Review by JBrickey

"RAW hits Rock Bottom"

I think if you're a gamer, you'll agree with me on at least one thing: There is something special about getting a new game.
When I preordered WWF RAW six months ago (when it was still known as WWF RAW is WAR), I expected to be enjoying pure wrestling goodness on my Xbox just weeks (or at most a month) after the launch of Microsoft's gaming console. Expecting that it would be delayed slightly prepared me for the announcement that it would be released December 27. Being the patient sort of man that I am, I gladly played DOA3 and Halo to pass the time until I could finally receive my first next-Gen grappler. However, when the game was delayed to February 1, I was annoyed. I could understand where THQ was coming from when they said that the game needed more time to be fine-tuned and perfected for its launch. I reassured myself that it would be well worth the wait, and again went back to my waiting games.
And then the release was pushed back to February 13.
Of course, this further annoyed me, as it would any gamer, but the day finally arrived, and here we are now. As that special Aura filled the air when I inserted RAW into my Xbox, I expected to be blown away by spectacular graphics and excellent gameplay. Unfortunately, RAW only delivers on one of those aspects, and if you've seen RAW's visuals, you'll know which aspect it disappoints with.
From the get-go, RAW has an excellent presentation, showing off all the pyro and excitement associated with the World Wrestling Federation. The music and videos are all nicely done and accurate, and the character models are easily some of the smoothest and best yet, even though they range from the disturbingly accurate (Tajiri and Spike Dudley) to models that will leave you wondering what went wrong (Triple H and Shane McMahon). And, thanks to the graphical prowess of the Xbox's muscle and Bink Video, RAW also boasts the best Entrances of any wrestling game to date. The music is excellent, with all the Superstars true-to-life tunes (with the exception of Edge), great menu music, and THQ's standard in-game rock mix. Only a few fight songs were questionable, sounding more like they belonged in a battle from an RPG epic.
However, the old proverb of gaming is indeed true: bells and whistles will only get you so far. Once you step into the ring, and after all the Pyro has gone off, you are left with a grappling system which, at times, can be extremely frustrating. And, it doesn't take a degree in Astrophysics to know that the key to a good fighting game is a good fighting engine.
Of course, the engine does have it's moments. The ability to assault opponents on the way to the ring is a great addition, and the game sports one of the best hardcore match modes I've seen yet, but despite the ups, RAW has far to many downs that will leave you scratching your head in confusion. RAW may be a wrestling game, but the grappling system is an easy way to see how well you handle anger. The way RAW's offense plays out is all well and good, and the Xbox controller handles all the action just fine, but it's when the downright poorly designed defense and countering system begins to play part that the offense becomes nearly impossible to execute and tolerate.
The execution of throws is similar to the system used in the old N64 games No Mercy and Wrestlemania 2000, but the counter system is what Anchor redesigned in the most drastic fashion. With the exception of finishing maneuvers, you're always guaranteed a 50/50 chance of countering. The only problem with this is that the computer will reverse your moves far more often than 50% of the time, especially in the higher difficulty levels.
Sadly, a sigh of relief doesn't come after a move is finally executed. Wrestlers will lie down for far too long when hit with a move as basic as an arm wrench, and even sometimes when hit by a punch. As unrealistic as the image of The Rock writhing in pain on the mat from a hard chop is, the ease of getting your opponent down to the mat for a pin is at times beneficial. But this is also where another puzzle begins. Despite your opponent being stunned long enough for a pin after a Reverse Suplex, the execution of a move as devastating as the Pedigree will have the opposite effect, almost reviving your opponent immediately and bringing them back to their feet. Aerial moves do the same, but to a worse degree, guaranteeing that you will never finish with a Swanton Bomb or a Frog Splash. Let me tell you from experience, there is nothing more annoying than dropping your opponent with eight consecutive Stone Cold Stunners and them standing again after every one. There are also far too many situations where a punch will beat out a dropkick from the top rope, or a big boot will stop a flying body press. Adding insult to injury is a computer AI which, to say the least, will lack intelligence more often than not.
All gameplay issues aside, one of the redeeming factors of many wrestling games is the ''Create a Superstar'' mode. Although in RAW the options are plentiful, they are also unsatisfying at the same time. Many perks, which were previously not included in other wrestling games, are indeed in RAW, but it almost equals itself to its predecessors by not allowing color change and other slight features. And while RAW boasts the best entrance options available for your created Superstar of any grappling game yet, the move list is downright anorexic compared to the bounty of maneuvers available in No Mercy.
So all in all, was RAW worth the wait? Yes and no. Even though it frustrates gamers to have their long anticipated software delayed, they understand it is for the betterment of the game. When the game is delayed and then it regresses, however, that will annoy anyone. THQ originally promised fighting in the crowd, a Royal Rumble match feature, commentary, backstage areas to fight in, use of the Xbox hard drive to use your burned music for your created Superstar, and blood, and in every case they ended up removing the feature from the game. Adding to this is the lack of a Story or Career mode, which is inexcusable after so many features were removed after a three-month delay.
In the end, RAW is still worth buying if you're a wrestling fan, as it will indeed provide the fix that WWF fans wish for on a gaming console. Flaws aside, RAW is still fun, and like all wrestling games, it's always more fun with two or more, so grabbing a few friends will almost ensure that you will have a good time. RAW may not be Mr. Perfect, but its still Tough Enough that, in time, the series could be a serious contender in the Wrestling Genre.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 04/04/02, Updated 04/04/02


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