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WWF Raw

Score: 60%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Anchor Inc.
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Sports

Graphics & Sound:

Hands down, WWF Raw completely redefines the wrestling genre in terms of graphical content when looking at player models. With photorealistic wrestlers gracing your screen, at first glance it may be tough to tell if you're watching the real thing. Then you look at the crowd, and realize that even those in the front rows are just sprites, and don't look very clean close up. But hey, it's not the crowd that draws the wrestlers; it's the wrestlers that draw the crowd. Everything else from the TV show are in Raw, including the pyrotechnics during intros.

If you're into the music of the World Wrestling Federation, then Raw is the place to be. Included are all of your favorite intro songs. There's nothing better than to hear music from The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, or Y2J, blaring your way in Dolby Digital (with a receiver) Surround. However, this makes Raw's sound fx all that more disappointing. The in-game sound fx (or lack there of) consist of very generic grunts and slaps. And for finishers, there aren't even ring announcers to give you the play-by-play. In my book, that's just simple laziness on the part of the game's creators, and they deserve a smack across the back of their collective heads for dropping the ball on that one.


Gameplay:

It seems that WWF Raw's graphical prowess may come at a price. Even on the powerful Xbox hardware, Raw is absolutely way too slow. When gamers find out a game has been delayed, they get upset. But releasing a game that is far from the quality expected is a greater shame, and THQ's latest effort fails to deliver. Inevitably, WWF Raw must be compared to it's counterpart on the PlayStation 2, Smackdown!. And while Raw does have some unique features, for the most part, it is inferior in every way that actually matters... namely gameplay.

It is incredibly unfortunate that WWF Raw lacks all of the modes of play that we have all come to love. In reality, Raw is a bare-bones fighter that takes place in the squared circle. It contains your typical Exhibition modes (including Singles, Tag Teams, and Handicap Matches). The only real specialty match available in Raw is the King of the Ring tournament, where you work your way through a playoff tree style ranking system for all of the glory. Also included is a sad excuse for a Battle Royal. What? I said the Battle Royal is essentially a four-player free-for-all. What? I said only four players total get to wrestle, not 30. What? I said the Battle Royal sucks fat Rikishi @ss!!!

Of course, there is also the Title Match mode. Here you'll compete against tons of WWF Superstars in an effort to gain possession of the most respected titles in all of wrestling. The six championship belts available are the Woman's, Light Heavyweight, European, Intercontinental, Hardcore, and the coveted WWF (Heavyweight) Championship. Take your Superstar or Created Player through the ranks, and declare yourself champion. Once again, however, Raw gets the Smackdown! on the Create-A-Player feature. As far back as the feature has been in games, you have always been able to create even a crude resemblance of legends like Hulk Hogan and 'Macho Man' Randy Savage. But not in WWF Raw. Instead of having normal create-a-player features, developers felt the need to include garbage like the ability to create a robot wrestler. Thanks for playing, but NO!

On the plus side, WWF Raw does actually make some great innovations for the genre. For the first time ever, you have the ability to open a can of Whoop Ass on your opponent before he/she ever enters the ring. During player entrances, you will have a moment when you can interfere by running from the ring or backstage area (depending on where you are) to get a quick cheap shot in. And with the new voltage meter that measures crowd reactions, it may not be a bad idea to attack your rival before he/she pumps up the fans. Another great feature is the stamina meter. Just as in real life, you sometimes have to pace yourself when kicking some candy-ass. Go too fast, and you'll have nothing left to pin your opponent. But perhaps the best feature in Raw is that for the first time ever, wrestlers are able to interrupt moves and interact with other wrestlers like never before. Now you don't have to just stand there watching the other two go at it in a Three Way Dance. So bust on in and take control at any time you want to.


Difficulty:

If this is any judgment, during a Battle Royal my nephews and I all ganged up on a computer-controlled wrestler... and still got our butts beat. It's not so much that the computer is that tough, rather it's that once you get knocked to the canvas, you cannot recover very well. In fact, after a steady beating, you'll be screaming at the screen, ''I've fallen, and I can't get up!'' It's absolutely ridiculous how long it takes to scrape yourself off the mat, no matter how much button mashing you deliver. With that aside, the biggest difficulty in WWF Raw is learning to control your stamina meter and knowing when to take a breather.

Game Mechanics:

The actual controls offered in WWF Raw are very adequate and easy to use. I especially liked the targeting system. Instead of trying to figure out who your wrestler is looking at, a color-coded arrow is displayed to let you know quickly whom you are 'locked on' to during (3- or 4-player) matches. It is too bad that the extremely slow gameplay and lack of match types overshadow the many unique improvements to the genre.

WWF Raw has a ton of potential, but this year's effort lacks entirely too many of the options that wrestling games have developed in recent years. But most of all, the game's speed makes you feel as though you're in constant slow motion. If you're really, really into the World Wresting Federation or wrestling games in general, then maybe you will want to pick up a copy of Raw for the Xbox. Otherwise, I would strongly suggest either picking up Smackdown! (if you also own a PS2) or waiting until next year's Raw is released. Maybe if they begin work now, the developers will give us the quality they always promise.


-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

Microsoft Xbox ESPN Winter X Games: Snowboarding 2002 Windows Everquest: The Planes of Power

 
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