The StarSoldier


Artist touch: Another wrestling cover, another list of big muscle heads on the cover. No big deal since it isn't real art. Cover art rating: 6/10
Month it won: July 2005

(THQ/Archor, 2003)
Special note: This is the only WWE game to have Bill Goldberg on the cover of it.
Introduction and Story:
Monday night Raw is a fun cable show to watch because you never really know what’s going to happen. I remember seeing an awesome Ladder match between Christian and Rob Van Dam for the IC title not too long ago plus who could forget the beautiful female wrestlers like Trish Stratus and Stacy Keibler that don’t wear a heck of a lot of clothes, eh? I even remember watching former World Heavyweight Champion Triple H actually pretend to have sex with a dummy in a coffin! “I’m not kidding here!” A good Raw show is way more fun then watching lame stuff like Ally Mc Beal (now cancelled, ha ha) or Everybody Loves Raymond (also gone) on Monday nights at least in my opinion. That’s why there is tons of pressure to create a top-notch wrestling video game exclusively for the Xbox. It was over a year ago when Microsoft and THQ finally delivered their much hyped Xbox exclusive WWF video game but despite having some great graphics, the game failed to delivery the goods in terms of options. Xbox owners have waited patiently for the next Raw title here in hopes that will blown the old Raw out of the water because if it doesn’t then it could spell the end for the series fro good. So how did they do this time? Read away wrestle fans, you may be surprised.

There are quite a few changes made to the first Raw so if you’re a fan of the last game (all four of you), you’ll notice right away that there are some guys missing in the new wrestling game. Former WWF wrestlers like the high flying Jeff Hardy, the dark and crafty Raven, the rapping K-Kwik, and many more are no longer here. Although some may be gone now, Raw 2 offers many new fresh WWE faces from both the WWE’s Raw and Smackdown brands like Brock Lesnar, Bill Goldberg, Jamie Noble, Stacy Keibler, Rey Mysterio and several others now joining the 2003 roster. WWE Raw 2’s list of characters is so impressive that you even play as popular legends Nature Boy Ric Flair and Hollywood Hulk Hogan, easily two of the biggest names in wrestling. You can still play as Kurt Angle, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, Crash Holly and more of your favourites from the first Raw too and some guys like the Rock have a whole new look. There are 64 default wrestlers in Raw 2 altogether and that’s one of the largest list of characters I seen in a WWE game.

Controls and Game Play:
Sure, the game can have all the new guys and hot divas it wants but it doesn’t mean nothing if the game play is just as bad as the first Xbox Raw, eh? Fortunately Raw 2 gives you a vastly improved Season game where one to four players can compete in Raw, Smackdown, or even a Pay Per View event to earn the right to win a WWE championship. This Season game plays very similar to WWF Wrestlemania 2000 for the Nintendo 64 and WWF Smackdown 2 Know Your Role for the Playstation One where several bouts play out on one event even if you or your friends are not directly involved (you can easily skip the computer controlled matches).

What sets Raw 2 apart from those old games is that you (or your friends) can cause some serious backstage trouble while the other matches are going on. You can do cool things like Manipulate (talk someone into attacking your enemy), Call Out (go to the ring and try to start a fight), Rest (regain your spirit), Interference (do a run in and cost someone the match), Complain (let someone know you dislike them even if they are your friend or tag partner), Surprise Attack (fight someone in the locker room), Encourage (form a alliance to watch your back), Steal (a great way to score some secret goodies), and Manager (see if someone will be your manager). These options really adds depth to a already addictive Season mode but remember that these features are usually hit or miss and sometimes the wrong moves can blow up in your face. Still, you have to do what ever it takes so you make it all the way down to Wrestlemania XIX and will you be in the main event by the time you get there?

Before you try out the Season game though I highly recommend go to the Exhibition mode first. In Exhibition you choose the players and then any speciality match from the get go and that includes your Normal, Hardcore, Battle Royal, Table, Ladder, Cage, the always dangerous Hell in the Cell (an enclosed cage), and many more. Exhibition is a great way to practice all these unique match types and you’ll be surprised just how difficult it can be do what appears to be something quite simple.

That brings me to Raw 2’s worse problem. I like a good Ladder match as much as the next guy but Raw 2’s Ladder fights have to be the most frustrating I ever played. For one, positioning a ladder under a belt in easier said then because if the ladder is off in the slightest, you just jump off. Good luck aiming an 9 foot steel ladder where ever you want with a loose Analog stick. Secondly, even if manage to set up the ladder correctly, to get the title you must hang from the belt and press the right combination of buttons to take it off. The game tells you to Tap any button while you’re hanging from the belt but if you press the wrong set of buttons then it could cause you to fall. The best way I found to get the belt is to rotate the Analog stick quickly and tap the X at the same time (but you don’t have to tell your friend that of course). The Cage matches also have there problems too but the Ladder fights are most annoying. Not even the instruction manual is much help because it won’t tell you all the important new commands changes during these speciality matches. WWE Wrestlemania XIX for the Game Cube even gives you a special menu that will tell you almost everything you need to know, what happened here? This is that it’s not a very easy game to learn especially with a huge 10 button plus controller in your hand but if you stick with it and master what you have to do in each match then it isn’t so bad.

Graphics and Sounds:
Raw 2 not only has lots of different modes to master but the game looks incredible. Wait till you see just how realistic Hollywood Hulk Hogan is portrayed in this game. If you’re a long time fan of the Hulkster like I am, you notice all of his trademarks like Hulk’s walk, air guitar motion, and play to the crowd when he makes his way to the ring! It’s so good you’ll swear it was real TV from the right angles. Although a lot of characters look like they are made from plastic, their animations are very life-like. Just compare the character models to the ones in WWE Wrestlemania XIX (Game Cube) and WWE Smackdown Shut Your Mouth (PS2), Raw 2 is the clear winner. As for sound, Raw 2 has almost everyone’s original entrance theme music still in the game. Chris Benoit has his ‘Whatever’ track by ‘Our Lady Peace’ and Ric Flair has his famous 2000 Space Odyssey theme too. Others like Matt Hardy, Stacy Keibler, Lance Storm, Mark Henry weren’t so lucky. Sadly, the game still doesn’t have any announcers calling the action and the wrestlers remand muted even if their lips are moving.

Perhaps the game’s biggest new lure is that you can swap your very own music CD's tracks into the Xbox hard drive so you can give any current or specially made created wrestlers their own unique entrance theme. Believe it or not but I already had about 30 tracks already on my Xbox from the WWE Anthology collection. I even gave guys like Billy and Chuck their old stupid boy band theme just for fun. I can’t wait to create legends like Bret ‘the Hitman’ Hart and the Honky Tonk Man and then give their original music as well. The swapping sound track is the Raw 2’s greatest selling edge no doubt about it because no matter how many more features the other wrestling games promise, you can’t only use your own custom sound tracks here. This was something that I always wanted to do in Aki’s WWF No Mercy for the N64 but I never thought in my dreams that it would be possible.

If you have the right music in your Xbox then why not made your favourite wrestler in the improved Create a Superstar mode. You can edit everything from limbs sizes, entrance lights, favourite weapons, and tons more all right here. The CAS is also a great way to edit current characters if something weird happens to them on television. If you want make Kane but without the mask just copy his appearance in an empty slot and then remove the mask, that easy. I was a little disappointed in the small list of clothes compared to other wrestling games plus I don’t like how the characters reset in design if you pick a certain shirt so there are some problems but it’s nothing serious. So who could you make here? There are still many big WWE names that didn’t make the cut in Raw 2 during the 2003 era like Ultimo Dragon, the World’s Greatest Tag Team, Zach Gowen, Rosey just to name a few. The game also lets you edit Tag Teams here too so your pre-picked characters can come out to the same music.

The Bottomline:
OK, the first WWF Raw was nothing too impressive but this new WWE Raw 2 is the kind of wrestling title that video game wrestling fans have been waiting for! The game has a very interesting multi-player Season mode, the roster is actually fairly up to date this time, the game’s Create a Superstar options are through the roof because not only can you finally put your downloaded music on the Xbox Hard Drive to good use but you can even edit the pyro as well. If that wasn’t enough Raw 2’s graphics are best around for any wrestling game. Raw 2 isn’t for everyone though. If you hate Professional Wrestling or you find yourself to be more of a casual gamer then Raw 2 is not for you because of the high learning curve. Everyone else should definitely try this awesome WWE game out because it’s one of the best wrestling games I played since WWF No Mercy on the N64. It's not quite as good but it's a step in the right direction.
overall rating: 84/100
Find this game on eBay here!

For 1 to 4 players
Rated (T) for Teen

graphics: 9/10
sound: 7/10
gameplay: 9/10
replay: 8/10

(Ryan Genno) 2005

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