System: X-Box
Publisher: THQ 
Developer: Anchor
Released: September 2003
Genre: Pro-Wrestling
Memory Unit, Custom Soundtracks

Review Written: October 14, 2003

Last year’s RAW that debuted on the Xbox did not leave that many great initial impressions. Its sluggish gameplay, and complete lack of game modes were the chief complaints out of the original RAW, and even the best looking character models to ever grace a WWE game couldn’t help cover up the bugs. While this year’s RAW 2 has addressed a majority of the gripes with the original, there are still a few issues that prevent it from not becoming the groundbreaking wrestling title it could have been.

The first thing most wrestling fans want known about the newest WWE game is the roster, so I’ll give a brief rundown of it now. There are quite a bit of wrestlers in this year’s game, with the total amount of selectable grapplers wounding up to be 64. By simply taking a look at the cover of RAW 2 you can already tell that two of the biggest new names to join the WWE roster are in the game, they are Goldberg and Scott Steiner. All the other big names are here like Triple H, Undertaker, Kane (still with mask), and Kurt Angle. There are even a couple big names here that haven’t been seen on WWE television for a while such as Hulk Hogan and Edge. There are a bit more extra wrestlers in here that are not be found in the GameCube version of Wrestlemania XIX, some of the gained extras here are Chuck Palumbo, Shannon Moore, A-Train, Billy Gunn, and Jamie Knoble to name a few. There are a surprising amount of women wrestlers to be found with a total of 11, the most to grace any WWE game since No Mercy in 2000.

Upon entering a match-up, one will quickly notice that the main problems with the original gameplay system are no more. Those troublesome stamina gauges are now gone so wrestlers don’t look like they’re ready to collapse about a few minutes into a match from a pin kick-out anymore. That very annoying fan meter (which was incredibly hard to get in your favor in order to perform your finishing moves last year) is replaced with a much more user-friendly voltage meter. The voltage meter is like a beeping lifeline you see in a hospital. It is merely a straight line at the beginning of the match, and it goes up and squiggles more vigorously as you perform more consecutive moves. The only problem about this new voltage meter is that finishing moves can practically be pulled off anytime in a match because the meter is rather easy to get into the special state.

Another complaint I had with last year’s game was that grapples were broken up for no reason whatsoever half the time, and made it seem impossible to pull off any grapple moves at all. That big qualm is now fixed as moves can be pulled off at a much more convincing rate. Moves that I found trickier to pull off in WMXIX such as running baseball slides, and top rope planchas to the outside of the ring are much easier to pull off in here. A new blocking system has also been implemented into gameplay, it works almost exactly like the new one introduced into WMXIX where you have to time the press of the B button at the precise moment in order to dodge a strike or reverse a grapple move. This is a well designed blocking system, and works out a lot better than the scheme used in its predecessor.

There are also a couple of new positions from which moves can be performed in RAW 2. Just like in WMXIX, whenever a fallen wrestler is grabbed by the legs or head, there is the options of doing a submission move like a headlock or Boston Crab or a striking move such as the ever-popular low blow. Also, after some striking moves, a wrestler may end up falling back and lying prone against the ropes. This enables a whole new world of moves to perform by grappling the wrestler on the ropes such as Rey Mysterio’s popular “619” signature move, among others.

Most of the annoying factors that were removed from the first RAW and the many added mechanics that I described above do help boast the overall gameplay quite a bit, but there are still a couple of big problems that don’t go unnoticed. The first big gripe is the fact that wrestlers don’t auto-focus on players that attack them in matches involving more than two grapplers. Instead you have to manually press the R trigger in order to focus on other contestants. This also makes matters much worse in matches with up to four or six wrestlers at once where you’ll be getting the whooping of a lifetime while attempting to focus on the right opponent. The other qualm that remains here is the extremely questionable computer AI. They’ll do stuff that’ll make Harry & Loyd from Dumb & Dumber look like Harvard graduates. This ranges from them continually trying to pin a foe after numerous kick-outs to climbing out of a cage in the very beginning of the match. I once saw Crash Holly try to pin me nine times in a row before I finally was able to get back on my feet.

I don’t blame Anchor for trying to forget about their weak, lacking, single player ‘championship’ mode from the first RAW. This is because they have added a much more fan-demanded Season mode. It plays out similar to the Season mode in PS2’s Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth, where you go through a year of programming, with everything ending at the biggest PPV of the year, Wrestlemania. The whole goal of it is to raise your popularity rating by successively winning matches and other backstage antics. Higher popularity ratings mean bigger title shots and higher card placement.

The Season mode consists of a RAW, Smackdown, and PPV card to play out each month. Each show has a card of matches. There is a surprisingly robust amount of things you can do while each match is going on. Besides choosing to interfere in the proceeding matches, you can also choose to go and encourage other fellow wrestlers, thus increasing your relationship with them. There are plenty of other options to choose from as well like setting up traps for rivals, or going out to the ring to call him out or even jumping them in a surprise attack backstage. Beware though; some results can backfire on you where a trap may affect a friendlier wrestler instead of hitting the person you were targeting or someone may jump you in your locker room while deciding to rest up for a match there. This plays out pretty well except for the fact there is no actual text subtitles or voice acting for any of the backstage antics. It makes matters quite weird because you’ll see the character’s lips moving and talking, but have no idea at what they are saying. Only a screen after the segment indicates if you were successful or not in your desired action. Also the lack of any actual storylines hurts the Season mode a little bit.

I’m sure everybody at Anchor heard all the criticism they got about there being none of the popular gimmick matches in the first game because they made sure to give us all the goods here. Table, Cage, Ladder, Hell in a Cell, TLC, Royal Rumble, and Battle Royal matches are all available to do aside from your standard single, tag team, triple threat, and fatal four way options. Then there is the King of the Ring tournament that places you in an eight man tournament to determine the best of the best.

RAW 2 features the best character models than any of the other wrestling games on the market. Each wrestler sports an amazing amount of detail, as they replicate their real life counterparts down to the tiniest aspects. The newest looks of the wrestlers are represented in here as you’ll notice the Rock’s new tattoo that covers his shoulder, and Kurt Angle’s newfound baldness. The presentation is also high and above the competition. The wrestler entrances look astonishing, all the wresters come out to the ring exactly as they do on television and come out to their respective pyros and titantron movies too. Surprisingly, the “Mattitude Browser” for Matt Hardy isn’t in here, but is in WM19. The instant replays are a thing of wonder because they actually get a double feature as they are on television while you still get to control the action in another window. The best part about the presentation is the loading screens for matches that feature the character models of the wrestlers doing their trademark poses exactly like in the real telecasts. Hands down, this captures the authenticity of a WWE televised event better than any other WWE game before it.

The only thing that bogs down the graphics area is the unbelievably high amount of clipping. Granted, I’ve always seen bits of clipping here and there in all past wrestling titles as its practically impossible to avoid it in a genre that relies so heavily on body physics, but RAW 2 takes clipping to a whole new level. I was flabbergasted as I saw wrestler’s body parts going right through the arena barricade, and sifting through objects like steel steps and ladders. The funny thing is, I don’t even recall this amount of clipping in the first RAW, so I just got to say what the hell happened in the process of making the sequel.

Aurally, if you played RAW 2’s predecessor then you should know what to expect here. RAW and Smackdown themes are played while browsing through menus, and more of those crazy rock beats are back for background music in the matches. The sound effects are right on the money with all the slams, strikes, and submission effects sounding like they did in the original game. The amount of accuracy for the entrance themes is the same as in WM19. While wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Triple H, and Edge come out to licensed music, some of them like Randy Orton, Matt Hardy, Victoria, and Stacy Kiebler have an instrumental version of their theme instead. Others such as Rob Van Dam, the Dudleyz, and the Guererro’s come out to their older themes. There is a way to update them, and that is the new ability to use your burned soundtracks to set what themes the wrestlers or even your own created brawler can enter the ring to. I have to give major props to Anchor for finally adding this feature as I can finally live out my dream of my created wrestler coming out to Everclear’s “El Distorto de Melodica.”

Speaking of the Create-a-Wrestler, my how improved did it get for this year. There are a lot more facial and costume designs to choose from than in last year’s game. You still can’t add text to the costumes like you can in Shut Your Mouth, but give it enough time and you can create believable creations of anybody you want. The CaW also sports an in-depth entrance editor just like in WMXIX, where you can tinker with all the lighting, and set the time for the pyros to erupt in the entrance. Even better is you can create your own entrance movie and write a few lines of text that goes on there. After carefully picking my entire move-set, and everything else down to the wire, I spent a good three hours making my ultimate creation, dubbed “Big D,” and don’t be surprised if you spend just as much time in there as me. Couple that with all the time you’ll spend in Season mode and the other wealthy amount of gameplay modes that the game brings to the plate and you’ll find that RAW 2 will have quite a bit of longevity.


Graphics: 8.4
Sound: 8.8
Gameplay: 7.8
Replay Value: 8.5

Overall: 8.3

WWE RAW 2 is quite a hefty improvement over the original. It fixed many of the main problems with the first game, and added in a slew of other enhancements as well. While there are still a couple of other big drawbacks that affect the overall package, this is still a solid game all around and is on the same level of WMXIX. So if you heard about the pile of crud the original was, and was holding out for the sequel to fix everything, than feel free as I can assure you that you definitely made the right choice.

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