International Rugby Review
If I may indulge you for a second, I’m going to say something unrelated to video games and remarkably un-British. I hate rugby. Yes, I know that the UK has some great teams, ones that have achieved remarkable success in the past, but the sport runs at a plodding pace, all the players are about as interesting as the supporting cast of a CBS sitcom, and the commentary teams grate my ears and brain. As a matter of fact, I prefer American football, but don’t tell Queen Elizabeth I said that. Anyway, with the overwhelming annoyance I feel towards the sport, you can imagine how badly I reacted when I learned I would have to review a title called International Rugby. I’ll tell you for sure right now, I wouldn’t care if this were called Local Rugby Starring Bobby B From Down The Street, I will not enjoy this in any shape or form, but I will persist.
Rugby is a sports ball game where you throw a ball around a field. A game with a ball that I enjoyed for the Genesis is NBA Jam, a game so nice, I bought it thrice – the Midway, Acclaim, and EA versions are all mine. I love its mad sense of humour in how the slam dunks get more and more ludicrous as you go on, but I also love that it’s a mechanically solid, tight, and fast-paced game that gets even better with a friend along. Also, even how they madly vary in quality, I always enjoyed what they all brought to the table. Acclaim’s attempt at the series was perhaps the weakest, but it had a punishing difficulty curve which I loved, and included players from my favourite period of basketball. Ah, those were the days, playing as the Clippers against the… Damn, where was I? I’m completely sorry for going off on a tangent there, readers, let me get back to the review…
Rugby players of different teams wear different shirts to differentiate themselves. In this game, players certainly do wear different shirts, which is a nice realistic touch. A game where you can change your character’s clothing that I enjoyed is The Sims. I’ve always been a sucker for customisation in games, and I’ve always been interested in interior design. I’m also a massive sociopath, so you can understand why the idea of designing the 1×1 cubicle I will later lock a Sim inside is deeply appealing to me. In all seriousness, The Sims is great if you want to let your creative juices flow – design a mansion, or decorate a perfect little apartment, or recreate your favourite fictional buildings – I admit that freely on more than one occasion I’ve tried to make the apartment from Frasier, but I could never quite get the balcony – agh, I just did it again! I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Back on topic…
Rugby players must drive the ball around the field. A game where you can drive that I enjoyed is Driver. Suffixed with “You Are The Wheelman” in North America, Driver was a slick mission-based driving game based on crime movies of the 70s and 80s where the cars were loud, the action was fast, and the main character suffered a rare disease where his heart would stop if he left his car. Simply, I love Driver for three reasons: first, the gameplay is fast and frenetic, and driving around San Francisco while in the police chase of your life has to be seen to be believed. Second, the voice acting is ridiculous in the best way. Picture hammy white guys using phrases like “superfly”, “ya dig?” and “damn, man!” with liberal abandon like their life depends on it – this creates a wonderful homage to those aforementioned movies. Finally, the music is gorgeous; it’s a nasty, slick, and jazzy affair engineered to make you believe you’re living in Don Johnson’s mind. Oh, blast, that’s the third time now! I’m so sorry, dear readers: I know you’re anxious to know about International Rugby, so let me just get right back to it…
Okay, I’ll be frank with you all. I want to put off reviewing this game for as long as possible, because we all know it’s going to be as terrible as a night out in Bradford. At least when it was that damned snooker game, I could at least use my knowledge and enthusiasm of the game to portray it to unfamiliar audiences, but here? I’m as enthusiastic about the game of rugby as much as David Cameron is enthusiastic about the working class. I can’t put it off any longer though, so here goes – unless you all want to hear about my love of Jackie Chan Stuntmaster?
International Rugby is not bad. I didn’t expect those words to escape my mouth, now or ever, but as it stands, it’s a functional game of rugby! Based on what I know about rugby from attending an all-male high school, the game is realistic, capturing the spirit and rules of the game, while also succeeding at making it fun. I found trying to run the ball past the opposition or trying to steal it quite pleasing – International Rugby maintains a fast pace of play that perfectly portrays the game itself, and the controls, to my surprise, were lithe and responsive.
The game plays out from a top-down perspective, where the game really as simple as trying to grab the ball and either kick it over the bar or run it past to score a try. (that’s a field goal/touchdown in American football speak) At about five minutes a game, the experience never gets old, and is fun to blast around with a friend. I mean, I’m sure this would be more enjoyable if you indeed cared about rugby, but to me as an outsider, I find myself pleasantly surprised.
However, I found myself more bowled over at other elements of the game. Sure, the gameplay is functional; enjoyable even, but the depth to the game is something else. International Rugby features a slew of teams ranging from the heavyweights such as England and Ireland, to the cruiserweights such as Zimbabwe and Samoa, to the downright unexpected – did you know America had a rugby team in the 90s? Neither did I before this game. It also features a handful of different modes, including a season, which should keep players happy for a good period of time. I appreciate games with longevity, and I’m sorry I dismissed this game so haughtily – I’m immediately derisive of games in which you can’t slam dunk and the commentary team don’t say “boomshakalaka”. International Rugby doesn’t deserve to be cast off like that.
Don’t get me wrong, International Rugby is not a fantastic game. It’s, at best, a 7/10. I just don’t want anyone to get confused – it’s not a 10/10, but it’s much closer to that end of the scale than 1/10. Not a bad attempt at all…for a sports game.