Here at Play-Old-PC-Games.com we’ve not covered a lot of sports simulations. The reason for that is two fold. Firstly, these titles tend to get annual updates to include new players and therefore there’s less incentive for fans to revisit older versions. The main reason though, if we’re honest is that we’re a bunch of geeks, and proper mens sports like rugby do tend to leave us baffled. Of course, there are plenty of gamers out there who can’t get enough odd-shaped ball action, so with that in mind we decided to test this highly polished rugby simulator that features players and locations from New Zealand’s National Rugby League (circa 2003).
The game should install without any issues on a modern PC. Simply insert the CD-ROM into your computers optical drive and follow the on-screen prompts. When asked what type of installation you want to perform, choose either “Typical” or “Custom” for the best performance.
There were no official patches released for the game that we could find and the game ran just fine for us after installation without the need for any compatibility settings. However, there is an unofficial patch that supposedly improves compatibility with Windows Vista and Windows 7 machines. If you have issues running the game you can find this patch here.
Tweaking visual quality
Before you start playing the game there are a few settings you might want to configure for best performance. Load the game and watch or skip the introduction movie, then from the main menu, choose “Settings” and then “Detail”. The menu that now appears will allow you to adjust the screen resolution. You should dial this setting up as high as your monitor supports and be sure to choose a 32 bit colour mode too (a resolution that ends in x32). Rugby League is a 4:3 aspect ratio (non-widescreen) game and will run with black borders at the sides of the screen on a widescreen monitor.
There are some other options for detail on this menu too, on any reasonable modern PC you can set these all to High and your computer won’t even break a sweat.
NRL Rugby League does detect game controllers, but we had little joy trying to configure them. The behaviour of the controller configuration screen was erratic and kept deleting existing bindings and reassigning them seemingly at random. Your best bet is to use Xpadder. Below is the Xpadder profile we knocked up for the game:-
For reference, the default keyboard controls are:-
Move Up – Up Arrow
Move Down – Down Arrow
Move Left – Left Arrow
Move Right – Right Arrow
Tackle/Punt – W
Chip/Bomb – E
Side Step – X
Score/Change – A
Fend – Z
Pass Left – D
Pass Right – F
Sprint – S
Pause – Esc
When you play the game like this it will, of course, still think you are playing on keyboard. This makes the tutorials a little hard to follow. You might want to take a printout of your Xpadder profile or move it to your secondary monitor just while you learn the game so that you can still follow the tutorials.
Honestly, what we know about rugby could be written on the back of a soggy beer mat, so it’s entirely possible there’s a better way to configure the controller. Feel free to let us know in the comments of course.
There’s a fan community dedicated to the game and its sequels that you can visit here. The community offers various downloads for the game including updated player rosters.
Game crashes when you score a try – If this happens try running the game in compatibility mode for Windows XP (service pack 2). You can also try setting the game to a 16 bit colour mode (any screen resolution ending in x16). We’ve no idea why this would help but some users report that it does.
Problems saving games and configurations – Like many old titles, NRL Rugby League saves its game data into the same folder as the game itself. In some instances on more modern versions of Windows, this will mean that save games and configuration files cannot be written. To solve this problem you can either run the game as administrator (right click on the games icon and choose “Run as administrator”) or, better still, set the permissions on your game folder so that your user account has full control/read write permissions. You can find a tutorial on how to configure folder permissions here. The games default installation directory is “C:\Program Files (x86)\RugbyLeague”. The actual save game data is stored in a file called “rl.dat”. Custom teams etc are also stored in the data\db sub-folder.
Trying to play this game bought back horrible flashbacks of school PE lessons, so here are some screenshots we found online.