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Ever since that day when Bill Gates brought out WWF super star The Rock to announce the details on Xbox's very first wrestling game, people had high expectations. After all, you have the very talented people at Anchor who made the outstanding UFC for Dreamcast combined with the awesome power of the Xbox. It was hard not to be hyped for this game. Publisher THQ released a very impressive list of features for this game which included such things as fighting in the crowds and having them scatter out of your way, fighting in back stage areas, 6 wrestlers in the ring at one time. Sadly, by the time WWF Raw shipped to stores it was missing all of those features and many more.


With out a doubt WWF Raw is the best looking wrestling game of all time; no other wrestling game even come close. All of the 40 + super stars look just like their real life counter-parts, complete with all their signature moves and personality. The level of detail is really amazing. All the wrestlers have an impressive amount of facial animations. You can see The Rock wince in pain when he's put in the Walls of Jericho and almost hear what Stone Cold is mouthing on the way to the ring. Each wrestler is made up of a huge number of polygons and is really brought to life with some of the best textures and shadows seen yet. The arenas are also rendered in extreme detail. From the lighting rack above the ring to the TitanTron itself, everything looks just like it does on RAW IS WAR. The treat for the eyes doesn't stop there, Raw has some of the best lighting effects ever. Each superstar's entrance is re-created beautifully with dynamic lighting effects, all the custom pyrotechnics and full TitanTron videos. All of these graphic effects help to recreate the whole Raw experience, but the one that really brings it to life the most is the great animation. Aside from the fact that some of the wrestlers walk a little like robots on the way to the ring, the rest of the animation is outstanding. Every superstar moves and acts just like they do in real life right down to the smallest of things. The only bad thing about the graphics is the crowd, which is made up of blurry 2D textures with some animations. It looks ok most of the time but as soon as you get close to them or if the camera pans over them things look ugly.


The sound in Raw has been done really well. Each of the wrestlers has their own theme music, which has been recorded very nicely, and all of the punches, slams and chair shots sound great! The crowd also sounds really good and cheers for the popular superstars like The Rock and Stone Cold. Aside from the ring announcer, there is no commentary in the game, which hurts. The in game music isn't the best, and is one of the parts where the Xbox's hard drive and music ripping features would have helped out a lot. Being able to put in your own songs for wrestler entrances would have been nice. Sadly, Raw doesn't support custom sound tracks.


Raw's gameplay is where the game really shines and is also where it takes some of the biggest hits. Raw uses a new energy meter for doing moves. Depending on how much energy your wrestler has, it dictates what moves you can do at that time. If you have a lot of energy you will be able to do bigger moves, if your energy level is low then you won't be able to big slams and special moves. Also, the bigger the move the more energy it takes off your bar. This is a great feature and really balances out the gameplay by not letting you do special move after special move till you completely drain all of the other guy's energy for an easy win. The bigger superstars like The Rock and HHH can recover their energy faster then some of the smaller guys after a big move which seems realistic, but unbalanced at first, ends up adding lots of depth and strategy to the game. Raw also uses an approval meter, which plays a big role in the game. Depending on what kind of moves you do in the match and how you link them the crowd excitement level will rise or fall based on this. If the crowd is fully behind a wrestler then he cannot be pined, and it will take a really good beating to swing the crowd into your corner. Some of the bigger superstars have the crowd behind them from the start but as long as you do some exciting moves you will start to win the crowd over. All of this not only helps to make WWF Raw one of the best playing wrestling games, it also makes it one of the most realistic too. Matches in the game start off almost exactly how they do on Raw is War, but can end up in favor of anyone depending on how you wrestle in the game and how you play the crowd. The AI in Raw is really smart and provides a great, fun challenge in the ring; outside of the ring it has some collision detection problems and tends to get stuck on things. Despite some of the AI bugs, it doesn't effect the overall gameplay too much. The biggest problem in Raw is not from AI problems or bad gameplay, but from the lack of options and modes of play. There's no story or season mode, no cage matches, no first blood or table matches, all of which really take away from what otherwise is the best playing WWF game so far. You have 3 main modes of play in Raw, Exhibition, Title match and King of the Ring. King of the Ring is pretty much the same as the real PPV so I wont go into detail on that one. Title match is the closet thing to a season mode in Raw. You can go for the WWF Heavyweight, Intercontinental, European, Hardcore, Light Heavyweight or Women's Champ belts by facing a set number of wrestlers in a row. For example: to win the WWF title you have to beat 12 people in a row. While this is far from a season mode, and there's no interaction between wrestlers, it still is a very fun and tough thing to do thanks to the great gameplay. In Exhibition mode you have a variety of match options such as 2 on 1 handicap, 3 on 1 handicap, 1 on 1, tag team matches, a triple threat match, Battle Royal, hardcore and a Fatal 4-Way match. While this is nice amount of match options, it leaves out all of the special match types like first blood and cage matches. Its pretty clear that Raw was rushed on this part, since even WWF games back on the N64 had more match options then this. Last, but not least is the Create-A-Wrestler mode. Raw thankfully features a really strong CAW mode with lots of options. You can customize every part of your wrestler, from what he wears to what his ring entrance looks like. This is really good since WWF Raw doesn't include any of the wrestlers from the WCW story lines.

Bottom Line:

From the time you start playing to the point where you stop, you feel like your watching a match on TV. The lack of match types and gameplay modes does hurt the game some, but Raw's outstanding gameplay and graphics more then make up for that. No other wrestling game has brought the WWF to life like Raw does. If you are a fan of the WWF at all, and you can over look a lack of options for great gameplay and graphics, then Raw is a must buy.

-Eric Peters



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