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WWE Raw 2

Review By:  Nick Arvites

Developer:  THQ
Publisher:  THQ
# of Players:  1-4
Genre:  Sports
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Custom Soundtrack
Date Posted: 

12-30-03

For some strange reason, wrestling games have been on a downward slope this generation. While the previous generation saw some of the best wrestling titles of all time on the N64, the gaming community has yet to see a wrestling title that can even come close to the bar set by THQ’s N64 outings. This reviewer generally uses the N64 title WWF No Mercy as the standard for comparison for any wrestling titles. While No Mercy was not flawless by any means, I, as well as many others, consider it the best wrestling title of all time, and no current title has yet to come close to it. I had the distinct displeasure of reviewing WWF Raw for the Xbox. While the game had good intentions and ideas, the actual finished product was a pitiful outing that did nothing but make me blow the dust off of my N64 and No Mercy. When WWE Raw 2 landed on my desk, I was expecting a similar experience. Instead, WWE Raw 2 provided an experience that reminded me of the last Cubs season: a taste of greatness marred by the same old curse of failure.

The graphical look of this game is similar to the previous installment in the Raw series. The style remains the same, and thankfully all of the character models look great. Every character looks close to their real-life counterparts, down to the costumes. Sure, some costumes are out of date, but this is acceptable since wrestlers seem to change costumes every other month. On the subject of costumes, each wrestler has two. One is the ring attire, while the other is street clothes/backstage clothes. The grand total of two costumes per wrestler is BORING. Come on, alternate costumes look cool.

Entrances were great in the last version of Raw, and this version improves upon the system. The entrances look excellent, and all of the official theme music is present in the game. Pyrotechnics fly around the arena, lighting effects are present, and even different camera angles and Titantron videos do everything to make you think you are actually watching a wrestler walk down the aisle on TV. And to make it even better, you can still jump your opponent while he/she’s walking in the ring.

Weapons were the other high point of the previous game. The system in this game does not have all of the ridiculous clothing articles and dumb weapons from WWF Raw. The standard weapon choices are present. The chairs are great. If you are holding a chair, you can grapple your opponent and perform a variety of moves involving the chair. You can also use the chair as a springboard to attack your opponents.

Thankfully, the control/gameplay system has been massively improved. The control scheme is very close to the standard N64 wrestler scheme. The analog stick controls running, while walking is controlled by the D-pad. To perform moves, you must grapple your opponent and press a direction and either the grapple or strike button. Finishing moves are performed in a grapple by pressing the strike and grapple button at the same time while your Voltage Meter is flashing red.

The Voltage meter is a spiked line that resembles a heart monitor line. The higher and redder it gets, the more momentum you have against your opponent, while the flatter and bluer it gets, the less momentum you have against your opponent. You have to mix up your moves in order to make the meter go and stay up, as well as to stay alive in the match.

There is an extensive list of match options, including ladder, TLC matches, and the beloved Hell-in-a-Cell. Matches can be further tweaked to include several opponents in a variety of modes. Royal Rumble and King of the Ring modes are also included. For the most part, these matches are done fairly well. However, I have several valid complaints. First, the Royal Rumble only supports FOUR CHARACTERS IN THE RING AT THE SAME TIME. Didn’t we get over this once we landed in this generation? Why is it that I can have a SIX MAN HELL-IN-A-CELL MATCH BUT CAN ONLY HAVE FOUR DURING THE RUMBLE?? Notice to any wrestling game designer: MORE PEOPLE IN BATTLE ROYAL MATCHES. Secondly, the manual never really explains how to grab the ladder in any matches involving the ladder. You basically have to set the ladder up in the center of the ring (given) and climb up to jump towards the belt (again, given). However, when you hang on the belt, you have to press the grapple and strike buttons rapidly while moving the control stick. Yes, mash the buttons. Easy to do, but hard to initially figure out because the manual doesn’t explain the controls for this match. Third, tables are lame. They should be cool, but you cannot lay out an opponent on top of one (easily anyway) and you cannot easily grapple on top of one. Fourth, the Hell-in-a-Cell match, while extremely awesome, needs a little more work. I’d suggest showing the designers the first HIAC match (Mankind vs. Undertaker) and then going from there. The match presented in the game doesn’t do the real thing justice.

Also, once again, I am reviewing a wrestling game with a dead arena. Sure, there is a ref in most of the matches, but there isn’t much else. There is no commentary, the crowd sounds apathetic, and you can forget about chants from the crowd. Sure, there is an announcing table, but there are no announcers present with the exception of one cut-scene in the season that shows J.R. and Jerry Lawler. Where are the backstage areas? If I’m holding a hardcore, falls-count-anywhere match, WHY AM I LIMITED TO RINGSIDE? No backstage is a slap in the face. Come on, even the N64 in all of its technical limitations had backstage areas. The freaking Xbox, complete with DVD media and hard drive should be able to support a few extra areas that are already modeled in the game for the in-season cut-scenes. Sure, it looks like I’m wrestling in a real arena, but it doesn’t feel like I am.

The season is the highest point of this game. If you want the best season mode available in a wrestling game right now, pick up Raw 2. What’s so great about it? It’s open-ended. Here’s the lowdown: you pick your wrestler. Then, you start the event. It shows the entire card, and you get to choose to perform tasks during other matches. These tasks range from resting, to ambushing, to manipulating, to befriending wrestlers, to interfering in matches. You start friendships and feuds with these tasks, and the entire story is played out in cut-scenes. This is how you progress; you must feud with wrestlers and build up your popularity through winning. Then, you must feud with the belt holder to get a title shot. The season brings you through a full year of WWE, doing one Smackdown, one Raw and one Pay-Per-View a month. I loved the control aspect of this season mode as opposed to the very scripted and tiring ones seen in games past. You can feud with whomever you want, although people out of your league popularity-wise won’t pay attention to you at first. My first major problem with the season mode is that it is impossible to break off feuds. Each wrestler has a list of their top four friends and top four enemies. The only way to get someone to stop bothering you is to get him or her off of that list. You could try to make friends with them by choosing the encourage option, or you could just take the easy road and feud with more people. You may ask, “What’s so annoying about feuding with everyone?” Here’s the annoying proof: I was the WWE champ and still getting “Commissioner chosen matches” against Val Venis, the first guy I feuded with whose popularity ranked 19 whereas my popularity was at about 95. Also, some of the cut-scenes need voice and/or text. Sure, that’s nitpicking, but watching characters mime events is BORING.

The create-a-superstar mode contains good and bad things. The actual creation of your superstar is great, and there are far too many costume combinations to begin to list. You don’t see the downfall of the mode until you start to set moves and other personal effects of your superstar. Personally, the move list seems very shallow and needs at least twice as many moves. You can also create an entrance. Be warned, you need patience for this to work. This feature is great, but there is room for improvement. We need greater control on the actual entrance. Instead of designing every step of the way, we have to pick from pre-made entrances. Custom soundtracks can be used for music though, which is a very nice touch.

Up to this point, Raw 2 sounds like the best wrestling game since No Mercy. Well, here’s the Curse of the Bambino, every Cubs curse known to man, the Dolphin’s win/loss record in December, the New Orleans Saints/Arizona Cardinals/LA Clippers history, or what the game calls it: Artificial Intelligence. There isn’t any. Sorry. Opponents are STUPID and the game allows for incredibly stupid things. Perhaps the two that are easily noticed are the count out disqualifications and pinfalls. Want to get an easy win? Walk out of the ring, run a few steps, clothesline your opponent, and go back in. WORKS EVERY TIME. The big error lies in pinfalls. Your opponent pins you, and you kick out. After you kick out, you don’t get up. Oh no, that might make sense. You are stuck jamming buttons until your character gets up. While this may work early in the match, once your Voltage Meter starts flashing danger, your opponent will do the following: Pin, kickout, and immediately pin you again. Repeat this process until you get tired of jamming the buttons. Sorry, it doesn’t happen like that in real life, and it shouldn’t happen like that in this game. It makes it unplayable to many people, and only serves to annoy the hell out of everyone.

Highs:

  • Season mode
  • Controls
  • Lots of promise for the franchise

Lows:

  • A.I.
  • No backstage action
  • Arenas seem lifeless
  • Series still needs improvement

Final Verdict: 

This game is a step in the right direction. A little more polish and play testing would have resulted in the best wrestling game released in a long time. However, the A.I. issues, as well as a score of other issues prevent this game from achieving greatness. Hopefully, THQ will make the needed changes to Raw 3 and improve the season mode to make a truly great game. While I said in my review of the original Raw that people who said the standard “rent before you buy” line should be on the wrong end of a painful wrestling stunt, I can only recommend that for this title. It shows where they’re taking wrestling games (hopefully), but is not worth the full MSRP from anyone, be it casual gamer or die-hard wrestling fan.

Overall Score: 6.8

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