After months of hype following its debut at E3 this year, THQ has released WWE Day of Reckoning to its rabid fan base– looking to expand on a series that has shown great potential in years past. While PlayStation 2 and Xbox gamers will have to wait for their respective titles over the course of the next few months, the Gamecube’s day has come. So does it improve the wrestling game genre or serve as a stopgap to their highly popular Smackdown! series in October? Well friends, I can happily tell you that not only does it improve the genre, it may even give you flashbacks to the glory days of No Mercy on the Nintendo 64.
The Best WWE Experience on the Gamecube
All of the bells and whistles of the WWE have been faithfully recreated, and it shows in the game’s presentation. From the ever important ring entrances to the wrestlers’ theme music, Yuke’s obviously did their homework to make sure these things were in order for Day of Reckoning. If there is a bone to pick, however, it would be that some notable wrestlers have been left off of the roster; so those looking for JBL, Eugene and a few other key wrestlers will have to attempt creating them. Since there are plenty of hardcore fans already taking note to this, finding a good template on the web shouldn’t be that much of a problem. Also, in what has to be a first for a wrestling game, Day of Reckoning also has the distinction of having a fully licensed soundtrack for the in-game music, menus, and story mode; featuring bands such as Breaking Benjamin and Public Enemy. The tracks serve their purpose and set the tone for the game but like many licensed soundtracks in games, tends to get repetitive after a few listens. There also isn’t any commentary during the matches; so once again the songs will tend to play themselves out during the course of a few times playing, but, all in all, the presentation of the game is well handled.
An Evolution in Gameplay
The gameplay of WWE Day of Reckoning has improved greatly over its predecessor, Wrestle Mania XIX. Playing the game can be as easy or as hard as you would like it to be, as basic moves are there for beginners and casual players; while the more advanced techniques like counters and high risk maneuvers are included to complete your own personal method of dishing out the pain. Button mashing can be a bit much at times, but somehow it all ends up working out. As far as features go, it is the usual wrestling game fare with all the varieties of matches and stipulations to win: like the Ladder Match and First Blood contests. Also being added to Day of Reckoning is the inclusion of the popular Bra and Panty matches from THQ’s Smackdown! series on the PlayStation 2. Call it fluff or call it fun…it’s there and it isn’t going anywhere. For multiplayer action, the game supports four player matches for just all the contests that utilize it; so people wanting to have their own Royal Rumble with friends can do so.
All Champions Have to Start Somewhere
The story mode for WWE Day of Reckoning is a good ride, but it could also use some work as well. With the basic premise of having to work your way up to the big leagues, Day of Reckoning’s story mode starts your created wrestler off in WWE’s Developmental League accomplishing small tasks and doing favors for others under the tutelage of Jonathan “Coach” Coachman. The first few assignments are pretty self-explanatory and are simple to pull off, such as defeating your opponent or pulling off a finishing move. Do these well, and you’ll work your way to harder things like executing consecutive counters and stringing together combos. If you haven’t figured it out by now, the beginning of story mode is nothing more than a drawn out tutorial introducing you to the controls of the game. This isn’t really a bad thing, as it shows you how to play the game and get accustomed to the controls. The beginning stages do eventually serve their purpose, but it could use some minor work. For example, the later stages of story mode have you attempting to pull off more advanced moves like executing consecutive counters or doing a finishing move that you have no idea you’re doing right until the match is over. It would have been nice to have an indicator on screen somewhere to let you know how good or bad you’re doing; or if you even accomplished the goal of the match while it is in progress.
After you’re done with the boot camp phase of the game, it’s time to head to the big show (no pun intended). After choosing what faction you wish to be on, your character will get to experience first hand the good, bad, and crazy things that make the WWE what it is: finding partners, experiencing betrayals, joining stables, long drawn out diva searches, and just about anything else you’d expect to see on actual WWE programming. The only bummer about the game’s story mode is the actual length of it. While it takes some time to finish, once it’s over the whole thing suddenly stops, and you have to take another created wrestler through the entire process again. This, in turn, leads me to another question: why do wrestling games not have continuous story/season modes? Previous wrestling titles have had it before on earlier systems, and it is hard to understand why it hasn’t been included here. As great as the story mode is, once your finished with it you most likely won’t be going back unless you want to see the alternate side of your original Smackdown!/Raw roster story. Hopefully, the upcoming Smackdown! vs. Raw for the PlayStation 2 will pick up the slack in this department.
The Day of Reckoning Has Come, And Its Good
Wrestling games have come a long way on the Gamecube during its time, and the tradition continues here with Day of Reckoning. THQ and Yuke’s have done an excellent job in faithfully bringing the world of sports entertainment to Nintendo’s system in what has to be one of the better wrestling titles to come out for any system in quite a while. Even with its shortcomings, you can’t look past the fact that this game is worthy of a purchase and is highly recommended for wrestling and fighting game fans alike.