WWE Day of Reckoning 2 GameCube Review

Publisher: THQ  Developer: Yuke’s  Genre: Sport, Fighting

Players: 1-4  Age Rating: 16+  Release Date: (EU) 23rd Sep 2005

Other console/handheld formats: N/A

WWE games are always huge sellers, but the quality certainly isn’t as consistent as those sales. Wrestling titles such as the now retired RAW series have remained in the shadow of the excellent SmackDown! Series, whilst WrestleMania (Xbox’s latest) was a fun, but fundamentally flawed title. The GameCube grappling titles have been steadily improving, and this sequel to the popular Day of Reckoning promised big things from the outset.

The most obvious change is that of the visuals, which are now much more realistic and even better than SmackDown’s in some cases. The wrestler models are large and detailed, and don’t suffer from an excessive “boot polish” like shine for once. The models also resemble their real life counterparts, which means everything from Chris Masters’ steroid-enhanced body to Snitsky’s stupid comedy beard are intact.

Day of Reckoning 2 plays much the same of the game that came before it, which is a great thing, as the original game happened to be a very solid title. The weak and strong grapple system makes a welcome return to the ring, as do the great looking reversal and chain wrestling animations. A little less welcome is the return of the momentum shift, as it still feels like a cheap way to quickly turn the tables and even earn yourself a victory when your grappler was in a state close to defeat two seconds ago, we much prefer bringing our wrestler back from the brink by improving our game opposed to a quick cut-scene.

Apart from being less about button bashing this time around, Day of Reckoning 2 also introduces a brand new play dynamic to the series in the stamina meter. It’s a feature that doesn’t have as much bearing on matches, as we would have liked, but it does work to some degree. The principles behind the system are that all the wrestlers competing in a match will begin to run out of steam as moves are exchanged, eventually completely exhausting the in-ring grapplers, which results in a stupid animation where they place both their hands on their heads and then proceed to walk around like geriatrics. It all sounds very good on paper, although to have your stamina meter near or fully depleted (which leaves your wrestler dead on his feet) is something that we didn’t see happening too often, and as there isn’t really any evidence of the system working beyond the slow animation, it’s surprisingly easy to forget about this feature in certain matches. Repeatedly using weapons does quickly dent your stamina meter though, as do a multitude of moves in quick succession.

A better-realised strategic element is the submission system, which has been immensely improved from last year. When initialising a submission you are able to opt for either submit, taunt, drain and rest hold, making your decision by pushing the C-stick in the required direction displayed on the screen. Your opponent must also make a choice, and if you both choose the same option then your opponent will break the hold. All the options allow you to gain a victory by making your opponent tap out, but selecting submit is still the quickest way to humiliating your opponent and persuading him to tap the mat. The other options include taunt, which is best brought into play to deplete your opponents momentum, whilst drain does similar things to an opposite stamina meter, finally there’s the rest holds, which actually allows you to regain stamina if you feel your wrestler is almost ready for bed. It’s a great idea, which eradicates the excessive amount of button bashing that was seen in the first game and adds a welcome layer of strategy to matches at the same time.

The story mode is always a popular feature of a wrestling title, and Day of Reckoning 2 delivers a worthy one of its own. The story actually continues from the original game, which is a really neat idea, further propelled by a great plot. The original game had you creating a wrestler and taking him from early in his career right up to main event status, earning a lot of big belts and even joining Evolution in the process. The sequel sees the prestigious World Heavyweight Championship disappear, resulting in many pointed fingers and fresh rivalries. Sadly you can’t import your created wrestler over from the last game, which is most probably to do with the increased detail in the graphics, therefore a created wrestler from last year most probably wouldn’t visually fuse with his opponents very well at all.

WWE Day of Reckoning 2 is one of the best wrestling titles on the shelves today, which boasts a great engine and plenty of forward thinking. The stamina is a great idea, but forgettable at times, whilst the submission system is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. SmackDown! vs RAW 2006 is certainly going to have to do a lot to impress us after playing the GameCube’s latest!