Hello, my intended...
I've decided to review 'Raw 2' for the Xbox, despite the fact that there's no game out there that will ever top my Japanese-imported Fire Pro D on the Dreamcast. Bobo loves his wrestling videogames and except for 'WCW Nitro' on the PC, most of them are fun enough to stay in the rotation between Phantasy Star Online and the dozens of others I pile up around me. But I digress...
Well, after suffering many months of delays, THQ has finally come across with the promised 'Raw 2' for my Xbox. Good thing, too, as I'd about given up hope on ever seeing it. We'll examine things as impartially as I can, despite the fact that they'd totally reamed me on the first iteration of 'Raw' with what I considered a half-finished product they rushed to release without many features I'd long since taken for granted - such as 'story mode', and 'replay value'... Apparently I wasn't the only person to think so, and THQ held off on releasing it until it was 'just right'. Did they redeem themselves? Read on...
One thing I must say is that there's no pictures included with this review. Sorry, but the AverMedia TV card I have in the system doesn't do 'snapshots' from the video feed like my old ATI All-In-Wonder did, and I don't feel like going out and ponying up $179/$439 for a new ATI AIW so you can have pictures to look at, so deal with it. Besides, I have the Xbox connected with the component cables, and it'll cost me $35 to get 'regular' A/V cables so even if I did have the AIW, I wouldn't be able to grab you pictures to see. You wanna see it? Go to THQ's website.
Graphics: First off, the thing is visually gorgeous. The character models of the sixty-four included superstars are spot on (though a bit 'shiny'), and thanks to the Xbox's hard drive you can make another 64 or so that - unlike many other games of this type - blend in with the established stars' models practically seamlessly. As much as I enjoyed the Smackdown offerings on my PS2 and the Wrestlemania bits on my Gamecube, this game - especially from a 'create a wrestler' perspective - makes them both its sniffling punk bitches. The only caveat is that it doesn't support HDTV, so it looks a bit 'blotchy' on my 36" 16:9 1080i - though on a regular TV it's lovely. Grade: A
Customizability: A drawback here is that it takes about an hour and a half to make a wrestler, but it's totally worth it the first time you're starting down the ramp with your custom picked entrance theme - which can be anything you like, since you can rip CDs to the Xbox. Word of advice, there's an option to make two appearances - use it. I went into the Season Mode and had a backstage segment where I looked like the 'default' guy. Bleah. Not a good surprise, but easy enough to fix. Season mode is basically an armchair booker's dream. You can have your characters interact in any number of ways from stopping in to give a word of encouragement to totally punking them, and each option has its own costs and effect. If you've got the 'spirit' to spare, you can put yourself in EVERY segment a la Triple H. Spirit is basically how 'up' you are for a match, and when it gets low you start moving slower and not doing as much damage as you usually do, which can cost ya. Luckily, my guy has maximum 'submission' attack level/power, which let me make Taker tapout in ninety seconds flat when we curtain-jerked Backlash. Aaah, that was fun - but I really miss the 'crunch' sound I used to get with a submission on N64... Sigh. Yes, I play a shoot/strangler style. I always do. There really should be more moves to choose from, though it might be my 'Fire Pro D' spoilage kicking in. Grade: A-
Booking: The standard inconsistancies that exist in WWe carry over here, possibly so the fan playing at home isn't confused by things actually making sense. For example, Torrie Wilson has run out and saved me twice by thrashing Test and Kevin Nash respectively - and yet in the three 'dates' we've had, she's stood there totally helpless while I was thrashed by Kane (twice) and the Hurricane. The HURRICANE? AL Wilson could take Hurricane, woman! Sheesh. You get four 'allies' and four 'enemies' when you start, and you can cultivate them however you like. Lance Storm and I are the WWe Tag Champs - and Lance and Regal are the World Tag Champs. Yay, Lance. Presently, the axis of 'Get That Damned Bobo' consists of Kane, Hurricane, Test, and Kevin Nash (with Molly and D-Von Dudley pitching in from time to time) - while my clique is Lance Storm (tag partner), Torrie Wilson (squeeze), Goldust (???) and Randy Orton. Hmm... I think I'm gonna turf Goldie and Orton pretty soon, but with my luck they'll replace him with Undertaker or something... Also, a year in and my WWe Champion (booked by the AI/computer/random chance) is Edge, and the World Champion is Eddy Guerrerro... That's awesome, any way you slice it. Anyway, since I'm conditioned to accept the overall stupidity of the WWe booking by now... Moreover, you can ambush and otherwise hinder your enemies - but it doesn't affect their matches one bit. For chrissakes, I dropped an ANVIL on D'Von; and even though he lost all his health, he STILL beat RVD. Grade: C-
Realism: The animations are excellent and very fluid - within the limitations of the somewhat long-in-the-tooth THQ engine which hasn't seen a significant upgrade since the N64 days. If you were a player of their N64 wrestling stuff, you'll be right at home pretty quick - and if not, it's not gonna take long to acclimate yourself. Hit Button. Grab Button. Block/Counter Button. Tag/Climb button. Taunt with Right Analog stick. You'll find yourself splitting between the analog-stick and digital-pad for moving around, as the sensitivity on the analog makes you start running all over the place when all you wanted to do was go behind the guy while he was dizzied. I don't know what THQ has against the 'crimson mask', but I don't recall ever managing to make a guy leak in the first Raw game - and in a match that pit me and my brother against Flair and HHH, we dragged them outside and bludgeoned them mercilessly with the steel steps for like five minutes straight and they didn't leak one bit! Very disappointing; as I think there should be an option to turn blood on/off. Further, I find it has the same 'unreality' prevalent in these games - which lets Stacy Kiebler powerbomb Big Show, for example - it's pretty much accepted as a fact-of-life in these games now, so it doesn't hurt the score. Grade: C-.
Difficulty: Now, folks, I'm an old 'Fire Pro' wrestling junkie, which is more about properly timing the button presses than mashing them frantically, and I was a bit disappointed that a certain level of button-mashing is required in here. If you've got an autofire stick, this game is gonna be REAL easy on the Easy/Normal level - and darn near impossible on the Hard level if you <b>don't</b> have one. I simply don't like that very much, as it degrades it from being a game of skill into a game of slap-the-buttons-quick. I prefer the 'skill' side of things; though I suppose making it that way maintains a level of accessibility for casual gamers and therefore sales, but I'm not happy about it. You could thrash anyone without much trouble in the 'single match modes', but the season mode will definitely require some manhours. It's especially frustrating having to tell it 'Yes' you want to skip each of the CPU matches each 'week', though of course not as frustrating as having to actually sit through them all. Grade: C+
Overall: There's a few details that irk me about the game - such as Kane having his mask, while his Titantron uses the new 'Goonies' version - but they're not so glaring that they ruin the whole deal. It's a fun enough distraction, I think - and a 'more viable than the WWe would like' alternative to actually watching the shows, which is why I missed this past Raw. If you've got an Xbox, and you've gotten tired of thrashing Legends of Wrestling II, this is the game to get. Fifty well spent bucks, kids. Definitely. Total Grade: C
Hopefully, this review was helpful to you if you were trying to decide if Raw 2 on the XBox was worth your money to buy/rent... If so, allow me to say:
You're welcome. See you SOON.