WWF Raw is War Xbox
Review by Matt Paprocki THQ Wrestling
Graphics: 9 Sound: 8 Gameplay: 3 Overall: 4

I'm a self proclaimed wrestling fanatic. I buy all the toys, clothes, foam fingers, and videos I can get my hands on. Of course, this also means that I'm in front of the TV whenever Monday night rolls around. The video game industry has been on the receiving end of some true clunkers over the years, the majority coming from our friends over at Acclaim. THQ on the other hand has given us some of the absolute best wrestling games ever created, the majority on the N64. Their first go around on the X-Box however has failed miserably in the gameplay department, but the visuals almost save it....almost.

Once into the game, the menu screen looks incredibly skimpy, and that's because it is. The sheer lack of options kills the one-player game right from the start. Yes, you can vie for the titles by fighting numerous opponents, but your limited to 3 continues and there's no saving between matches. This not only makes it frustrating, but a baffling design decision. There is no "story mode" to speak of, just wrestling. To claim the world title, you must fight at least 10 matches, each lasting a minimum of 5 minutes. The likely hood of winning all of these matches without losing is slim and none, meaning you'll need plenty of time set aside to unlock the few hidden characters. Mutiplayer can be fun, but the lack of a tag-team title mode ruins any cooperative modes of play. Your allowed to play single tag matches cooperatively or against each other, but a quest for the tag belts would've been greatly appreciated. The museum is a welcome feature allowing players to check out biographies, view titantron videos, and play around with the character models. There's also an excellent training video that's an absolute must for first time players.

In a deserate attempt to increase replay value, THQ has included numerous items that can be found and used during the matches. Things such as snowboards, tu-tu's, glasses, bandannas, and foam fingers make up just a small portion of what's hidden in the game. These items can be used as weapons when found and some of them even worn in the ring. Honestly however, most wrestling fans would've rather searched for more wrestlers than ballerina outfits. Some of these items are just plain asinine and have never even appeared on WWF TV. The create-a-wrestler option is excellent with the abilities to choose what signs the fans hold up when you enter the ring and what type of pyro diplay you want. The lack of faces to choose from can make things arduous when attempting to create missing superstars like RVD, Booker T., and Lance Storm. It's also a crime that only 16 wrestlers can be made. With an 8 gig hard drive, there's no logical reason why gamers can't fill it with their masterpieces.

The games new engine was developed by Anchor, the same group of guys responsible for the highly acclaimed UFC game on the Dreamcast. While it's obvious these guys know how the UFC works, it obvious they know little about professional wrestling. The grappling system has been dumbed down and seems much more like WWF Smackdown on the PS2 than the series that THQ put out on the 64. Reversing a move is nothing more than a guessing game with very little skill involved. Punching and kicking may knock your opponent for a loop, but attempting to grapple after a shot to your opponents jaw is a lost cause. The short range of the grapple and hit and miss collision detection make any cool looking maneuvers nearly impossible. Even worse, attmepting a grapple will sometime register as an attack, sending an opponent flying over the top rope.

The controls also falter miserably. The B buttons is used for numerous things such as picking up weapons, climbing ropes and taunting. Standing over a weapon and pressing B usually result in a wrestler taunt instead of a weapon pickup. 2 or 3 tries may result in the desired effect, but by then your opponent has already made his move and your flat on your back. The AI is also suspect with the computer constantly making moves that baffle the mind. On more than a few occasions I witnessed my opponent unable to maneuver around the ring steps, leaving them wide open for an attack from the top rope. Also, 90% of the time the computer will run directly at you to begin a match making the opening moments predictable. On the harder levels, the computer simply counters ever move in your arsenal with no remorse instead of actually trying to fight a strategic bout.

Ever since the launch of Microsofts black box, RAW has been the game to show off what the console can do. The constant barrage of screenshots and teaser trailers wetted gamers appetites and at least this part of the game has held up. The vast majority of the wrestler models are outstanding and you'll be hard pressed at times to tell the difference between the game and an actual live broadcast. Trademarked introductions are represented flawlessly with small details like the Big Show ducking when going under the Tron and Raven bringing a shopping cart full of hardcore items to the ring (which mysteriously disappears when the match begins). Not all of them are perfect as Christians spectacular pyrotechnic show it missing and some of the Dudleys fireworks are lost. The animations have their high points, but some things like basic walking look hilarious. Some of the animation routines have been lifted directly from the N64 games resulting in a game that moves much like it's 64 cousin. The arena looks stunning, but the crowd that fills it ruins any believability. Also, there's only one arena and one stage. No more can be unlocked so your always stuck fighting on Monday nights. There's no need to worry about the backstage areas either....there aren't any.

All the songs have been licensed, so yes, the Taker does come out to "Rollin." The crowd responds realistically to the actions in the ring, but the music that plays over the matches is awful. You can turn this off in the option screen, but this also eliminates menu music and theme songs during the entrances. The lack of play-by-play is missed greatly and it's inclusion would've been appreciated. No annoucers are even present at the announce table stationed at ringside!

This game screams "rushed product." Granted, I was one of the gamers who were simply getting irratated by the constant delays and I wanted the game NOW, but had I known how bad the so called "finished" product was, I never would've wished for the early release date. Oddities include the extremely dated Dark Summit preview included on the disc (the trailer still has it coming in Dec. of 2001 and the rating still pending) and the lack of text on the back of the box. While the gameplay is certainly unfavorable, it's not as bad as Acclaims WWF engine. There's still SOME redeeming features to it, but the myraid of defects in the engine still manage to ruin it's playability. It's a worth a rental to see the game in motion as your X-Box will be pushed to the max, but a purchase would not be a wise descision.


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Last updated: Sunday, April 22, 2007 08:44 PM