WWE Day of Reckoning 2 Review

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Graphics: 9.0
Sound : 7.5
Gameplay : 8.5
Multiplayer : 8.5
Overall : 8.2
Review by John K.
Just slightly over a year ago, THQ published Yuke’s Day of Reckoning, a wrestling game exclusive to the Nintendo GameCube. Day of Reckoning proved to be an admirably worthy competitor in the wrestling arena with its up to date graphics and gameplay physics. This year THQ publishes the sequel to DoR, which hopefully will arrive as an even better wrestling game through addressing issues that players experienced with its predecessor.

The main story in Day of Reckoning 2 is a direct continuation from that of the first game. Although the story does continue, Yuke has decided to leave the importing of the previous DoR created wrestlers absent, thus starting over with a new character. In DoR 2 the World Heavyweight title has become vacant after a match which ended in a draw. After placing yourself in the main event to wrestle for the title against Triple H, the match is cancelled just before it begins—because the belt has gone missing. The storyline centers on the missing title, and directly involves finding those responsible for taking it. Players can expect a richer narrative this time around thanks to a story where you have more specific options on choosing direction, which in turn makes for a less linear pathway.

The first changes in presentation are noticed right from the main menu; the normal menu background has been replaced by a 3D ‘THQ Arena’ building. The whole menu is based around this stadium and players are taken into various parts of the building when navigating through the menu screens. This seems like a good option and certainly makes the menu pages more entertaining, but the down side is that the game has unnecessarily long loading times.

Like the previous Day of Reckoning, all the representative wrestling arenas seen in RAW, SmackDown, Heat, and Velocity are available, such as Backlash, Summerslam, Judgement Day, Unforgiven, and No Way Out. All the arenas are initially locked—except those in RAW and SmackDown—until they’ve been played through during the central story mode.

The roster in Day of Reckoning 2 has been updated and there are now 45 wrestlers available—once they’ve all been unlocked. The original DoR had only 40 wrestlers available, so the extra five is a plus point, especially if you keep in mind that all the wrestlers in the sequel look better graphically. Among the new additions are Muhammed Hassan, Chris Masters, and Eugene. The Legends have also been revised to include such greats as The Immortal Hulk Hogan, The Rock, and Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Upon comparing DoR 2 to other THQ wrestling games like RAW vs. Smackdown 2006, the noticeably different roster size is mainly because of the difference in applicable media. Sony’s PlayStation 2 uses DVDs, which range from 4.3GB up to 8.5GB in size, whereas Nintendo’s GameCube uses MiniDVDs that offer only 1.4GB in space. Keeping this in mind, it is quite an accomplishment for Yuke to have included 45 wrestlers in Day of Reckoning 2, not to mention the additional ability to create wrestlers of your own.

Day of Reckoning 2 features the WWE’s most popular match types such as Hardcore, Table, Ladder, TLC, Steel Cage, Hell in a Cell, Bra and Panties, and Last Man Standing. These can be played in Singles matches, Tag Team, Triple Threat, Fatal Four Way, Handicap, and Royal Rumble. Adding up all the different game types and players involved, DoR 2 certainly offers a great deal of diversity through its matches.

The story mode in DoR 2 arrives as perhaps the game’s best and worst feature. The story itself is well written and there are enough plot twists to keep players continually excited—yet the lack of voiceovers is quite disappointing. However, the restrictive space on Nintendo’s discs makes it all but impossible to include voiceovers without perhaps instigating the removal of other integral features.

As with the previous game, players gather money and experience from winning bouts. Experience points can be used to upgrade a wrestler’s abilities and the new addition: skills. Money can be spent in the game’s virtual WWE.com shop to buy such things as weapons, moves, and arenas.

Controlling the wrestlers hasn’t changed much from the first game. The ‘A’ button lets players perform light or heavy grapples, while the ‘B’ button is used to execute light and heavy strikes. Running is activated with ‘Y’, and the ‘X’ button is used to pick up weapons and enemies. Countering moves such as grapples and strikes is achieved with the ‘L’ and ‘R’ shoulder buttons.

New control and gameplay additions include the submission system and the stamina system. The new submission system changes the need of merely mashing the ‘A’ button to escape a submission hold by offering a chance to evade the hold almost immediately after its application. Once a player applies a submission move, he or she—and the player actually in the hold—have to press the ‘C’ stick in a particular direction. The directions represent submission, taunt, drain, and rest. The taunt option is used for building a special meter to receive the opportunity to use a finishing move. Drain and rest are used to affect the opponent’s or your own stamina meter, and the submission option is the standard option where the player just tries to get his or her opponent to submit. Once the submission move starts, both players have to make a choice of which move will be applied. If both players pick the same move then the victim instantly gets out of the submission hold, giving him a fair chance of countering the submission when it is initiated.

The new stamina system eliminates the possibility of players running around wildly and stomping around on other players. Doing so will rapidly decrease the stamina meter, rendering your wrestler near useless. When stamina falls dangerously low, the wrestler will move incredibly slowly and hold their head in pain. This makes them an easy target in the ring and obviously means that blind rampages should be avoided where possible. While the new submission system is certainly a great improvement, the stamina system can get annoying when participating in Four Way matches. With all the multi-layered action it’s hard to hold back most of the time, and players will likely find themselves without stamina more often than they would like. This can get quite irritating after some time.

Of course, new additions aside, the great features from the first game have been included in Day of Reckoning 2. Momentum Shifts can still totally turn a match. If your spirit is terribly low, then there’s one opportunity per match to execute a Momentum Shift. By doing this players will perform a special move, thus sapping spirit from their opponent and leaving them with barely any. This ensures that a match isn’t necessarily over when a player’s wrestler has critically low spirit.
Double Teaming a wrestler is another enduringly fun element in DoR games. If you and your partner simultaneously execute a grapple on an opponent, a ‘double team’ will be executed, which launches a two-on-one attack. Double Teaming can be done when standing on or around the turnbuckle for extra spectacular moves.

When players are Tag-Teaming with a computer-controlled partner, the ‘Z’ button combined with different D-Pad directions can be used to make the teammate perform moves of assistance like striking down the referee or breaking a pin hold. Strategic timing is necessary to know when to call in the teammate to perform various nefariously helpful actions.

Day of Reckoning 2 is definitely the best looking wrestling videogame to date, even surpassing those wrestling titles available on the Xbox. After last year’s visually amazing Day of Reckoning, Yuke has managed to make the sequel look even better. The detail of the wrestlers has increased significantly and, upon executing moves, their facial expressions also change. The bodies of the wrestlers have been re-created with stunning detail, creating bones, hairstyles and even tattoos. Considerable detail has also gone into the specific wrestler entrance animations. The trademark low riders of Eddie Guerrero, the special pyrotechnics of Shawn Michaels and Batista, and the eerie unveiling of The Undertaker have all been brilliantly ported to the videogame. Some entrances may deviate a little from the real thing, but overall it’s still an amazing visual experience.

A big change from last year’s version lies with the attending wrestling fans. Whereas the original Day of Reckoning sported a distinctly 2D audience, this year’s raucous crowds have been rendered completely in 3D. This adds to the authentic wrestling arena feel. Also, a change in camera positioning to better match the perspective used in the actual television shows is another welcome alteration that makes the game further resemble the real-life action.

Day of Reckoning 2 is definitely the best wrestling game on GameCube, and it’s certainly debatable as to whether it may well be the best wrestling game available on any of the current major platforms. The sequel’s new additions have certainly improved the game, yet it’s unfortunate that the GameCube lacks the disc space to make this the truly great wrestling game it could have been. Maybe next time we’ll see a Nintendo Revolution version of Day of Reckoning that will take the game as it stands and elevate it to yet more lofty heights.