WWE Day of Reckoning
Talk to a Nintendo wrestling fanatic about video games and the Nintendo 64 classic WWF No Mercy is bound to come up in the course of the conversation. One can call it a sign of respect, a nod back to the days when wrestling games were simple to play yet deep in content. Realistically though, it’s more of a cry of help as that person reminiscences back to the day when their beloved franchises ruled the scene. Most of those fans were Nintendo fans through and through and as the technology expanded, they stuck next to their guns and picked up a GameCube. They came into the next generation of wrestling games with high hopes but those hopes collapsed on the weak shoulders of THQ’s infinitely disappointing WrestleMania franchise. With the Smackdown! franchise ruling the scene and the RAW franchise quickly gaining ground the guys at THQ recommitted themselves to developing a GameCube-exclusive title that could hang with its brethren. That title is WWE Day of Reckoning, and while it doesn’t hold a candle to the old N64 wrestling titles of yesteryear, it’s a vast improvement over its predecessors.
It appears that the designers took the complaints of its customers into account and used them to refine the lackluster elements in previous games. Gone is that inane mode where you battle goons in construction sites. In its place is a pretty robust career mode that does an excellent job of keeping gamers hooked. New sideshow attractions include the addition of WWE Legends and a new Bra and Panties match. THQ has thrown some classic faces into previous WWE games but this time it has an ace up its sleeve, Bret Hart. His appearance in the game is especially appealing to WWE fans because Hart and Vince McMahon have been at odds since the Montreal Screwjob in ’97. Perhaps Hart’s appearance in the latest WWE video game is a sign that the two sides have made up and are ready to move on. The new Bra and Panties match is pretty similar to the one found in Here Comes the Pain so unless you’re a lonely sex-craved geek, it shouldn’t be a huge selling point.
Day of Reckoning’s main gameplay mode is a career mode in which you start out as a no-name wrestler and move up the WWE ranks. Early on you’ll have to start on in a developmental program and “pay your dues” so to speak. Instead of sticking you in the WWE’s actual developmental circuit, Ohio Valley Wrestling, you’re tossed into a no-name circuit where you perform for house show audiences. To advance you’ll be called upon to show off your skills as a wrestler in order to impress the brass. For instance, there’s a sequence where Paul Heyman asks you to perform your finisher twice in one match. As you progress you’ll be called upon to demonstrate your mat skills, aerial skills against an opponent in a real match setting. I like the idea of having to start out small before moving up to the big leagues but I wish that THQ would have done more with the game. It’s entirely linear so there’s no real sense that you’re fighting for a position on the RAW or Smackdown! rosters. There should be some sort of criteria that you have to meet in order to impress the brass. Things like fan approval, mat skill and wrestler charisma would have been pretty great barometers for success.
As you win more matches you’ll earn points that can be used to improve your wrestler. In the beginning your wrestler is pretty weak so you’ll need to do well in matches in order to build your stats. There are two major setbacks in the career mode; you can only play through it with created wrestlers and you can only do so with male ones. It’s kind of a sad, but accurate, window on how the WWE views its female talent. Hell, the current WWE Diva Search contest bears the entire grim tale. Who cares how much talent you have, the real question is, how do you look in a bra and a pair of panties? Oh well, you can’t fault THQ and Yukes! for retaining that WWE continuity.Most of the storyline elements in the game don’t work too well when applied to the world of wrestling logic. One moment Paul Heyman and The Coach are telling you about how everything is planned or a “work” while in the next sequence you’re getting attacked backstage by Rhyno. While Rhyno could plausibly be upset after getting beaten, it’s implausible that he would be able to brutally attack me and get away with it. What happens is that the game mixes up reality and the WWE’s perceived reality where storylines actually occur. It was interesting when the game decided to showcase the behind the scenes elements (i.e. dark matches, match plans) but it just got weird when the game tried to toss rivalries at us after ensuring us that all of the guys backstage were buddies. What needed to happen was that the game needed to differentiate between what the perceived TV audiences were seeing and what was really happening to our wrestler when the cameras turned off. Was Rhyno’s attack a part of a storyline or was he really upset? We’ll never know because the game never really makes it clear. I wish that the designers could have just gone with one line of reasoning instead of consistently contradicting itself. Don’t get me wrong, it’s one of the best wrestling game storyline modes to-date, but it’s far from perfect.
If you’re looking for a frame of reference to help time stamp the game you’ll probably have a difficult time. Although the title holders are correct, the storylines seem to have been completely fabricated by the game’s designers. This means you’ll have factions like the New Ministry where the Undertaker runs with The Big Show, Booker T and Charlie Haas. It was probably for the best, considering just how horrible the WWE storylines have been for the past couple of years.
Yukes! has made some major improvements to the wrestling engine, most of which seem to be borrowed from the Smackdown! franchise. In this year’s game there’s positional damage that plays a crucial role for submission-minded wrestlers. Ring psychology is a huge aspect of wrestling amongst purists and it can now play a key role in Day of Reckoning. Fans wouldn’t expect Chris Benoit to take out The Undertaker with the Crippler Crossface after working over his legs the whole match. The fact is that Benoit uses a lot of high-torque moves to setup his finisher, it’s what makes his matches so exciting and believable. Here you’ll have that same luxury, so if you want to take out someone with the Walls of Jericho your best bet is to wear down their legs and then perform the maneuver. Another new addition is a carryover from the Smackdown! Franchises. In order to take the guesswork of when and where you can pin your opponent, the game now features a heart rate meter that shows the condition of your opponent. It’s simple, when it’s red and flashing quickly the guy is amped up and ready to unleash. If it’s blue and slow then he’s lethargic and susceptible to the pin. You can also say good bye to the day when Spike Dudley could toss the Big Show around like a rag doll. This time around a new system has been implemented to prevent such an oddity from occurring.
Some of the grappling is still awkward due to the system’s inability to keep up with the action. The game’s lock-on system is very slow and unresponsive as you’ll constantly grab and punch at empty air as opposed to your opponents. It takes awhile but after you get used to it, the system does work quite well. Tapping the A button and a direction will perform a weak grapple while holding the A and a direction will perform a stronger move. Weaker moves won’t do as much damage but your opponent is less likely to counter them. To balance out the stronger attacks the game adds a small transition animation where the opponent has more time to hit the counter button. In past games the counter system was the engine’s weakness. It was simple, to the point where players could win a match by wailing on the shoulder buttons. This time you’ll need to be more precise in order to counter an opponent. It requires much more skill to pull off and feels much less cheaper.By playing through the game’s Storyline mode you earn cash which can be used to unlock new arenas and Create-a-Wrestler goodies. Speaking of Create-a-Wrestler, this is the most feature-rich CAW to appear in a GameCube wrestler to-date. Players have more options for wrestler appearance than ever before. Objects are now placed on the wrestler through the use of a coordinate specific system. Instead of selecting a hat and putting it on your head you can pick the hat and attach it to any body part you’d like. You’ll also have full control over your wrestler’s entrance. From the camera angles, to the pyro, to the lights, you control it all through the use of a pretty simple mechanism. It doesn’t come close to touching the one found in WWE RAW 2 but it’s a damn fine effort.
I realize that the GameCube hasn’t been a breeding ground for graphical powerhouses but some games have really shown what the system is capable of; Day of Reckoning isn’t one of them. Most of the character models lack that extra bit of refinement that gives them life and personality. When Kurt Angle pulls down the straps to go for the finisher you’ll see him reach for them in one animation and in the next one they’ve suddenly disappeared. This is also a fault of poor texture work on the part of the artists. Everything looks really bland due to the sub par textures used in the game. Animations look good for the most part but they could have used a bit of fine tuning here and there. Probably the only aspect of the game that looks really good is the pyro effect and that’s cutting it close. More needs to be done to beef up the game’s look because in its current state it’s a pretty bad mishmash of poor design and ugly textures.
In the past we’ve complained endlessly about the inane commentary of the Smackdown! franchises. Well maybe we should have kept our mouths shut. Instead of play-by-play the game employs a licensed soundtrack that had us annoyed from the onset. Without a doubt, this is the worst use of licensed music to-date, period. The rest of the sound effects are par for the course.
When you set aside the horrible audio and the poor graphics a pretty good wrestling game lies beneath. Day of Reckoning has the best storyline of any grappling game to-date and a wrestling engine that holds up its end of the bargain. It still lags behind the Smackdown! line of games but Nintendo fans finally have a wrestling game that they can be proud of again. Don’t expect the second coming of No Mercy, but do expect to be thoroughly entertained.
It doesn't come close to the Smackdown! franchise but it's getting there. A cleaner grappling engine and a better CAW mode round out this much-improved entry in the GameCube wrestling market.
Rating: 8 Good
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.
It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.
It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.
When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."
As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.
When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.
Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile