Review by Eclipsa
"Eh...well, it's not the worst wrestling game ever..."
After months and months of anticipation and delays, WWF Raw was finally released on the XBox in February. Upon it's release, it got mixed reviews from magazines and websites. I was very looking forward to this game after hearing the gameplay was similar to the THQ/AKI games (No Mercy, Virtual Pro Wrestling, etc.), so I picked this up as soon as it was released. Here's how I broke down the score of this game:
Wow! WWF Raw definitely has the best graphics I've seen on a wrestling game, and it shows off the power of the XBox. If you turn the annoying meters off, the game can actually look like a real television broadcast at times. But not always. The only thing keeping Raw from having a 10 for graphics are a few slight clipping problems. For example, if you do Rhyno's kick in the face from the corner, which forces you to run to the ropes, your Rhyno will run through a standing table in the ring. It's not that bad, but I'm picky.
The reason the sound in Raw has such a low score, is because of the awful background music. You can always turn it off, of course, but it is really bad. All the entrance music in the game, and it sounds very good. There are very few generic entrance themes, but even they don't sound like good entrance music. They're actually menu music. But oh well. The sound effects are good, as you can hear punches and kicks very well. It sounds very unrealistic, but it's alright. The sound of wrestlers hitting the mat are good, if not too loud at times.
Now here's where Raw takes a drastic turn for the worse. There are so many things about the engine of this game that I hate. If you like the Smackdown games, you probably won't hate it as much as I do. Probably. Now I'll go into detail about why the engine is bad:
1 - It is too easy to escape a grapple. When a wrestler enters a grapple, he has 3 choices. X, A, or B. X and A are used to do moves, and B is used to move behind your opponent. All your opponent has to do is press the same button you do, and the grapple is broken. Broken in an extremely stupid looking way, even. While you can press a direction and a button to perform a move, all he has to do is press the same button to block it.
It would have been alright if your opponent had to press the same direction and button to break the grapple, but no. Your matches will be filled with many broken grapples. And get this: when your opponent is dizzy, and can barely stand, he can still break your grapples. Does that make sense to you? He's standing there, waving his arms in the air and spinning his head in confusion, but he can still break your grapple. When a wrestler is dizzy on this game, they can't move. But of course, they can still break your grapple. Being dizzy is another thing I dislike about this game, which brings me to my other point...
2 - Much like the Smackdown series, getting your opponent dizzy is key to doing bigger moves. I've always hated this method, as it forces you to punch and kick your opponent until they're dizzy, instead of chaining big moves together. This wouldn't be so bad, if it weren't for the problem with being able to counter when dizzy. But to do even bigger moves, your Stamina has to be high. What is Stamina, you ask? Well I'll tell you, it's another thing I hate about this game.
3 - The Stamina meter, while an interesting concept that forces you to use some strategy, is pretty annoying. For every wrestler on the screen, a little meter hovers around their knees. This is the Stamina meter, and it depletes whenever you do anything. Running, punching, kicking, grappling, and performing moves slowly take away your stamina. Run the bar all the way to empty, and your wrestler will stand there and breath heavily for a second while it recovers. (It doesn't look like breathing, though.) But don't worry, walking around doing nothing slowly fills your stamina meter. If your stamina is too low, you are in danger of being pinned (Or so the Tutorial says). While it may sound interesting on paper, the stamina system ends up being more of an restriction than anything.
4 - The other meter you have to worry about in Raw is the Voltage meter. It is a long bar that sits at the bottom of the screen, and measures the fans following of each wrestler. It's kind of like tug of war, as each move you do or take moves the meter in a wrestlers favor. It is the same system found in the Japanese-only Dragon Ball Z Legends. As you continue to pound away on your opponent, the meter will fill more and more with your color, meaning that the crowd is behind you. If you get to a certain point, I think it's around 75% of the meter in your favor, it starts blinking. That blinking means that you can do your finisher. Sounds good, right? Well...it may sound good, but it can be annoying too.
Remember how in Warzone if you did the same move over and over the fans would boo you? That is also the case in Raw. Which wouldn't be such a problem if there were more moves, but we'll get to that later. Get the fans booing, and your opponents Voltage will shoot up drastically, even sometimes filling the entire bar in their color. But don't worry, just punch and kick them a few times, and you'll be back in the match. Because it really doesn't take much to gain Voltage. When you're ready to do your finisher, you have to get them dizzy before you're able to perform it. That leaves you punching and kicking like a madman in hopes of dizzying your opponent, but one or two strikes to you, and your chance at a finisher is gone. It sucks.
5 - The move situation in Raw is a strange one. While you can go in the lackluster Create A Superstar mode and see that there are a variety of moves, most wrestlers in the game have the same ones. This may not be the case with the bigger named wrestlers, but I think that Anchor decided to speed up the process of the game by giving most of the wrestlers the same moves. While you may not notice it, try using a lot of different characters and try these:
Running strike to downed opponent: Stomp
That's right. You have your opponent down, and you hit the ropes and come back for a powerful...stomp? Most wrestlers have this as opposed to say, a more common and useful move like a leg drop.
Submission move to downed opponent at head: Repeated punch
Try it out. An awful lot of people have this move.
Grapple move: Eye rake, punch to back, powerbomb, inside cradle, etc
These are all very common moves for the wrestlers.
While it may not bother some of you, it really gets on my nerves to use a different wrestler and do the same moves as the last one.
6 - Another thing the wrestlers have in common are their rising animations. By this, I mean what they do when getting up from the ground. It takes them an awful long time, and there are only 2 animations. One for smaller wrestlers, and one for larger ones. But luckily for Smackdown fans, you can still punch and kick at your opponent as they rise and make them fall back down and even stand up to react in a really unnatural way. By pressing X+A, your wrestler will dodge an attack and get up sometimes. But say you want to pick them up for a grapple as their trying to get to their feet. You press the grapple button, and what happens? They react as if it were a punch. Yep. You don't know how stupid this looks until you see it yourself. Imagine Kurt Angle flailing his arms at Steve Austin (which looks nothing like a true collar-and-elbow tie up, mind you) and him getting knocked backwards and hearing a punch sound. It's retarded. This also happens when you have your opponent on the ropes. You can punch them when they're near the ropes, and their arms will go over the top, leaving them wide open for a few clean punches. But say you wanted to irish whip them across the ring for a powerslam. You press A to grapple, and, they react like it's a strike again. Bah.
7 - The Create A Superstar mode is frustrating. There are some neat things about it, but it is pretty frustrating. For example, to give your created wrestler tights that go all the way to his boots, you have to go through 4 menus to get there. You have to set the waist part, and it's color. Then the thigh, the leg, and the foot. Not only that, but you have to do it for both the left and right legs. That's just way too complicated, as it should be possible to put the tights on in one selection. Even how the clothing pieces are separated is strange. For example, when you go to any section, you choose the model, texture, scale, and color pattern for any individual piece. Let's try the Right Hand.
I tried and tried to find a taped fist for my CAW of Shaun Tempers (*Shameless Plug*). Finally, I found it. Why was it so hard? Because for a taped fist, you choose the Model as Bare. You also choose the Texture as Bare. Then you see a bare hand. But wait! You have to go to the color pattern, and there is one that is indeed a taped fist. In fact, there are 10 options for your hand in there. Sound strange to you? Don't worry, it really is set up in an awkward way. It turns out there are a lot of things you can put on your wrestler, but they're hard to find. There's just something about the Create A Superstar mode that makes it hard to get a wrestler to look like it's real life counterpart. The tights to make Bret Hart are in the game, they look just like his tights. Except they say Hotman along the side, instead of Hitman. (I've also found the top for Keven Nash, it reads Yosh) I set out on my mission to create a Bret Hart, but I ran into a problem immediately. There isn't a good selection of faces. 16, in fact. That wouldn't be so bad, but they don't look all that different from the rest. Also, there isn't a hair style that looks right on him. But hey, it has the Sharpshooter. That...helps.
There are also a few more complaints about the CAW: Only 3 facial hair options, 3 skin color options, no ability to change color of extra items such as bandanas, lame wrestler selection pictures. Also, there are way to many fantasy-type options for your wrestler. You can make Robots on Raw. You can put puppets, baseball mitts, hooks, lobster claws, bear paws, etc. on your wrestler. There are also a lot of imaginary moves available.
This can be cool, as you can create Dragon Ball Z characters with their Super Sayajin hair and everything. I even made Ken from the Street Fighter series, because you can do a dragon punch on the game. You can also do the motions of a Hadoken, which I found very funny. He even has a peace sign in his VS. screen picture. Of course, his face and hair look nothing like Ken...
I'm really just nitpicking here, but in the move selection screen, a lot of the move names are wrong. Monkey Toss? Looks like a hiptoss to me. I guess Anchor just doesn't know wrestling like I do.
The entrance customization is excellent. Minus the fact that there aren't that many good original theme songs, you can fully customize your entrance. All sorts of lights and flashes are available to personalize your wrestlers way to the ring. Good job on that, Anchor.
8 - Did you know that you can break the announcers table on Raw? You can also set up your own folding tables and break them. Sounds cool, right? It would be cool if it weren't for the goofy wrestling engine. First of all, you can't set a wrestler on the table for a top-rope move. You also can't climb on top of them. You can, however, do a move through the table--if you're lucky. I've yet to do a move through a table with the opponents back to the table (body slam, powerbomb, etc.) I was able to belly-to-belly suplex them through one once. Once. How frustrating is it to have the table set up where you want it, grab the opponent and move towards the rope, and press B to irish whip them, but they counter it and the spot is blown.
The quirky tables don't help, either. One time I actually sat there and watched the table I had set up twitch as it rotated to a different angle. It was cool to be able to fight around the stage area, even the ability to throw your opponent over the edge onto the ground. Of course, they get right back up after that, so another plus for Smackdown fans.
9 - There are no move reversals! While there are some reversals, they are limited to striking reversals, and occasional irish whip reversal. Pressing X+A at the right moment will cause your wrestler to counter an opponents strike. The ever popular dragon screw is in there as a reversal, but most of the time they simply dodge the attack in a strange fashion.
One time, Funaki caught my high kick and did a head and leg suplex. That was cool. But having no move reversals is not. There's no reversing a vertical suplex with a inside cradle, or another vertical suplex in Raw. I really hate that.
10 - Running in Raw is different. There is no button you press to run. You can either tap and hold the D pad in the direction you want your wrestler to run, or press the left control stick in a direction. This takes a while to get used to. To run off the ropes, you have to hold the control stick until you hit the ropes, then you can let go and your wrestler will run by himself. I don't really like it, but that's a personal thing. Irish whipping in Raw is weird too, because the ring is so big. I mean, it's gigantic. Say you want to whip your opponent into the corner. What would you normally do? Hold towards the corner you want your opponent to go, and press the whip button, right? Yeah, that's what I thought. But in Raw, most of the time your opponent will run in the direction you pressed, but hit the ropes. He'll hit the ropes at an angle, and bounce back like he hit them straight on. Doesn't make sense.
Well, there you have it. My review of Raw. The graphics and some interesting parts of it save this game from having a completely terrible score. But the lack of polish and engine problems plague this game to the end. Raw was obviously rushed. The final product lacks the polish found in other wrestling games. In the instruction manual, it says that you have to manually save your game every time you play unless you turn the auto-save feature on. But the catch is, there's no auto-save feature. There's a picture of it in the manual, but it's not there. Like I said, it's not the worst wrestling game ever, especially if you're a Smackdown fan. I'll just go back to Virtual Pro Wrestling 2, thank you.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 02/15/02, Updated 02/15/02
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