WWE Raw 2 Review (Xbox)
Screenshots don’t mean a damn thing. It always cracks me up when friends of mine or people on the message boards talk about how great a game is going to be solely based off of screenshots or two-minute videos of gameplay. Rarely do the games live up to the hype. and that was the story of “WWE Raw 2”. I remember seeing screenshots of “Raw” right around the release of the Xbox and being amazed at the game’s graphics. It was one of the best looking games I had ever seen and being a wrestling fan, I couldn’t wait until the game came out. So after a few delays, “Raw” finally comes out, and what happens? The game sucked - and not because I had unrealistically high expectations that the game could have never possibly reached. It sucked because Anchor focused all of its attention on the game’s graphics, and none on the AI or modes that add to the longevity of the game.
So “Raw 2” is announced, and the same thing happens. THQ releases a bunch of screenshots and movies, and the game looks great. The game also has a few features that the original feature didn’t have; a season mode and different matches such as “Hell In the Cell”. But all the new features and pretty graphics don’t mean a thing if the gameplay is still subpar.
“Raw 2” has the best graphics I’ve ever seen in a wrestling game. “Raw”, “Smackdown”, and all of the pay-per-view arenas are included and they look exactly like the real thing. The crowd was created with great detail, and the sets are exact replicas of the television shows. Each wrestler mimics the looks and the moves of their real life counterpart. THQ used cel shading techniques to create the wrestlers, and they have done the best job any WWE videogame has done in creating your favorite superstars – by far. If graphics were solely what we judge games on “Raw 2” would be the greatest wrestling video game ever. However, we don’t - and that’s the problem.
Sound? What sound? The sounds that are usually included in a standard wrestling game are simple: announcers, music, and in-ring sounds. What do you get in “Raw 2”? Rock music - that’s it. The lack of any announcers is something that I don’t have a big problem with because no wrestling has ever been able to do an adequate job with announcers anyway. However, it would have been nice to at least have Jim Ross or the King calling out moves and/or commenting on the wrestlers.
The crowd sounds are hit or miss. The crowd reacts intelligently by cheering for “baby-faces” (crowd favorites) and booing “heels” (bad guys), but the crowd doesn’t sound interested during the match, and you can barely hear them. Anyone who watches wrestling knows that a crowd can either add to or kill the excitement of a match; and to have the crowd silent in every match hurts the game severely.
I’ll start with the positives, because there aren’t many. The game does a good job with the representation of big wrestlers vs. small wrestlers. The “Big Show” towers over Spike Dudley, as he should. Also, small wrestlers are (correctly) unable to perform power moves on larger opponents. Nothing angers me more about a wrestling game than seeing a wrestler like Kidman power slam Kane; and thankfully, that doesn’t happen in “Raw 2”. The reversal system is well done as well. Once in a grapple, a person can reverse the potential move into anther hold. The transition is smooth, except for a slight hesitation before the move is executed. The season mode has a good foundation, but still needs some work. One of the best features of season mode is the ability to affect any match on the show. The wrestler you control can interfere in every match, sneak attack, help, and/or call out another wrestler. As you wrestle matches and create enemies and allies, your popularity will increase or decrease. A great aspect of season mode is that title matches are given to the wrestlers with the highest popularity. So you won’t be seeing WWE Championship matches between Chuck Palumbo and Rico, unless they’re among of the most popular wrestlers in your season. My biggest issue with season mode is some of the strange tag team championship matches that are made. I’ve seen Ric Flair and Stephanie McMahon team up and win the World Tag Team Championship several times. Noticing the number of times this has occurred makes me wonder what kind of beta testing was done for this game, as this should never occur.
Now to the negatives. The CPU AI is absolutely horrible. The pace of a wrestling match is very simple to understand. The whole point of a match is to lead up to a big finish whether it’s a wrestler’s finishing move, or by outside interference. The AI in “Raw 2” doesn’t seem to understand this; because they never go for their finisher. I hate to compare this game to “Smackdown” (a much better game in my opinion), but the AI in “Smackdown” is always looking for the finisher, as it should. Another AI issue occurs anytime that your wrestler has taken a lot of damage and your meter is flashing “Danger”. At that point, the CPU will continually attempt to pin. For example, I once had the CPU try to pin me ten straight times without performing a single move. The CPU would pin me, I would kick out, and once I did the CPU would try to pin me again and there was nothing I could do about it. This is just one small example of the many frustrating things about “Raw 2”.
The collision detection is among the worst I’ve ever seen in a sports game. There will be times when both wrestlers are constantly swinging and grasping at air because the wrestlers simply cannot find each other. Also, there are many instances where wrestlers’ body parts will go through each other while performing a move. Finally, there are no post-match celebrations, poor interference AI, and a really slow pace. Now, those things may not seem like much - but once you play the game, you’ll realize how much you miss them. I have never seen a wrestling match where the wrestlers stood around after a match - but it happens in “Raw 2”. I’ve never seen a wrestling match where an ally or stable mate is just as likely to hit you as your opponent when he’s supposed to be interfering for your benefit, but it happens all the time in “Raw 2”.
I was one of the privileged few at Operation Sports to attend E3 this past year, and I was able to play a very early version of this game. At the time, I thought the game looked great, but had a long way to go when it came down to gameplay. Six months later, I feel the same way after playing the final version of the game. It has a lot of potential, but falls short yet again. If you have an Xbox and a Playstation 2 and you want a wrestling game, then wait until November when the new “Smackdown” game comes out. However, if you don’t have a PS2, then you’re out of luck.