I've been a wrestling fan for as long as I can remember. I remember being a little kid, saying my prayers and taking my vitamins, just like Hulk Hogan said. A few years ago, THQ began developing WCW games for the Nintendo 64. THQ was praised for their wrestling games, but soon lost the WCW license to Electronic Arts. Not to be outdone, THQ picked up the WWF license and has been pumping out great wrestling games since. Their newest one is WWF RAW for the Microsoft Xbox.
WWF RAW's graphics are unparalleled by any wrestling game on the market, including the newest WWF SMACKDOWN for the Playstation 2, also developed by THQ. The developers paid special attention to every detail of the wrestlers, from nearly perfect introductions to the taunts they use in the ring. Yet, while the graphics look great, there are more than a few problems with the game.
My first problem is with the gameplay. THQ had a great game engine on the Nintendo 64, one which many believe shouldn't have been touched. The gameplay now feels more like SMACKDOWN than one of the N64 titles like WWF NO MERCY. The older game engine felt more like wrestling should be, while the newer SMACKDOWN-esque one feels like you're in a street fight within a ring. It really just doesn't feel like wrestling anymore.
My other complaint about this game is the matches themselves. They all seem to be unfair in some way. For example, I was playing with Stone Cold Steve Austin (who is the toughest wrestler on the game), and I was facing some lesser-known character. I proceed to beat this man with a chair repeatedly for two minutes, then pin him. He kicks out, gets up before I can get up (somehow I've become groggy in between beating him with a chair and pinning him), and beats me senseless. What is this? Also, the Spirit Meters have been done away with in favor of the Voltage Meter. Another move I don't really care for. What the Voltage Meter does is it shows how the fans react to you in the ring. If you do great moves in the ring, they like you and it allows you to do your special move. If you just punch and kick, they hate you, and no matter how badly you are beating your opponent, you can't really win.
The meter itself changes quite frequently. At one moment you'll be the fans練 favorite person in the world. Then, if your opponent gets one measly hit on you, it's like their allegiance shifts, and the opponent's voltage meter goes sky high. It just doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
It's too bad that the gameplay isn't that fun, or that I can't just rate this game according to the cool features included. As usual, create-a-wrestler allows you to build up the ultimate superstar and let him work his way through the federation, striving to become the world champion. The system is a little more detailed now, as you can completely design their entrance fireworks, music, lights, etc. Also fun is attacking your opponent on the way to the ring. It's not much, but it's something I like seeing included in wrestling games since it happens on the shows.
While WWF RAW isn't very fun, it is a step in the right direction and also a step in the wrong direction. It's a step in the right direction because THQ is beginning to aim more towards entrances and graphics. Changing the gameplay system is a step in the wrong direction though, and really takes away from what could have been the best wrestling game yet. I hope THQ can get it right when WRESTLEMANIA X8 is released for the GameCube.
ESBR Rating: T
Suggested Retail Price: $49.99
Fun Factor: C
Reviewer's Wild Card: C+