# of Players:
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Sure, some costumes are out of date, but this is acceptable since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
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
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.
promise for the franchise
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.