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WWF Raw (Genesis) artwork

WWF Raw (Genesis) review

"The wrestling genre, as portrayed on home consoles, always lacked depth at this point. Games featured few characters, few modes, and few moves. They offered little satisfaction other than beating your friend by mashing and maiming your controller quicker than they did. "

The wrestling genre, as portrayed on home consoles, always lacked depth at this point. Games featured few characters, few modes, and few moves. They offered little satisfaction other than beating your friend by mashing and maiming your controller quicker than they did.

Arcade machines offered a pleasant contrast, however. Released at the turn of the 1990's, games such as Superstars toyed with individual wrestler move-sets, and various strengths and weaknesses. Gargantuans such as André the Giant could obliterate you with just a few attacks, but would be unable to perform a top rope move, and would be generally slower than everyone else. Hulk Hogan would have unmatched stamina, and you would have to pull out all the stops to dethrone him, then he would 'Hulk Up' and regain all the energy you sapped from him anyway! These features added so much more depth to a wrestling game, and made it more a cerebral affair rather than simply hitting the buttons (though of course, this, rightly, wasn't vanquished wholesale, being an arcade game 'n' all).

You would have expected this to have been instantly translated in console form, but it took a number of years to happen. Royal Rumble introduced the eponymous match type, but didn't give much that was new or noteworthy. And on the other side of the promotion war, the less said about WCW games, the better. The landscape for the genre was bleak.

WWF RAW offers the opportunity to play a variety of match types as twelve Federation stars of the era. It's a decent lineup too - with colourful characters such as Doink the Clown, Shawn Michaels and Owen Hart. Though not strictly labelled on the Mega Drive version, the superstar select screen offers a run-down of each character's stats. Speed, stamina, and weight are among the ratings for the wrestlers - each of which is ranked 1 to 10. This influences the game experience. It works relatively well too - you'll be able to bounce around the ring with great speed if you take control of the 1-2-3 Kid, unlike Yokozuna; though his hard-hitting offence can easily take you out of the game, and he even sits on you when going for the pinfall.

But, essentially, the gameplay is exactly the same as Royal Rumble. Superstars lock up, and moves are performed by powering up the tie-up meter, whose sensitivity is dictated by the pre-selected difficulty setting. There are a handful of new moves from the previous release, including DDT's, Chokeslams, and Inverted Piledrivers; however these, bizarrely, seem to have ushered out the more standard moves of the last game - meaning that a given match will be unlikely to show the bare bones of a regular wrestling match.

A somewhat out of place addition within the player's move sets is the inclusion of a few 'arcade' style moves which wouldn't have been alien in the woeful In Your House. Shawn Michaels can perform a 'Super Dropkick' which sees him spin in the air for a number of seconds, before catching the opponent and knocking him out of the ring, from any vantage point. Lex Luger has a similar attack involving a punch, Luna Vachon performs a bizarre spinning ground attack, and Razor Ramon somersaults in the air for an inhuman amount of time before crashing down on the opponent. This is a strange turn in the gameplay, which gives it more of a comedy value than realistic grappling, not how the rest of the game is conveyed at all. You almost get the feeling that the developers realised it was lacking a justfied improvement in terms of play, and tried to puff some air into it by introducing this, but it doesn't pay off one iota. If anything, it's deeply frustrating when you get hit with Michaels' dropkick or Luger's punch in the Royal Rumble and are automatically eliminated.

It should be noted as a positive, however, that move sets do appear to be specialised; you won't see Shawn Michaels pulling off a Chokeslam, for example. Each character is also packed with their own special move, listed in the select screen. Some of these are a lot easier to execute than others, dependant on the situation required for both attacker and victim, and appear to have an unfair skew of damage - sure, the introduction of a submission element was clever, but with no reversals, guaranteeing Bret Hart a win each time he locks in the Sharpshooter is a bit much.

In terms of fixing the problems with Royal Rumble, there are noticeable improvements in the game's frame rate (though the wrestlers appear to be of a lower resolution). The presentation also appears to have been addressed with a bit more care - it feels quite authentic and links in well with the RAW television show at the time. There's even a revamped 'Coming Up!' segment before each match, showing Vince McMahon and Jerry 'The King' Lawler in front of their announcers' table, leading you into the forthcoming clash. The RAW theme tune is included, along with a decent reproduction of its opening titles, as is the entrance music for each character in the game.

There's also a welcome helping of match types and game modes. Retaining the decent Royal Rumble match system (which now allows you to view the order of wrestler entry before the match-up begins), there's also the introduction of Survivor Series bouts, and the original 'Raw Endurance' match - which works in a similar way; you can select a team of up to six to take on up to six others. While a forerunner to the near-the-knuckle late 90's 'Atittude Era' WWF, there are weapons in the game, including a bucket, chair and ring bell to batter your hapless adversary with. Each match is overlooked by an indistinct referee, who takes bumps from wrestlers. It's a little strange that in almost every match, the CPU player will attempt to take out the official whenever possible. When he's knocked out, the only advantages are that there's no count-out, or indeed, no-one to count the pinfall, which could prove to be a helpful diversion. He'll only take so much, however, before he throws his hands up and storms out of the ring. After this, it's the first superstar to completely drain their enemy's energy meter to be crowned victor (which is the same as the 'Brawl' match type).

Of course, there's also your usual tag match available, though Triple Tag Team has been scrapped, but an interesting variant in its place listed as 'Bedlam'. It essentially works as a Tornado version of the Raw Endurance Match, but the fact that both members of the team are in the ring at the same time (when one is eliminated, they leave and a replacement enters until one team is completely dispatched) makes the match feel quite fresh and new, as it's possible to have a handicap match here of up to one-on-six. A major gaping hole from the Mega Drive games is the Steel Cage match, a staple of big WWF matches at this time. The Mega CD Rage in the Cage mode didn't do the bout justice, and even the Master System offered it, so it would have been nice for the Mega Drive to have a punt at delivering a credible recreation of the match. The Ladder match premiered in the WWF in 1992, and there was a memorable ladder bout between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon at the WrestleMania prior to this game's release. Its inception would have really made this game feel even more progressive and up-to-date, allowing fans to recreate what is seen as one of the most exciting match types at any event.

Aside from this, there's also a Tournament mode, which is basically a series of one-on-one matches against every superstar on the roster. I would have liked to have seen a bit more depth to this feature - after all, even Superstars on the Game Boy, released four years earlier, had inbetween cutscenes in which its characters spouted realistic smack talk. With the diverse roster selection here, this feature, if excuted with a bit more dedication, could have made this game much more memorable. The firework display you are rewarded with at the end doesn't really justify eleven matches, especially if you're playing on the higher difficulty levels, but that's not really a departure from the norm for games of this time. Other versions allow you to play against Kwang in a final surprise match of the tournament, but he's not available as a playable character even if you beat him.

In terms of stepping up from Royal Rumble, the improvement is there, if only slight. Yet the gameplay will still start to grate after five minutes in the same match, and once you've cracked the special moves, almost every bout will begin to feel tedious and one-dimensional. It's understandable that they retained the same system, as it is servicable, and, of course, that meant that anyone who played Royal Rumble can jump in and get stuck in right away - but subtle changes were needed to make it good. Still, we can take solace in the fact that they didn't resort to the Acclaim methods of 10-button combinations to perform simple moves.

The inclusion of Luna Vachon as the sole female on the roster boggles the mind. Sure, the World Wrestling Federation of 1994 was all about the cutting edge, 'new' generation, and the business was slowly mutating into the hard-hitting and hardcore product it became in the late 90's, but still you would never have seen a match which pitted Luna against The Undertaker, nor most of the other superstars in the game. It would have surely made a bit more sense if she had been given the company of another female competitor, such as Alundra Blayze or Sensational Sherri, or, failing that, replaced her for another male superstar. Randy Savage and Crush are notable exceptions from this version of RAW (though they both appeared in the extremely limited Gameboy version), and they appeared in the previous game, so, given the similar engine, they could have easily been transferred. Sound is satisfactory, and is of a distinctly better quality than in Rumble. But if you're looking for a drastic improvement in playability and authenticity of classic World Wrestling Federation programming, which the late 80's/early 90's arcade game machines pulled off with such charm and attention to detail, you won't find it here.

That said, this sadly is probably the most immersive and realistic WWF game you will find on the Mega Drive console, as, aside from WrestleMania: The Arcade Game a year after it, which was anything but immersive and realistic, that was it for the console and wrestling.


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Community review by Louisutton (August 09, 2010)

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JANUS2 posted August 09, 2010:

This is a good review.
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hmd posted August 09, 2010:

You forgot to mention the promotional videos!
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honestgamer posted August 09, 2010:

I agree. It was quite long, but I read through the whole thing and found myself interested by the points you made along the way. Given my general dislike for wrestling and for the games (I've only played a few of them, admittedly, and most of those were the Acclaim ones that you mentioned), the fact that I enjoyed what I read is telling. I hope that we see more retro reviews from you. It's clear that you have a keen eye for the talking points and your critical analysis was solid.
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Louisutton posted August 09, 2010:

Never seen those before, hmd! Maybe thats why I never knew how to execute half of the superstars' finishers.

Thank you for the kind words re my first review! :)

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