-out. This set piece gives you the chance to pick one of the seven or eight routines available which, if you gain possession, will be run by the computer in a similar way to some American football games.

The ball can be kicked forward down the pitch but it must not be picked up by anyone other than the kicker or one of the opposition. The most complex rules included in this version revolve around offsides and knock ons. In the full game these rules cause the majority of the hold-ups, which is why rugby is given such liberal advantage rules.

Advantage is a difficult concept to get over to a computer in the way of a referee would interpret it which is why the offside and knock on rules can be turned off if you fancy a really fast moving game. But when they are on it doesn't make the game completely unplayable, just a little more pedestrian.

Controls are very simple. Depending on the situation, fire will either change the controlled player, pass, tackle or kick. Dead easy. The pitch is viewed from either above or a pseudo 3D that is identical to that of John Madden on the Mega Drive, and it plays like a dream.

There is plenty of scope in computer rugby for the aforementioned headstone but Denton Designs have managed to produce a highly playable game that should do for computerised rugby what Kick Off did for football.

World Class Rugby logo

There are a growing number of simulations out there, ranging from snooker to football and from driving to flying. One area that hasn't had much attention though is Rugby, until now that is. World Class Rugby is an overhead-style rugby game, akin to the style of Kick Off. The game comprises of a single game disk that loads up and presents you with a comprehensive variety of options, ranging from altering the pitch and wind conditions and also the type of game being played, whether it be a World Cup game, or a friendly league match.

There are also a few more options, mainly concerned with changing the functions in the game, rather than the actual gameplay, such as the almost customary action replay function. There is also another function for viewpoint: 2D or 3D, but this seems to have little effect on the game - the screen looks exactly the same except for the colour of the pitch. The call is "Ice Cream".

Will Carling?
Controlling your players is a tricky process, with complex joystick commands to make them do different manoeuvres. Once mastered, though the control process is easier, but still tricky. Everything in a normal rgby game has been included (except the fights). All your moves have to be done according to the rules of rugby, which is good at picking up things like offside (if enabled) and gives you out penalties accordingly.

All the features of the real game have been included. There are line-outs when the ball goes into touch (off the pitch) and when it is your throw, you are presented with a host of tactical options to employ. This also happens at scrums, when it is your ball. Winning these scrums and line-outs are not easy though, with luck playing a major part of it.

Even tackling and kicking can be haphazard, with only a limited amount of control over your men, when you have it at all that is. Instead of automatically selecting the nearest man, you have to choose to control the best positioned man by various joystick combinations.

The presentation of the game is very good, with colourful graphics on the option screens, although the in-game graphics are a bit jerky and do not flow as well as they could. The characters are well defined though, and there are some good views in the action-replay mode. You can also save these action-replays, but unfortunately you need a World Class Rugby expansion disk to actually view them after saving! The sound in the game is good, with some good atmosphere, thud sounds when tackled with other good effect through the game. Scrum down at 22 yards.

All black?
Rugby is a very physical game, and although all the different aspects of rugby, line-outs, scrums etc. are faithfully incorporated into the game, there is still a lack of real action, which is rather disappointing. It is all easy to get into a ruck or be offside, the computer is pedantic about these things.

This is not to say that it is totally impossible to produce a game that would be full of action, it's just that the game requires little skill, because half the time the players seem to do what they want rather than what you are trying to make them do. This is fatal for those vital cup matches. It's just a case of where the ideas are good, the implementation is not quite up to scratch.

Sports simulations have one problem, they're all compared to the brilliant Kick Off 2! This award winning soccer game is so good that even pathological footie haters love to play it. It's fast, fun and you can foul!

World Class Rugby logo

Seid auf der Hut, Ihr Fussballer, denn die Rugby-Aliens treiben ihre Invasion mit ungebremster Begeisterung voran. Nach Domarks Rugby-Weltcup kicken nun die Audiogenics den Eierball - und bei der Qualität könnte man glatt wirklich noch ein Fan dieser exotischen Sport werden!

Ein weiteres Mal hetzen nun also zwei Mannschaften mit je 15 Spielern hinter dem braunen Ball her, stets wacker bemüht, ihn hinter die gegnerische Auslinie ins Try zu tragen. Aber auch ein Direktschuss auf das Tor bringt Punkte, wenn er über die Latte geht.

Ja, und zwischendurch vertreiben sich die Jungs ihre Zeit mit merkwürdigen Massenaufläufen und Menschenknäueln (Scrums) - angeblich um sich die unter den Leibern begrabene Ledermurmel zu krallen...

Bei alledem bietet World Class Rugby den geneigten Balltretern Möglichkeiten über Möglichkeiten: Liga- und World-Cup-Modus oder auch nur ein einzelnes Match, bis zu 4 Spieler gleichzeitig (mit Joystick-Adapter), 3D-Perspektive, Zeitlupenwiederholung, diverse Taktiken beim Einwurf, und was der Totalitäten mehr sind.

Sogar die Mannschaft darf ganz nach Wunsch aufgestellt werden. Ein wenig ruckeln die Recken zwar schon, aber dafür funktioniert die Sticksteuerung prima; man muss sich nur erst und die vielen taktischen Finessen gewöhnen. Ein flotter Titelsound, der auch zwischen den Begegnungen ertönt, hebt die Laune ebenso wie die gut rübergebrachte "Stadionatmosphäre".

World Class Rugby wäre jedenfalls mehr Fans zu gönnen, als es wegen der Thematik hierzulande finden dürfte. (jn)

World Class Rugby logo

The World Cup may have ended, but those simulations just keep on coming...

I have to say I was looking forward to this! I play (real) rugby anyway, and had found Domark's Rugby - The World Cup a delight, so the chance to enact another classic England/Scotland clash, this time with a different computer game, was one I couldn't miss.

With the Amiga as the Jock coach, and me in charge of the Sassenachs, our match was to be a league game in the snow with a strong wind, equal skills and both offside and knock on rules applying.

It started off well too. Graphically the game is very pleasing to the eye, with clearly defined, well animated players, and some good effects including five different versions of the action replay which vary in both speed and dimension. It gives you plenty of options too - you can choose the weather conditions for your match, change the squad in your team, change their strip, play different skill levels, vary the time of match duration, control the pitch conditions, apply different rules of play and select the type of match (from World Cup, friendly or league games).

If you do win the ball at a line out or scrum (this is done by furiously waggling the joystick back and forth) you're given a selection of interesting but surprisingly technical moves (selected by moving the joystick up or down in the direction of the move indicated on the screen and clicking the fire button) to take advantage of.

These are generally quite impressive when executed - if you can follow the direction of play - but will, I think, prove less accessible to most players than the controls of Domark's effort. Indeed, the whole approach here is of a more technically correct, less immediately playable, and generally more specialised tacticians game.

World Class Rugby suffers from some controllability problems too - tackling, for instance, is generally a very hit and miss affair, which can prove frustrating. When in a defending situation you may find that although your players are close enough to tackle the opposition they are not allowed to do so - an arrow supposedly indicates which of your players can tackle, but in many cases I found this to be someone completely out of range, while other, closer, players had to hang around helplessly.

It got even worse when the ball was bouncing free into my half and the game prevented me from picking it up, even though I hand plenty of defenders just standing by waiting for the chance. Too many times the computer player scored certain tries this way, while I could do little but sit and watch.

This would be unfriendly and unplayable at the best of times, but coming so soon after Domark's Rugby - The World Cup compounds the feeling. As I've been playing this, the highly tactical bias of the games - they're not free form in the slightest - has increasingly reminded me of American Football, not rugby, and indeed Audiogenic's Peter Calver has confirmed, "we tried to make World Class Rugby the rugby equivalent of John Madden American Football." Now John Madden's isn't technically overburdened game, but you can see the sort of thinking that's led to the game we see here. There are people who will enjoy this version - don't get me wrong - but for the vast majority of us it's got to the Domark's version every time.

World Class Rugby logo CU Amiga Screenstar

To those unfamiliar with the game, Rugby seems nothing more than a minority sport dominated by lardy gents who sing Swing Low after every matc and horse around in the showers. Conversely, Rugby players consider every other sport a wimp's game, and advertise their preference by attaching 'Rugby players do it with funny shaped balls' stickers to their car windows.

The recent World Cup (which the Australian side deservedly won) grabbed an unprecedented amount of media attention as well as clocking massive viewing figures. For a game taht's played by amateurs, it looks as if the sport is finally beginning to attract the mass audience it has always richly deserved.

Audiogenic's World Class Rugby features all the basic rules plus off-sides, which can be disabled if you don't fancy an overly-complicated game. The simplified version is substantially easier than the full game.

The game can be viewed in three different modes. One gives a standard overhead view of approximately 20% of the pitch. Blimp mode lets you keep your eyes on the entire team, showing most of the pitch, although the players will be tiny graphics. Finally there's the 3D mode. The player sprites are the same as in the standard mode, but the pitch itself is angled to give it a three-dimensional feel.

The controls are extremely easy to get to grips with. Hitting the fire-button gives you control of the player nearest the ball. Holding down the fire button and pulling the joystick left or right passes the ball, and puts you in command of the player on the receiving end. Scrums are hard on the joystick. The two teams face off in a huddle, either side of which are coloured bars, and the joystick has to be pounded left and right to make your team push the opposition back. If you're doing well the bars turn into the colour of your team's kit, or that of the opposition if you're losing.

World Class Rugby is extremely playable. Rugby fans will lap this up as it's a remarkably detailed sim and a really playable game. The attention to detail is remarkable, with lots of options to keep the purists happy. Unfortunately, the game's only just reached the softshops and consequently, might miss out on the interest generated by the World Cup. A pity, as it's a belter.

BEGINNER'S GUIDE Rugby's basic rules are easy to understand. The ball mustn't be passed forward, although it can be kicked ahead. To score a try, which is worth four points, the ball has to be placed on the ground vast the opposing team's goal line. The team then have to kick the ball through the posts from 22 yards to score an additional two points. If a player is tackled with the ball, other team members form a huddle, which is called a scrum. The object of the scrum is to pass the ball out to your team's scrum half, who'll usually dump the ball on some other available team member. If the ball goes over the sideline, five players from each team form two lines. The ball is then thrown through the middle of the lines and it's down to the nearest player to push it on to anohter member of their team.