Friday, September 18, 2009

GameFAQs Review - WWF RAW (Xbox)

Imagine a world if you will where professional wrestling/sports entertainment was the hottest thing around - when the initials WWF referred to the wrestling company and not the panda organization that sued them later. Just about anything and everything that had a WWF license was a license to print money. Well, while some of you might think that I've been drinking the strong stuff, that period actually did happen in the late-1990s and early-2000s. The World Wrestling Federation, on the verge of bankruptcy at the time, ultimately changed their product and made a ton of money as a result to become the media conglomerate that is known today as World Wrestling Entertainment. And while the current product is nowhere near as hot as it used to be, it's still a very profitable venture and many products with the WWE license are still being made today.

Okay, I'll dispense with the history lesson. Like any hot product, a ton of licenses get tossed around and you have the usual assortments of action figures, trading cards, and even video games. Wrestling video games are a varied type - some are good and some are really bad - but recent titles on the Sony Playstation and Nintendo 64 seem to give the genre a workable template that continues to see use today.

Okay, okay... no more history lesson. Eventually, Microsoft released the Xbox and a WWF game - titled WWF Raw Is War before being shortened to WWF Raw - was released on the system. How does it fare? Let's find out.

STORY: Irrelevant, because there's no career mode to speak of. Instead, WWF Raw has you competing for various belts, including the Women's Title where you had contenders like Chris Jericho or Stone Cold... or even better, fighting the Big Show on the hunt for the Light Heavyweight championship, which was the WWF's version of what would eventually become the Cruiserweight title. Lots of fun to be had here... and you don't even need any hacking tools. Pure joy to be had by all. 5/10

GRAPHICS: Here's the game's strongest point - for the most part, the game looks very nice for an early Xbox title. The wrestler models look good (even though some of them move a bit stiffly), the RAW arena looks fairly nice (get used to it, it's the only one you have), and outside of the stiff movement, the animation is smooth and seamless. Perhaps best of all is the fact that there's some facial animation even. This is definitely a step-up from the offerings on the Playstation and Nintendo 64, although to be completely honest, there are times when I felt the graphics could have been touched up a little better, but for the most part, the game looks fairly nice. 8/10

SOUND: As per the course with most wrestling games not made on a cartridge, your soundtrack consists of a few generic, unmemorable songs along with most of your wrestler theme songs during and after matches. You have the usual array of sounds from every punch, mat slam, chair hit, and grunt sounding very good indeed. Alas, there's no commentary in this game, but that's probably a good thing – since commentaries tend to be horrible in wrestling games. Of course, there's the unique ability to use custom soundtracks for wrestlers' themes, which is a nice touch and something the Xbox used well whenever a game supported that sort of thing. 7/10

GAMEPLAY: WWF RAW uses an interesting system that seems to come. The meter at the bottom of the screen is a Voltage meter which is a tug-of-war type system to see who has the crowd's favor. Doing different moves and playing to the crowd will bring you more voltage, while relentlessly performing the same move over and over again will actually cause the crowd to turn against you. This requires you to vary your attacks somewhat and is a fairly nice system on paper - but then I just prefer the good ol' stamina and health meters. Stamina is gauged by a small meter, but you hardly pay attention to it because of the action (or inaction) in the ring. The controls are fairly simple to pick up once you get the hang of it, but I honestly prefer the Smackdown system more. 6/10

FEATURES: WWF Raw features a fairly moderate selection of wrestlers to choose from. While it's more than what you'd get from the Royal Rumble game that was released in arcades and later ported to Dreamcast, it's less than the roster available to you on the Smackdown 2 game on PS1. On top of that, the roster was already outdated by the time this was released; the game saw release in early 2002, and yet it's modeled after early-to-mid 2001. I suppose this sort of thing is normal since most wrestling game can quickly become outdate because of shuffling rosters, but given the fact that this was delayed, they could have added or updated some stuff here and there. Despite my complaints, it's a fairly sizable roster and you'll be quite busy with some of them.

Aside from the roster, this is a pretty barebones wrestling game, with very few match types outside of the usual singles, tag-team, and battle royal modes. No cage matches, no ladder matches, or any of that good stuff to be found here. There's tournaments and king of the rings, but that's about it. You can compete for titles, but there's no limit to your choices. Like I said before, it's entirely possible to pick someone like Chris Jericho and pull off a Harvey Whippleman and compete for the Womens' Title, which ends up killing the legitimacy of the title... but then again, you don't really win the title so much as you unlock a wrestler - most of which are McMahons. Lame.

Regarding the Create-A-Wrestler mode, it's a competent enough set-up with a decent number of choices, but it's not as good as most other creation modes featured in other games. At the very least, you can use custom soundtracks in this game, so if you have a new character built and want to give him some whacked-out anime theme, you can do so (provided it's on your Xbox, obviously). This is a neat little feature I wish was featured in current wrestling games... especially since the consoles have hard drives. 5/10

CHALLENGE: Let's get this out of the way: the AI in this game is absolutely terrible, abysmal, and utterly, utterly STUPID! There are times when the computer opponent will stand there and do nothing, while other times they'll do something strange and not pay any attention to you. It's a really, really sad set of circumstances to put up with. Also, there's really severe balance issues, as some of the more popular wrestlers tend to be overpowered and can be easier to curry crowd in your favor, while it takes a little more effort to do the same thing with someone like Funaki. Yeah, that sort of rings true in real life, but this is a video game and at least some semblance of balance should have been established... not to mention a much better AI. Maybe the next game will improve on this AI... oh wait. 4/10

REPLAY VALUE: With very few modes and little worthwhile reason to go through everything, there's very little here to actually do here to get you to come back for more. Unless you really want to go out of your way to unlock the Limp Bizkit guy. 3/10

OVERALL: For a first time effort, WWF Raw certainly has a couple things going for and the ideas and concepts contained within is actually quite novel. Unfortunately, the whole thing ends up falling flat due to its poor execution, lack of anything truly substantial, and a really crummy AI that just ruins the whole thing. While Xbox owners of the time might not have had options back then when this game was new, they certainly do now. WWF Raw is worth picking up for cheap only for the sake of curiosity and if you already own every other wrestling game on the Xbox, but otherwise, I wouldn't bother. 4/10

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