Anchor
THQ
Wrestling
1-4
09.15.03

WWE Raw 2


WWE Raw 2 fixes some of the issues that plagued the original game, but also suffers due to trying to do too much at once. Some things that seemed great in theory, such as adding modes and features, don't really work all that well in execution. Thankfully, the redone gameplay fares much better than any other revision to the series, as quite a few genuine innovations were made within it.

Gameplay

The most notable innovation in this game comes from the ground grappling system, which enables you to do both strikes and traditional holds in both the upper body and lower body positions. This new system is more intuitive than any other I've seen, I just wish that there were more moves in it so it could be used to its fullest potential.

The second key innovation comes in the form of an extremely thorough weapons grappling system, which bucks the trend of giving you maybe three moves to do from a grapple. Here, you have about three dozen weapon grapples at your disposal, with about a dozen positions to do them from. The only downside to this system is that it only applies to non-broken steel chairs, which means that it does that one aspect of weapon usage superbly, but kind of falls short on it with other weapons. Still, the effort was made, and I really appreciate it.

Anchor remedied the lack of modes from the previous entry, which is both a blessing and a curse. While it's nice to have cage, ladder, TLC, and Hell in a Cell matches in a game, the point to them is effectively negated when they are done as poorly as they are here. None of them are really done with any kind of style, and they come off as being rather bland and boring as a result. This is less true for the ladder-using modes, as Anchor has implanted a plethora of ladder-based holds and throws, much like they did with the steel chairs.

The core gameplay has been given a drastic overhaul in some regards, while at the same time, still featuring the worst aspects of the original game. For example, the intuitive ground grappling system, which adds quite a bit of depth to the game, is carried over to other aspects of pro wrestling. You can choose between grapples and strikes in the turnbuckle, on the ropes, and in a basic collar-and-elbow tie-up, just to name a few. Sadly, these great things are harmed by the shaky transitions that the first game featured, where nothing seems to flow all that well from maneuver-to-maneuver, making things look kind of forced. On top of that, counter-wrestling is nearly impossible, due to what little countering there is in the game being implemented horribly.

Thankfully, the addition of a season mode does something to add some flavor to the game, and while this is probably my favorite season mode to date, it still carries with it some flaws, such as not allowing the wrestlers to wear championships down to the ring. Thankfully, unlike the SD series' season mode, these flaws don't really interfere with the enjoyment of the game. Much like with the in-ring action, various innovations take place in this one mode of the game. You can pick and choose from a variety of actions during a match, ranging from lounging around doing nothing, to training, to attacking a participant in the locker room area. Each of these things will have an effect either in the short-term, such as limiting how much vitality you have for your match, or in the long-term, such as setting up potential feuds down the line. The overall pacing of this mode is lightning-fast, which is a pleasant change of pace from the SD series' season modes, which just tend to go on, and on.

The controls in Raw 2 are a vast improvement over the original game, although they still leave quite a bit to be desired. Thankfully, Anchor made them far more responsive than before, but they're still a bit floaty at times, especially when trying to go for aerial moves off of the top rope. The overall control scheme is fine, barring the reliance of the left thumbstick stick to run, which doesn't work out as well as it should, leading to many missed moves. The over-sensitivity of the d-pad doesn't help matters either, as it can easily lead to you running when you are trying to grapple with your foe. Speaking of which, the grappling controls all-around are pretty good. They aren't the best I've ever used in a wrestling game, but they're far from the worst.

Graphics

Visually, Raw 2 offers some substantial upgrades in some regards, along some very odd graphical issues as well. The most major visual flaw comes in the form of some of the wrestlers, most notably Hulk Hogan and Mark Henry, not being the least bit proportional. Although Hogan's horrid character model is at least comical, due to his body being so horrendously off-model. Every character also looks dipped in Crisco oil, which can get annoying after a while. Thankfully, unlike the fifth SmackDown game, it doesn't extend to the clothing (well, not for every character, at least.) When it does extend to the clothing, you can correct it (to an extent) by changing their attire, which is a feature that hasn't been seen since WWF No Mercy on the N64, nearly four years ago.

Aside from the flawed character models, the transitional animations for grapples look shoddy. The stiff animation for them looks bush-league, and takes away from the action in the ring. The iffy collision detection doesn't help matters either. Thankfully, beyond that, things are pretty clear on the visual front. The actual move animations tend to look fantastic. Plus, Anchor has implemented some really dramatic camera angles in the game, which work both in the game's favor, and against it, as they look great, but can make moving after them a bit confusing. Still, seeing an F5 with the camera on the mat is breathtaking, and the dramatic nature of the angles tends to make the problems caused by them worth it, in some form. Much to my amazement, Anchor also did a marvelous job at making sure that created wrestlers didn't clash all that much visually with the in-game wrestlers.

Sound

The audio in the game is pretty disappointing. The music in the game tends to be the same stuff that was used in the fifth SD game, and in WWE WrestleMania XIX, only unlike those games, the music doesn't really fit the action here. Plus, the music sounds kind of tinny. The same holds true with the theme songs, which don't sound as rich as the ones used in XIX. The sound effects suffer the same kind of fate, with the ones used for moves sounding horrible. Thankfully, the ones used for weapons are pretty good, and fit the sound of the object. Some of the musical issues can be resolved by changing that wrestler's theme using the custom soundtrack feature, which is nice. You can also remedy the outdated or incorrect music this way as well. Kudos to Anchor for implementing this feature in the game.

Replay Value

Raw 2 packs more depth than the first entry in the series, and it comes close to hanging with the current king of wrestling games, WM XIX. The season mode here is actually a joy to play through again and again, thanks to the quick pacing of it. However, the core gameplay isn't as enjoyable or as in-depth as that in XIX. The create-a-superstar mode in this game is fantastic, which extends the life of the game immensely for those who choose to make use of it. The innovations in the mode, such as being able to make your own entrance video, and being able to meticulously time every aspect of your entrance are welcome additions to the mode, which tends to suffer from stagnation every now and then.

Bottom Line:

In the end, WWE Raw 2 is a huge leap forward compared to the original game, although it still comes up short next to the other WWE games on the market. The game makes fantastic use of the Xbox hardware, which is good to see. Anchor managed to make a pretty decent wrestling game here, which stunned me, as I came into it expecting the same crap as the original game. I would have liked to have seen them improve upon this game, as it really is quite solid. Sadly, that won't happen, but maybe the concepts introduced here will be used later on. Here's to hoping that, if this series continues, it will be able to reign supreme atop the wrestling game heap.

Related Links:

Official WWE Raw 2 Website

-Jeremy Peeples




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