Opposing CPU wrestlers still do a lot of peculiar things, and many of the same AI bugs from last year's game have gone pretty well untouched.
Another holdover from WWF Raw is the game's AI, which, while marginally improved in some areas, is still extremely dumb. Opposing CPU wrestlers still do a lot of peculiar things, and many of the same AI bugs from last year's game have gone pretty well untouched. Interfering wrestlers still run into the ring, and, instead of attacking you, immediately jump on your opponent. In the meantime, you just sit back and watch. CPU opponents also, for some reason, have a bizarre tendency to try and repeatedly pin you if it gets late into a match. In one match, we actually had the CPU try to pin us 11 times in a row, and, because our opponent immediately went for the pin after we kicked out, we never had the chance to get up. Ladder matches and cage matches are extremely hit or miss. Sometimes you actually get a good, competitive match, and other times the CPU just goes right for the dangling belt or heads straight for the top of the cage to escape--without giving you any real chance to compete. This problem is especially apparent in three, four, and six wrestler matches. We actually saw all five of our opponents head off to climb the cage within 30 seconds of the start of one match.
Raw 2 also, for lack of a better term, just does a lot of weird, inexplicable stuff that doesn't make much sense. For example, the game supports up to six players in the ring at once. However, you can't have six wrestlers at once during the royal rumble, but you can have six wrestlers at once in a standard, six-player battle royal. Another issue is in the game's targeting system, which, unlike practically every targeting system found in a modern-day wrestling game, doesn't autotarget an opponent who attacks you. So, for example, let's say you're in a triple threat match, and you're fighting one specific opponent. Then the other opponent runs up and clotheslines you from behind. When you get back up, you have to manually target that opponent, or you'll be stuck targeting the previous foe. This really becomes a problem in four to six wrestler matches, where you basically have to cycle through the gamut of guys in the ring until you get to the one you want--even if he's beating the hell out of you. While these types of issues, by themselves, are rather minor, if you start adding them up, they become a much bigger problem.
For all the negatives in the game, there is one mode in Raw 2 that stands out as a major positive, and that is its create-a-wrestler mode. Anchor clearly spent a great deal of time making the create-a-wrestler mode extremely deep, and it really does show. Nearly every facet of a character can be molded to your preferred design in the create-a-wrestler mode--from all the basic appearance functions, to logic and wrestling style attributes, to practically every aspect of your character's entrance. There are hundreds of different clothing, accessory, and other appearance-related options, as well as hundreds of different moves and taunts. New attributes can be unlocked during the season mode as well. The most impressive part of the create-a-wrestler mode is definitely the new entrance editor, which really gives you a stellar amount of control over how your character arrives on the scene. Lighting schemes can be designed in a multitude of different sections and colors, and different types of pyrotechnics, fog, and the like, can be programmed to your particular desire. Additionally, you can even program your own Titantron videos for your wrestler. Though the feature is a bit limited, you can decide what move you want your wrestler to perform in the video, as well as select from an array of different text animations and video filters. Raw 2 also features custom soundtrack support, so copying your favorite songs to the Xbox hard drive lets you have your wrestler come out to whatever song you please. Though there are already over 60 wrestlers in the game, you can store up to 64 created wrestlers, giving you over 120 wrestlers from which to use.
Raw 2's create-a-wrestler mode is a standout in the genre, giving you one of the deepest lists of available customizations ever.
WWE Raw looks great for the most part, but there are a few parts that lack polish. Practically all of the wrestler models in the game look great--especially the top-tiered wrestlers like The Rock, Steve Austin, The Undertaker, and Kurt Angle. Even some of the wrestlers that didn't look so great last year have been improved quite a bit, like Triple H and Chris Benoit. Unfortunately, some of the newer models, like Rey Mysterio and Goldberg, aren't quite as impressive, and generally seem a bit off-kilter when compared to the rest of the models. Overall, the game animates very well, and nearly all the different moves and taunts look like they should. Transition animations are still somewhat lacking in certain areas, however, and periodically, you'll see some pretty unpleasant movement glitches.
There are also a number of rather prevalent performance issues in Raw 2. The game features some of the most horrific clipping problems ever seen in a wrestling game. This is especially troublesome outside of the ring, where it's incredibly easy to have a wrestler's legs clip right through the ring when performing certain moves. We were even able to periodically run right through the announcers' table. Collision detection is equally spotty. At one point, we were able to actually punch and kick an opposing player on the opposite side of a solid object--in this case, a cage wall. The game is not above some frame rate issues as well. These mainly occur during entrances, when certain pyrotechnics go off.
WWE Raw looks great for the most part, but there are a few parts that lack polish.
Raw 2's audio is also quite good. Nearly every wrestler has his correct theme song, and, since the game supports custom soundtracks, any missing track can simply be uploaded to the Xbox hard drive. All of the in-game effects and music are good enough--though not definitively impressive in any way. As mentioned before, there's no dialogue in the game to speak of, and, in fact, the only voice work of any kind is that of the ring announcers and the generic referee voices. Both Lillian Garcia and Howard Finkel lend their voices to the ring announcing. While Finkel sounds just fine, Garcia's statements sound incredibly forced and are periodically inaudible during certain entrances.
All in all, WWE Raw 2 just doesn't feel like much of a step forward in the series. Instead it feels more like a big step sideways. Truth be told, Anchor has done a great job packing the game full of fringe benefits, like an excellent create-a-wrestler mode, a gaggle of different match types, and the new season mode. However, these benefits are somewhat negated if you can't back them up with a solid gameplay experience, and Raw 2 simply can't. If you were a big proponent of WWF Raw, you may find Raw 2 to be more to your liking. However, to the more discerning wrestling game fan, you'll have to keep on waiting for a great wrestling game for your Xbox, as WWE Raw 2 just isn't what you've been hoping for.
Editor's note 09/23/03: When the review was originally posted, it stated that players could execute a wrestler's finishing move regardless of whether the wrestler's voltage meter is filled, which is incorrect. GameSpot regrets the error.