I was first in the box at my local store to pick up my copy of Raw 2: Ruthless Aggression. I was going to open it play it all day then write a review, then I had a problem…. I couldn’t stop playing it! Now I’m finally taking a break 5 days later to write the review of Raw 2. This has been a great week, and wrestling fans rejoice that Raw 2 isn't another Raw 1.

The Game
The first thing that has to be noted is that this game is a step up, well more than a step, I would say a leap from the first Raw. Raw was but a taste of a great concept that need more development time. I can only imagine what Raw 2 would have been like the first Raw was this game here. For that answer I hope that THQ plans on staying with Anchor and releasing #3 in the series.

The first thing I was excited about in Raw 2 is that the roster is huge, boasting 64 wrestlers which is the highest count in a WWE wrestling game thus far. They managed to get almost all of the current superstars for the release and for the ones missing you can easily create them in the ‘create-a-superstar mode’. The CAS or CAW (create a wrestler) mode is the second part of Raw 2 I was most pumped about and It delivered beautifully.

The ‘create-a-superstar’ mode isn’t the deepest character builder in a wrestling game, but it has enough to keep you interested for a long time. Every aspect of the characters can be customized, fiddled with and perfected. The interface is well done and the addition of a symmetry option is creating for balancing the CAS look. I said the character builder isn’t the deepest, but the intro development is definitely the deepest to date. The possibilities and combinations of the introductions are mind-boggling. You can customize everything in the whole arena right down to making your own superstar appear in action on the titiantron. How cool is that? Plus with the Xbox’s hard drive you can play any music you want. This function is great for updating the roster, and creating superstars that aren’t in the game. The time spent building wrestlers is sometimes greater then the amount of actual game playing you get done, depending on your creativity. Music is the final touch to making a great CAS. I’m sure sales of the WWE Anthology have gone up since its release.

After you have done fiddling with the wrestlers and their intros there is a wrestling game. Raw2 breaks down into a bunch of different match modes including the standard WWE wrestling game modes (royal rumble, cage, hardcore, TLC and more) The best addition to the matches is the ‘Hell In The Cell’. The full sized hell just looks awesome. It really gives you a size of scale which hasn’t been touched in a wrestling game before. When you break through the cells cage wall, you can climb to the top and battle on the cage roof. Of course on the roof you will be able to slam through the cage hitting the mat to create a massive fall, or you can do the ever so popular Mick Foley bump and get thrown off the side of the game onto the announce table. Impressive! Raw 2’s Hell in the Cell is the best of all wrestling games! What!

Now to the drama. No wrestling game is complete without the soap opera aspect of wrestling. Drama makes wrestling almost as much as wrestling which brings me to ‘Season Mode’. Raw2 has done something new with the presentation of season mode then wrestling fans are used too and that is given totally control of your backstage actions. That’s right no pre-scripted path to follow! In the season mode you shown a list of matches that is going to go down either on smackdown, raw or the PPV. Before each match you can perform an action you want to do or you can do nothing. The key is strategy and placement because you have to make you choices before the show starts. The actions cover a wide range of possibilities some of them include, stealing items from wrestlers, encouraging your friends, complaining to wrestlers, set traps to lower opponents health, calling out wrestlers for matches and so on. All these actions are in the form of short cut-scenes, a little low tech but it works. Overall it’s nice to have a little element of a role-playing system built into a wrestling game.

That is all the sugar on the game, and there is actually wrestling underneath. The mechanics of Raw2 are based at a medium pace to try and mirror the feel and look of a real wrestling match. The grappling system is impressive in Raw2 letting you execute light or heavy grappling moves on your opponent from either the front or back while standing or from the head or feet on the ground. There are also a punch moves, counters, ring apron attacks, top rope, middle rope, chair, table, ladder attacks) whew... yea its safe to say there a good number of moves to pull of in the game. The have kept the voltage meter from the first Raw which has been tweaked and plays off nice. Wrestlers finishers can be performed at anytime, but the weaker you opponent is the more damage it will do. Even though traditional you have a set amount that you can build up... this option gives more freedom to the gameplay. The controls feel good with the Xbox controller and I felt they did a great job balancing everything to play very smooth.

I hope Raw2 has impressed you so far in this review. I’m long winded today and hope you’re still with me. Of course there is always a good and a bad to any game, and Raw2 certainly has a bad side. Which I’m going to get into now. The madness of Raw2. Keep in mind that the games positive aspects really out weight the negative.

The A.I., Artificial Intelligence. I know you know what it means but its obvious Anchor was asleep for the beta testing of this game. I know I saw beta-testers on the credits, so they have no excuse for the simple mistakes that are all over this game. First thing and the most negative point about Raw2 is the AI of the opponent in Tag matches and interfering in matches. In a tag match when you pin your opponent your partner will come and break up your pinfall, therefore causing you never to win the match via pin fall. You just have to hope they miss when they attack you. Then when your enemies come to interfere in your match and beat you down, they turn and attack your opponent giving you the upper hand. Its unreal how that one slipped by. Other minor problems in the scripting between characters arise in story mode, but nothing as horrid as the tag match of doom. At first you laugh, then u cry.

Overall the gameplay is great, the speed is perfect, controls are good, and there are plenty of moves. Great options, excellent story mode, excellent create-a-wrestler and finally the custom soundtrack feature enabled. The only disappointment is the missing aspect of Xbox Live and the weird AI glitches in the ring and in story mode. The good gets the 1-2-3 on the bad.

Graphics & Sound
The graphics in Raw2 are excellent. The wrestlers’ models for the most part are nearly identical to the real life counterpart. They did a great job of capturing a lot of little nuances in the each wrestler’s character personality as well as looks and outfits. The animations are fluid and a sometimes perfect capturing moves, and posses as well as intro shenanigans. The arenas are amazing as well, the best in a wrestling game. This is largely to do with the scale of Raw2. The graphic department doesn’t hold out and hit a perfect score though... there are just too many clipping issues to keep it from being perfect. The clipping of a leg through a mat, or a wrestler sitting on mid air really doesn’t affect the gameplay it however it ruins the imitation of the real thing, and cosmetically is negative.

* Note: for all those wondering... HHH face from Raw has been fixed! Hallelujah

I already mentioned the custom soundtrack, score points for the sound. You wouldn't’t believe the impact this feature makes on a wrestling game. It turns night into day. The sound other than that for the most part is good. The extra effects like bones cracking and mat hits are done well. Most of the wrestlers music their licensed themes, minus a few. This is a major accomplishment that wrestling games seem to have a hard time completing. The generic in ring music is a little stale, but other than that the sound is good.

Raw2 scores high marks in this department, and it’s not for its AI blemishes. The biggest innovation comes in the way they presented the story mode. The first innovation in story mode is that it is multi-player giving the chance for four players to experience the season mode together. This is way too much fun with a bunch of people and is a great way of enjoying more than just the exhibition matches with friends. Developing the game to be open ended, and putting in role-playing aspects was a genius move. Giving wrestlers social skills as well as in ring skills brings gaming one step closer to the real thing. Raw2 involves as much wrestling as it does relationship and statistic building. Raw2 has a high replay value gives a lot of entertainment and variations to keep things fresh.

Other innovation high points would be the ‘create a wrestler’ intro, the inclusion of the weapon grapples, run of chair moves (a first) and the variety in grapples on the mat or even off a ladder. The addition of a second appearance on the wrestlers and CAWS is wild; it has been on my wish list for some time now, as well as the ability to edit the pre-made wrestlers is priceless. This mode needs to be in ever wrestling game from now on, with the ability to edit the superstars allows you to keep the game up to date with gimmick changes and style changes that are happening in real life. You can almost make a duplication of the real life roster at any time. Anchor deserves mad props for adding this in, now I have another notch off my wish list.

**ALERT** I Am A Wrestling Fan. As if you couldn't tell! Now I have said it in public 'breath deep'... I am not afraid; I walk through the valley of death with my head held high. This review is tilted for the Mojo. I won’t even bother explaining the joy these modes brings to wrestling videogame world. Raw2 has done a wonderful thing opening up new ideas to be exploited and expanded on in the future. This game is the Mojo of wrestling games, not perfected but gaspingly cool. If you’re not a wrestling fan... all the complaints of a wrestling fan will seem silly to you. It’s not even worth understanding, trust me. Raw 2 has the mojo.

Raw2 gives us a lot compared to last years showing. They have improved every aspect of the game, and more. The story mode in Raw2 is innovate and fresh. The gameplay is quicker and deeper. The ‘create a wrestler’ is huge and impressive. The reply value is untouchable and the roster is a dream. Every wrestling fan needs to give Raw2 a chance. Raw2 is not flawless and maybe a month under the microscope and Anchor could have fixed all the minor and down right stupid mistakes that where left in. Besides the glitches, Raw2 holds it own and deserves to be ranked as one of the greatest wrestling games of the next generation of videogames.

Gameplay:8, Graphics/Sound:8, Innovation:9, Mojo:10. Final: 9
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | Sept. 22nd 2003

  • Updated roster featuring even more World Wrestling Superstars including, Hollywood Hulk Hogan, Rob Van Dam, DDP, Ric Flair, the nWo and many more!
  • Multiple match types including Triple Threat, Fatal 4 Way, Battle Royal, King of the Ring and Tables, Ladders and Chairs
    * Compete in a multiplayer season mode with up to four players controlling their Superstar and vying for the World Wrestling Championship!
  • Enhanced gameplay and control scheme
  • Exclusive to the Xbox, rip your favorite music tracks to the hard drive to create the ultimate Superstar entrance!
  • Updated Create-a-Superstar mode
  • Compete in a variety of backstage areas
  • TV style presentation with fully scaled arenas, dynamic lighting and 3D crowds

Ruthless Aggression

Alt. Sports
Sept. 2003