World Championship Rugby
Developer: Swordfish Studios
Publisher: Acclaim
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1-4
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Any Brit in possession of a life, or the pretence of one, will know about England's triumph at the Rugby World Cup in November 2003. England's first real sporting win in a while ignited the shred of national pride in everybody, and suddenly everyone was a rugby pundit, or wanted to be. Although it may be a little late for bandwagon-jumping, Swordfish, with Acclaim, have pushed out World Championship Rugby - the official game of the rugby world champions (that's England in case you weren't listening).

The game parades key members of the England squad on the front of the box, obviously appealing to those who never knew a rugby ball was oval-shaped before the final, and it also plays simply enough to appeal to novices too. Anyone who is a rugby fan will remember the undisputed "best rugby game ever™" - Jonah Lomu Rugby for the Playstation, and WCR has attempted to move more toward that style of play, than that of the dire EA series of rugby games (which, thankfully, do not get released every year).

   

As this is the official game of the England rugby squad, you'd expect realistic character models based on the players, and of stadia like Twickenham. The latter is present. The players in WCR however, even the England squad, look like they've been modelled from Mr. Potatohead, with big, thuggish heads, and dodgy facial animations that look like computer-generated mugshots. The only way you can identify Johnny Wilkinson is when he does his trademark pose before taking a kick (and to complete the whole England experience, it had to be in the game really, didn't it).

But, luckily, the gameplay is the key to the game. It has definitely been thoroughly thought out, as it seems to be the best of both worlds - fast and responsive, for the bloke who knows how to play rugby, but yet simple and easy to pick up, for those who don't want to spend ages staring blankly at the manual just to work out how to throw a lineout. Some of the movements flow naturally, and are taken straight from JLR (like using the top shoulder buttons to pass the ball up or down the screen, for example). For the more complicated bits, like scrums or mauls, the controls appear on screen, to make sure you're hammering the right buttons, so you're never really confused.

   

The game moves fast, with an emphasis obviously being on a more arcade style of game than a true simulation. As a result of this, you can shove your beefiest forwards in front of the opposition scrum-half, and knock him flat off his feet, with a rewarding crunch, and the ball in your possession to boot. You can also knock out players not in possession of the ball, in case they look at you funny - don't worry, you're a rock-hard rugby player now, and you haven't even had to get up out of your comfy chair, or wear tight shorts. The downside of the quick, arcade-style gameplay is that the game often gets things very, very wrong, in terms of the rules of rugby. The mere fact that you can tackle people off the ball is illegal in rugby, but there are other problems, such as players, both yours and the AI team's, being constantly offside. These gripes will probably sound insignificant to the newly-converted England supporter, attracted to the game by the big pic of Johnny Wilkinson on the cover, but will just annoy those who know the rules of rugby, and want a rewarding and accurate experience - my brother shouted several profanities at the screen when his scrum-half kept getting tackled by a player running around the side of the scrum. That's just plain wrong.

   

And another thing. Granted, England won the World Cup, but only just, and they are definitely not the best team in the world (as any rugby fan will agree), yet the game has decided that they are, and given them full stats, and made it impossible for them to lose any scrum, maul or lineout to any other team than another England, or the all-stars team. Considering that most of the people buying the game will consider it their patriotic duty to play as England, and whop the Aussies a second time (although in rather ugly computer-form this time, with England being unnaturally talented), it bears no real challenge anymore, which is surely an insult to the England team themselves.

To sum the game up, it's the Rugby version of Fifa - what EA's rugby games should be - lots of easy to pick up action, with the opportunity to play the game licensed by the England team, nothing too heavy or taxing. However, I'm still waiting for the rugby equivalent of the Pro Evo series, there has to be one, and when it comes…….get a towel!


Best Bits

- Fast, easy to pick up gameplay.
- Good multiplayer games.
- It's got that Johnny bloke who did all them kicks in the World Cup Final in it!

Worst Bits

- Ugly, chunky players.
- A little too arcadey to keep interest of rugby fans.
- The in-game England team is way better than they really are.



by: Crazypunk