Let’s Get Ready to Rumble

So another year comes, and another WWE wrestling game is scrapped together by THQ. Without going into too much history, the Gamecube has seen several grappling games in it?s time, starting with Wrestlemania X8, then Wrestlemania XIX. After these two not-so-well received games, THQ rethought the process and name and released the much better WWE: Day of Reckoning (DOR). Now, trying to follow the success of its retouched gem, THQ releases WWE: Day of Reckoning 2 to the rabid wrestling public. Certainly THQ wouldn?t muddle too much with the successful formula that made last year?s title so great! Or would they? Like a power bomb off the top rope, I pounded right through this newest offering, and though many improvements were made, some of the best aspects have been dropped like Hulk Hogan?s work rate.

The primary mode is the ?Story Mode?, in which the story of the first Day of Reckoning continues?sort of. Though the ?Story Mode? is nicely put together and the story seems even better than the last iteration, you cannot, I repeat, cannot import your character from last year?s career mode. Yukes Media insists that this wasn?t possible because of the increase in character detail from the first game to this year?s sequel. However, I would have loved to see the graphics engine at least try to recreate your imported character as best it could. It?s also unfortunate that you can?t play as female characters in ?Story Mode.? What the ?Story Mode? does offer though, is a fairly decent storyline all while battling thru a bevy of different match-types and stipulations. Match types range from Normal matches to Hardcore, Ladder, TLC, Cage, Hell in a Cell, Bra & Panties, Last Man Standing, and Ironman matches.

The arenas are absolutely beautifully and faithfully recreated with the exact stage sets of eighteen or so of WWE?s most popular Pay Per Views. Over 45 grapplers are at your mercy this time and all are very well done. The clothing, lighting, pyrotechnics and hair are graphically about the best you?re going to see in this console generation, with one exception. It seems the WWE games can never get the females exactly right, and this is unfortunately the case in DOR2 as well. Stacy, Trish, and the now released Christy Hemme just don?t even closely resemble themselves. If it weren?t for their entrance movies and tell-tell outfits, I might not have ever recognized them.

The game play has probably evolved better than any other feature of this sequel, adding some important intricacy and increased difficulty to counters. No longer is it easy to just counter and reverse everything an opponent throws at you, and even if you do, it can be reversed again right back on you. The test-of-strength tie-up is a welcome addition, adding a little frantic button mashing into the fight. Submissions have been tweaked to include a four-selection system that benefits the grappler in a number of ways. For instance, if you slap a figure-four on your opponent, you can choose to rest hold (heal stamina), taunt (decrease their spirit), submit (go for a pure submission), and drain (decreases their stamina). However, if they are able to guess what type of submission you?re applying the move fails and you get a swift boot in the face for your effort. Stamina conservation is also a new implementation this year and a meter you want to keep a close eye on. If it drops too low (it?s sapped by pulling off big maneuvers, or combos), you?re wrestler will double over, trying to catch their breath and won?t control as well. About the most draining thing you can do is to attempt to slam 500lbs of the Big Show. Of course, it?s not automatic any longer, as another button-mash fest ensues. With a fast-enough finger, you can slam the mass of a man, but your stamina meter takes a huge hit. Another great addition is the light control you now have over your partner in a tag match. With a simple combo of buttons, your tag partner will run in and attack the ref, opponent on the apron, or your current in ring opponent. With all that?s going on with the controls, my only real problem is the lock-on system and running. I really had a hard time running from rope to rope in this game and pulling off moves. It seemed you have to hold the ?Y? button down to run, which makes it awfully tough to press other buttons for attacks on the run. I?ve also always hated the way your character is permanently locked-on to an opponent. Why can?t I walk around freely, facing any direction I want? Why can?t I just hit a certain button to lock-on to an opponent if I want?

The exclusion of voiceovers in this title keep it from quite standing up in quality to its Raw vs. Smackdown PS2 opponent, even though I feel it has the far superior grappling mechanics. Character creation, as always in most WWE games, is highly in-depth, detailed, and probably only second to the famed Tiger Woods character creation.

Here?s hoping THQ and Yukes continue to improve the WWE games, especially while we?re nose-diving into the next generation of consoles. With that move, I hope to see more Madden-like career features added. Let us deal with contractual signings, TV ratings, and building our own Pay Per Views within a career mode. Let?s create gimmicks for user made wrestlers, and see if it sells merchandise. Let?s have to deal with injuries, advertising and maybe even perhaps (*gasp!*) steroids testing. Let?s have me stop now before I go over the line, but I urge you grappling fans to pick this one up, as it?s truly one of the last great wrestling games for this generation of consoles.

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