Wednesday, 1 October 2003

Archive Review: WWE: Raw 2

(Xbox review)

Big men, and the sweaty canvas

Steiner is my hero

What is it about wrestling games that make them so appealing? I guess it's the mixture of the "CAW" (create a wrestler) phenomenon and the sheer fun factor of brawling in a different style to the conventional beat-em-up game. Not only this, but people also actually "like" wrestling in real life and play these games just so they, personally, can play as... to be honest, I don't know any modern wrestler names - Sid Vicious?

I recently bought myself an Xbox due to my frustration at the Gamecube and it's lack of good games. The only wrestling game I've ever played before giving RAW 2 a spin was WWF: Attitude on the Playstation in the old days. So in this respect, let's just call me a neutral reviewer here with no ties to the genre or great knowledge of "what makes a great wrestling game". Here I shall review the game in the context of it being a game and not some other entity.

It wasn't long until I got stuck into this game. I read the manual (7 out of 10) and decided to make a wrestler before I tried the game. This was because I really wasn't interested in controlling some "Superstar" - if you can call them that. In my view these guys and gals are just overpaid stuntmen with wooden acting skills and about as much philosophical edge as your Uncle's old razor. Let's just say I have little respect for these people, their entertainers who are followed like God's. For those of you who, like me to begin with, have no idea about the modern wrestling scene let me give it to you in one simple manageable chunk: A very rich man, the promoter, called Vince Mcmahon, writes scripts that are as cliche'd and lacking as any Police Academy movie and makes sure none of these "plots" are concluded until a big "pay-per-view" event is hosted where you, the hooked fan, must pay money to watch it. When you watch WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) on television it basically plays out as one huge advertisement campaign with lots of talk and little wrestling. You ain't missing much in other words.

Any modern grappler of a game will include a CAW mode or what RAW 2 now calls CAS - Create a Superstar - just to be different. Here you create your very own wrestler to play as on the canvas. In RAW 2 you can customize everything from body dimensions and haircut to clothing, moves, and personality. This is all pretty in-depth too and takes ages to polish off for your final product. As well as this RAW 2 introduces the big new feature that every fan has craved for, you can now rip your own music onto the Xbox hard drive and use this as your wrestler's intro music. Intro music is the music that is played when wrestlers walk down the aisle. It is real important stuff, so don't go using anything lame yo hear!

To say that the developers used this new feature to the best of their abilities would be so stupid that you may as well just announce John Kerry is America's Savior in the making! You can use your music for intro's but not for the in-game music! This means that whilst wrestling your forced to listen to the same 3 or 4 generic trash metal tracks over and over again. This gives the game a very arcade feel and it really would have been nice to be able to play your own stuff. Someone even mentioned that with this feature in the game the more creative of gamers could have actually done their very own commentary. Record you and a pal on the Mic on your PC. Bang that onto a CD in the correct format and burn it into the Xbox. Hell it would be better than anything they could have done!

Once your wrestler is made, and named, it's time to sample the real stuff. The intro was great fun to watch and the system of customizing lighting etc is very impressive, but once the fight starts so do the problems. The animation is good as is the overall fighting engine. It's a mixture of realism and good speedy action. There are plenty of moves too and they flow well. Then you discover that so much that was promised just didn't make the final code. We were promised blood that stained the canvas, none. We were promised the ability to pull on clothes, you can't. We were promised removable turnbuckles, they won't budge. None of these features would have saved the game though, for the real issues are the bugs the game has.

Season mode is the true single player experience. You work your way from zero to hero in typical working class fashion. Every time a fight is up you get the odd cutscene and you can interact backstage with other wrestlers and do all kinds of sneaky stuff. You can't actually freely roam backstage though, nor do your decisions (A or B) really make a true difference. Your being fooled from the start like a sheep you truly are. Cutscenes also repeat themselves which is about as sophisticated as beans on toast de la creme' and all through this experience we never hear a single voice. Everything is based around subtitles. Subtitles work in the right context. For example, you need them when your watching un-dubbed Hong-Kong action movies, but you damn well don't need them when your playing a £39.99 ($50) computer game. You want me to read? I don't do reading, unless it's vital for the sake of humanity.

Eventually I got my first tornado tag-team match up. This is basically a 2 vs 2 brawl. It was fun until the realization that this was, in effect, a 4 way battle. The A.I simply was not programmed to recognize it's allies. Your tag mate targets you and this is about as impressive as claiming you know the man who touched the elbow of the person who was apparently 70 meters away from John Kerry during one of his recent election tours.

This bug/absolute f*ck up occurs in any tag team mode and does not end with tag team partners. Say in Season mode your getting mashed (very unlikely due to easy A.I) and one of your allies suddenly comes racing down the aisle to help you out. Your probably thinking "thank God" but don't for all that is about to happen is that this said mate is going to charge into the ring, maybe with a weapon like a steel chair, and deck you. Thanks pal! That's the last time I teach you a body slam.

The problem with this game, and to be honest all wrestling games to date, is that they feel hollow and uninspired. CAW is fun, and RAW 2 does it well and with the ability to add your own music, but the fights get repetitive quickly and their not very advanced. A brawler will never get beaten to beyond recovery so the only way to win a fight is a pin or submission. As well as this wrestlers recover way too quickly from special moves that in theory should have half killed them. Recovery times on a whole are too fast paced and it just feels lacking after solid exploration. CAW itself is also by far from perfect. You cannot quite achieve desired looks due to an odd upper body clothing selection and lack of "multi-layers". This means you can't put on a shirt and then a jacket, only one or the other - very flimsy. If you love wrestling then your probably going to like RAW 2 for a few hours. If you don't like wrestling, the more sane of you, then your probably going to think this game is as good as the television show, need I say more.



CAW with your own music! Neat graphics (but not amazing) It can be fun in multiplayer.


Very obvious bugs, pretty shallow, hmm wrestling?


Pretty questionable game, or am I just getting old?

by Mojo Jojo 2003

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