With its outdated roster, overly complicated wrestling system, sluggish controls, decided lack of different match types, and various visual oddities, WWE Raw unfortunately does little to fill the wrestling void in PC gaming. WWE Raw includes a selection of wrestlers from long before the company formerly known as the WWF had to change its name, and as such, you won't see some of the more exciting wrestlers like Rob Van Dam, Booker T, The Hurricane, Brock Lesnar, or even Hulk Hogan here. Instead, you'll be treated to a large portion of WWE talent that hasn't seen a single TV broadcast in months. This also affects individual wrestler entrance themes since quite a few of these wrestlers no longer walk into the arena with the same music or pyrotechnic displays. But beyond the presentation and the character selection, the gameplay is where this game often falls flat.
There are a number of different match types to select from in WWE Raw, including one-on-one, tag team, tornado, triple threat, fatal four-way, battle royal, handicap, and king-of-the-ring tournament matches. Most of these are pretty standard, but some require a little explanation. The triple threat match pits three wrestlers against each other, but you only need to pin one other wrestler to win the match, which can be quite difficult to do since both computer-controlled and human-controlled players will continually knock you out of the pin. A fatal four-way match is somewhat similar except there are four wrestlers in the ring, and when one of the wrestlers is pinned, that wrestler has to leave the ring, but the match will continue until two more wrestlers have been pinned. The handicap match forces you to take on either two or three other wrestlers that will be teaming against you. You won't find some of the more interesting or varied match types in the game, such as ladder, hell in a cell, TLC (tables, ladders, and chairs), or even the good old steel cage match, which is unfortunate because all of the match types in WWE Raw essentially play the same exact way, which can quickly get boring. You can change the rules of some of these matches so that they're hard-core matches--you can use all sorts of weapons and pin your opponent outside the ring--but you can't bring the fight to the backstage area or any other place outside the center of the arena.
There's also a title match option where you can go after various WWE titles, such as the championship title or the intercontinental title, by defeating several wrestlers. Unfortunately, there aren't any story elements in this mode, and the opponents you face near the end of each championship run can be incredibly cheap.
The actual wrestling in the game is slow-paced, and it can be pretty difficult to execute even the most basic moves. Essentially, you have to constantly attack your opponent with a variety of moves until your portion of the momentum meter at the bottom of the screen starts flashing. When it does flash, this indicates that you can use your wrestler's finishing maneuver and then go for the pin. However, you can't use the same move repeatedly, because your momentum meter will start to drain, and it's not really possible to simply use a flurry of kicks and punches, because your wrestler's stamina will start to drain, leaving him open for attack. Using different moves is not easy either since the computer tends to escape from grapples quite often. It's also worth noting that the game has some quirks with regard to grappling. For example, when your opponents get tied up in the ropes, you can't grapple them at all, which is pretty ridiculous, considering that grappling is a major element of professional wrestling. However, you can perform a variety of moves when your opponent is up against the turnbuckle.
For the most part, WWE Raw looks as good as the original Xbox version. The wrestlers are detailed and retain all of their unique visual characteristics, such as tattoos and gestures like The Rock's "people's eyebrow." Most of the entrances are pretty well done and mimic what the wrestlers do on TV quite well. However the general walking animation looks very awkward, almost as though the wrestlers are walking on stilts. There's also an overdone motion blur effect that makes the game look a bit washed out when you're fighting in the ring. Even though some people hold up wrestler-specific signs, the crowd in general looks bad, and at some camera angles, it becomes quite apparent that the people are just a series of cardboard cutouts pasted together.
There really isn't all that much to the sound. Most of the entrance music is accurate for the time period in WWE history that this game represents, which is what you'd expect, but there's no commentary in the game. There are some generic tracks that play during the actual match, and they seem to fit in well with the theme of the game, but none of the tracks are particularly noteworthy.
Ultimately, WWE Raw is a pretty disappointing game. It lacks many of the features that its console counterparts have, the roster is missing many key WWE superstars, and the gameplay feels sluggish and unresponsive at times. In addition, once you go through the individual title matches, the only thing that will probably keep your interest is the create-a-wrestler feature that lets you create respectable versions of a few WWE wrestlers not included in the game. Still, there really isn't enough motivation to use these characters in the actual game. If you're incredibly desperate for a PC wrestling game, and you don't own any consoles, then you might want to give Raw a try, but otherwise, you should steer clear of it.