Review by TracyThom

"WWF Raw: Middle of the Raod"

WWF Raw is the first wrestling game for the Xbox, as well as the first wrestling game developed by Anchor, which is known for its UFC series of games. WWF Raw is a mixed bag, with some good things and some bad things, and the game overall falls in the middle of the road.

The game contains over 40 WWF Superstars. The roster is pretty complete considering that THQ was prohibited from using WCW and ECW wrestlers. The only wrestlers that I can think of missing are Maven, Terri, and Scotty Too Hotty. When you start up the game, you are greeted with the actual FMV of WWF Raw that we see on TNN on Monday nights. After the FMV, you go to the main menu. Your options are pretty scarce here. You can do an exhibition match, which is further broken down to 1 on 1, tag team, triple threat match, fatal 4 way, 4 man battle royal, or any variation of handicap matches. Once you make your selection, you have various options like adjusting the count out time, and turning interference, rope breaks, and DQs on and off. Load time is almost non-existant in this game, which is great.

Another selection at the main menu is title match. The title match is where you take 1 superstar through a series of matches in order to win the title, and you are limited to 3 continues. The amount of matches you must win in a row varies upon the title you want to win. The titles you can win are: WWF Title, Intercontinental, European, Lightheavyweight, Hardcore, and Women's Title. I am not sure why the tag titles are not an option. The worst part is that there is not a save feature in the title match. It took me approximately 2 hours to win the WWF Title, it may take the average user more. So unfortunately, you must win each title in one sitting. Another problem with the title match is there is no restrictions on who you want to use to win certain titles. If you want to be Justin Credible and win the Women's Title, go right ahead. If you want to be Rikishi, who weighs about 400 pounds, and win the Lightheavyweight Title, go right ahead. If you win certain titles, you can unlock 3 hidden wrestlers. If you win all the titles, you unlock the final hidden character.

Another choice at the main menu is King of the Ring. You can choose 8 superstars for a tournament. Unlike the traditional WWF King of the Ring PPV tournament, you can have a King of the Ring Tournament with tag matches, triple threat matches, fatal 4 ways, etc. Instead of choosing 1 wrestler to take through the tourney, you can play a role in every match, choosing if you want to compete against a friend or computer, or you can let the computer control the wrestlers, and you can control the manager. My opinion is that I'd rather be forced to choose 1 wrestler, and then if I lose, have to use a continue to retry the match to advance in the tournament.

Superstar Museum is another choice from the main menu. That is where you can see bios of the playable characters in the game. A very nice touch is that you can see each Superstars Titantron video, along with their theme music. About 95% of the themes are complete, which is a change from a lot of prior wrestling games where you only get a short clip of the theme. Also available under Superstar Museum is the ability to see all of the weapons and clothing you have unlocked during the game modes. Some of the weapons are realistic like chairs, baseball bats, and lead pipes to the ridiculous like a tuna fish, exhaust pipe, and potted plant.

The backbone of any new wrestling game needs to be its Create a Wrestler. Like the game itself, the Create a Wrestler in WWF Raw is hit and miss. The good is that you can customize the CAWs ring entrance to the most minor detail including house lights, ramp lights, spotlights, Titan Tron movie, etc. You can also accesorize your wrestler with things not seen in other wrestling games. Now the bad. There are only 16 faces to choose from, although you can change the size of the head and chubbiness of the face. As far as facial hair, you are given 3 choices: moustache, fu manchu moustache, and beard. Where the heck is the full moustache and goatee? It is difficult to make a lot of wrestlers like Kevin Nash and Val Venis without that. Heck, I can't even make a CAW to resemble myself without the goatee. Where is facial stubble? There goes my Scott Hall CAW. You are given the ability to give your CAW selected nicknames that the announcer will announce when your CAW enters the ring. However instead of having authentic nicknames like ''The Enforcer,'' ''The Natural,'''' ''Bam Bam,'' or ''The Animal,'' you can choose from great nicknames such as ''Java Fiend,'' Ninja Rent-a-Cop,'' and ''Dojo Queen.'' It would also have been nice to have a list of hometowns to choose from so the announcer would say it during ring introductions like in Legends of Wrestling.

Clothing types are also very limited. I know THQ could not put in WCW or ECW wrestlers in the game, but they could have at least put in their clothing. RVD's dragon print singlet is not in the game, nor is DDP's diamond print pants. Instead of those, we are given robot body parts. You also cannot change the color of a lot of clothing. As far as move selection, there are so many moves missing, it is ridiculous. Again, I know they could not put Booker T in the game, but how about adding his Harlem Side Kick, Harlem Hangover, see-saw spinebuster, or spinarooni taunt. Where is RVD's 5 star frog splash or double thumb point taunt? How about D-Lo Brown, who is still under WWF contract? Where is his ski-high and lo-down? Where is the head shake taunt? As far as other famous wrestlers, there is no Razor's Edge, Mandible Claw, double arm DDT, cradle piledriver, top rope belly to belly suplex, The Stroke, Kryptonite Krunch, Dreamer Driver, splash mountain, Curtain Call, Shattered Dreams, Ho Train, etc. More common moves like a running knee drop, full nelson, shooting star press, torture rack, and crossface chicken wing are also missing. Even wrestlers in the game are missing their trademark moves. Where is Perry Saturn's Rings of Saturn? How about Bradshaw's fallaway slam? Edge does not have the downward spiral and Chris Jericho does not have his full nelson facebuster. Why is Spike Dudley's Dudley Dog a 360 degree bulldog off the turnbuckles instead of a Diamond Cutter?

Let's get down to the meat of the game, and that is the game engine and graphics. Bar none, WWF Raw has the best graphics ever seen in a wrestling game in North America. The collision detection is also very tight. The game engine itself is not bad, but it does need some minor tweeking. While standing still, your wrestler can either perform 5 different strikes, run or grapple. Once in a grapple, your wrestler can do either a throwing grapple attack or a striking grapple attack, in addition to an Irish whip and go behind. There are moves with more impact that occur once you get your opponent groggy. All in all, there are moves to apply out of numerous situations. The gameplay is slower than Smackdown, but a hair faster than No Mercy. Blood was taken out of the game at the last moment, but that's not a terribly bad thing. As mentioned earlier, there are plenty of weapons in the game. Steel chairs can break and bend, and tables can be broken. Ladders are in the game, but there is no way to climb them. Weapons can be both swung and thrown. An interesting part of the game includes accessories. Say Kurt Angle is making his ring entrance. You can attack him before the bell as he walks down the ramp. You can do a high-impact move like a suplex off the ramp, and then collect Kurt Angle's gold medals. You can also do the same thing with the Dudley's, Edge's, and Undertaker's sunglasses. You can also steal Moppy from Perry Saturn. There are other items in boxes at ringside like bandanas, necklaces, and baseball caps that your wrestler can put on during the match. Nothing big, but it is a nice touch.

There are a few problems with the game engine. In order to reverse a strike, you have to press X & A, and hope that you time it correctly. In order to reverse a grapple, all you have to press is the button corresponding to the type of grapple that your opponent is attempting to apply. So, if I am trying to apply one of 5 throwing grapple attacks, to counter it, all my opponent has to do is press A. Even if I attempting a throwing grapple that uses the imput ''A up,'' the simple press of ''A'' from my opponent will block it. Bottom line is that there is a 50% chance of countering any grapple, where it is a lot harder to block and counter strikes. What it boils down to is that the game relies way too much on striking, and not enough on grappling. Another problem is with the finishers. In order to do your finisher, you first have to get your voltage meter to flash by performing big moves and taunting to work the crowd up. Once the meter is flashing, you can perform your finisher. There are numerous situations where a finisher can be performed from including top rope, opponent in turnbuckle facing you, opponent in turnbuckle facing away from you, running, opponent running at you, opponent on their back at their head, opponent on their back at their feet, opponent on their stomach at their head, opponent on their stomach at their feet, and of course front grapple and rear grapple. A double feature replay is shown almost every time you perform a finishing move which is a very nice touch, allow it can be pointless if you perform the finisher while your opponent is on their back at their feet, and the finisher you have assigned is a kick to the thigh. The real problem is that after I deliver the Stone Cold Stunner, I want the crowd to go nuts, and the opponent to stay down. However, neither happens. The crowd barely pops, and a lot of times, your opponent will pop right back up before you can even attempt to go for a pin. That's frustrating. You are also unable to drag or roll your opponents over while they are prone on the mat.

Another inexcusable flaw in this game comes during tag team matches. WWF Raw does contain tag teams like Kaientai, The Dudleys, APA, and The Hardy Boyz. However, there are not any double team moves. None at all. What is the point of playing a tag team match with The Dudleys if you cannot perform the 3D? That is a huge step back, where they should be taking a step forward.

What I haven't touched yet is the lack of modes in the game. There is no season mode. There are no royal rumbles. No steel cage matches. No ladder matches. No hell in a cell matches. No Survivor Series matches. That really hurts the replay value of the game. The game runs smoothly with 6 people on screen at once, so why no 6 man tag matches? Once I have won the titles, and unlocked the secret characters, and found all of the weapons, there is little else to do in the game. I can only play a fatal 4 way match so many times without it getting old.

OVERALL: Although this is Anchor's first wrestling game, it is not the first wrestling game ever released. In order to look at this game, you have to compare it to the games released before it. WWF Raw takes large steps when it comes to graphics. However, it takes steps back when it comes to game modes and the Create a Wrestler. This is not a bad effort for a first try, but how much of an improvement was WCW Thunder over WCW Nitro? Anchor needs to tweek the game engine to make reversals of grapples more difficult and finishing moves more effective. A season mode would greatly increase the replay value of the game. This game falls somewhere in the middle of the road. On a 10 point scale, I'd give it a 5.7.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 02/25/02, Updated 02/25/02

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