Wrestling is fast becoming one of the most watched sports on television thanks to the extravagant events that the WWE put on and it was only a matter of time until the games started to show up. Raw 2 is the second WWE game on the Xbox, the follow up to the lacklustre WWE RAW released last year. Has Raw 2 changed the series fortunes? Yes and No.
The basic premise of Raw 2 is to emulate the entire WWE universe on your TV screen. Various game modes are featured including exhibition, season, Royal Rumble, King of the Ring and Tournament. These are then broken down further into categories. Exhibition/Quick start allows you to choose one or two superstars and get in the ring for a one-off fight, season tasks you with completing all the shows in a season including RAW, Smackdown, Summer Slam, No Mercy, Wrestlemania and more. Royal Rumble, as the name implies, puts you up against up to 64 other wrestlers for the title and King of the Ring and Tournament are set in a knockout style competition.
However there are different categories for each fight; normal, streetfight, TLC, Cage, table, ladder and more. Normal is the most basic with pinning the opposition fighter the only requirement. Streetfight is the same except weapons can be used and they can be pinned either inside or outside the ring. TLC (Tables, Ladders, Chairs) allows players to belt each other with tables and chairs but the ladder is used to climb up to grab the title belt and cage tasks you to get out of a ten foot cage for victory. During the season the match types are determined for you, but in exhibition you can choose what you like.
During the season mode you will have various tasks to perform. Obviously the more popular you are with the public, the better it is likely you will fight. To gain popularity (or lose it), various off arena tasks can be performed. You can encourage other wrestlers before their fight, go in and belt an enemy whilst they are preparing, hire a manager to help you in 2v2 manager fights and various other tasks. This does become repetitive after a while, especially when most of the time these tasks will "fail" and you will lose popularity.
The biggest problem with Raw 2 is the voltage meter. This meter is used to show you how pumped up the superstars in the fight are. Once a superstar is showing blue voltage, they can perform their finishing move, its just a shame that this is a rarity. The voltage meter is meant to show you when the best time to pin the opponent is which it does, but not very well. Numerous times during matches I had been belting an AI character, only to have them pin me within the next few minutes.
Over sixty superstars have been included in Raw 2. Names such as Triple H, Goldberg, Trish Stratus, Hulk Hogan etc and they all have their accurate entrance performances and animations. Each of the models look superb and true to life but some of the entrances can drag on and on but they can be skipped. The other problem with Raw 2 surfaces here. The female and male fights are vastly different. Male fights are quick paced with some serious hits almost all the time. Whilst female fights are a lot more slow moving in terms of animation and special moves.
If you don't feel like using one of the real life superstars, you can create your own. Anchor have included a fairly substantial create-a-superstar mode where you can edit their gender, looks, attributes, clothing, costumes, entrances and more. Obviously taking a new superstar into the season mode will be a challenge due to the fact they will have no support or popularity. This is where the off arena tasks come to the fore, build up allies and create enemies to get the public liking the new character.
As mentioned before Raw 2 includes all the shows such as Raw, Smackdown and No Mercy. For each of these shows, the arena changes to specific graphics for the relevant event. The crowd featured in the environments are actually 3D and hold signs such as "I'm single" when the female fights are on. However except for a few graphical changes, and a different entrance ramp, the arenas remain the same from show to show. The recent Australian events are not included in Raw 2.
Visually Raw 2 can impress and disappoint. I expected more from an Xbox game, but that's not to say the graphics are a complete failure. The animations of the characters are realistic, and the level of detail featured in the models is almost second to none. The presentation is fantastic with television style introductions and replays after a special move. Sound wise, some of the sound effects for hits and grunts are a bit lacklustre but for most of the game the sound is ok.
Multiplayer is offered only on the same console but can be played in all the game modes. For instance up to four players can take a wrestler through the season mode. However for this, four controllers are required. Unfortunately it is impossible to share a controller, primarily because in the season mode it is likely the selected fighters will meet up at least once. No Xbox Live play or downloadable content this time around, perhaps in next years game.
So what's the verdict? If you have an Xbox and are a WWE fan then pick this up, you will enjoy it. However if you have an Xbox and a PS2, then it may be worth waiting for Smackdown: Here comes the Pain due out soon and it does look like it offers more. WWE fans will love this game, others won't If you have no interest in the subject matter then steer clear but otherwise at the current time there is no better wrestling game.