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WWE Raw 2
game: WWE Raw 2
three star
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
publisher: THQ
date posted: 12:00 AM Sat Nov 1st, 2003
last revision: 12:00 AM Sat Nov 1st, 2003

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By Jeremy Kauffman

Over the decades the WWE has cultivated its special blend of sensationalism, bravado, exploitation, and astounding athletic showmanship into an unstoppable cultural phenomenon. The primary reason for its success seems to be that the people running the show know what the fans want, and will do anything to satisfy them. Why is it then that, after all these years, the fans still haven't gotten the videogame they deserve? Many have come close. In fact, WWE Raw 2 comes real close. The broad range of wrestlers, venues, and matches alone make it worth a look. However, the slow control system and completely pointless Season Mode keep it from being truly great.

WWE Raw 2 delivers over sixty legends, including the likes of Goldberg, Ray Mysterio, Scott Steiner, et all, including your favorite women of the WWE. Each wrestler enters the ring with a barrage of video footage and special effects, as we have come to expect, and bring all of their trademark moves, like Goldberg's Jackhammer and Mysterio's 619 Finisher.

For those who want to enter the fray with their own unique wrestler, there is a comprehensive character creator. Players begin by configuring the character's profile, including background information, physical and mental prowess, popularity, and more. The character's appearance is next, with a different looks for the ring and backstage. You even get to set the stage by creating your own entrance. Finally, the character's moves are chosen from a list of samples.

If the first incarnation of Raw left players wanting for gameplay options, Raw 2 will overwhelm them with choices. Everything a fan could want is right here, available for one to four players. Players begin by choosing whether they want to wrestle in an exhibition match against the toughest superstars, guide a single character through a full season to the famed Wrestlemania grudge match, set up a King of the Ring tournament, compete in a Royal Rumble against 30 opponents, or create a Tag Team Match. From there, players have even more options for fine tuning their match. You can play by the rules or allow wrestlers to smash each other with chairs, tables, and other objects they find surrounding the ring. Matches can be won by traditional pinfall, by throwing your opponent through a table, or climbing out of the Cage. Players can even take part in the dreaded Hell in a Cell, where escape means breaking through the chain link fence or the roof.

In terms of presentation, the game is solid and dependable, if not spectacular. The graphics are great, with lifelike character models and animation. The wrestlers stay true to the show with little touches like stomping their foot as they punch and assisting their opponent as they are being thrown around the ring. Details like texture and lighting effects are a bit bland. Sound effects are spot on in terms of ambient crowd noise, commentators and such. The soundtrack is exactly what you would expect: hard, heavy, loud, and, unfortunately, a bit repetitive.

This is what WWE Raw 2 does right. It is more than enough to make wrestling fans froth and get everyone else in the ring for at least a few matches. However, a couple of key faults are holding this game back. The control system is unnecessarily fragmented and sluggish. The button layout is fine, allowing players to punch, grapple, counter, and use objects. Movement, on the other hand, is divided between running with the left stick and walking with the D-pad. I don't think that I am alone in saying that I hate using the D-pad for any prolonged duration of time, and as grappling is difficult at best while running, you end up using it more often than not. Isn't this exactly the reason why we have analog joysticks? The superstars are oddly slow and unresponsive as well. They punch slow, kick slow, climb slow. There seems to be a lag time each time they transition from one move to another. After a character grabs hold of his or her opponent, there is a slight pause before they go into a move. Functionally, this allows the aggressor time to perform more difficult button combos and the defender time to escape or counter, but the effect is sluggish and cumbersome interactivity,not at all what you want in a venue like this.

While multiplayer matches are certainly a big draw for a game like this, developers need to realize that a great single player season mode is the key for evolving the genre. Sports titles like Madden Football are putting the player at the epicenter of a national franchise, making them responsible for running the teams, the stadiums, the press, everything. This seems like a perfect fit for Sports Entertainment titles like WWE Raw. But the Season Mode included in WWE Raw 2 is not even in the same ballpark, ring, or universe. Essentially, players are confronted with a list of upcoming matches, some involving their character, most not. They can then choose to watch, skip, or interrupt the matches they are not in, or sneak around behind the scenes and steal from other wrestlers (which only results in the same cut scene each time, and is not at all tense or exciting), until their match finally arrives. Nothing about the season mode is interesting or fun. How cool would it be if players were able to really take control of the big show? There needs to come a time when we can manage the career of our favorite superstar, to have a say in their performance inside and outside of the ring, to control their contracts, set up press events, stage grudge matches, and so on. A true career manager mode in a game like this would have all of the perks of a franchise mode in other sports, while allowing more room for imagination because, after all, it is all a show.

As is I was disinterested in the season mode and the single events, while fun, performed slowly and left me feeling like I was still watching the show, rather than living it. I loved how the characters in the game act exactly like the characters on TV. They pound the mat with their foot while their punches miss their opponent by inches. They assist their aggressors in shoving them across the ring. They act as if they are stunned and can't defend after they are punched, and they pretend that they can't stop themselves from bounding across the mat after being thrown into the ropes. Yes, the characters in the game actually seem as if they are acting, and that is precious. WWE Raw 2 is joyous in its representation of sport as entertainment. There is a lot of good in the single events and multiplayer matches. But until they can actually put us in control of the show, we will always be bystanders.