WWE Day of Reckoning (GC)
Before I even bother getting down and writing the rest of the review let’s just get the real question out of the way:
Is this game better than No Mercy? No.
As much as I enjoyed and still like to occasionally play No Mercy, I’m really sick of looking forward to a wrestling game and hearing people ask if it’ll be like No Mercy months before its release or bash it for not being like No Mercy after its out, get over it already. Still AKI set a high standard for Nintendo wrestling games with both Wrestlemania 2000 and No Mercy on the N64 that hasn’t been seen on the Gamecube.
Wrestlemania XIII? Sucked. Wrestlemania XIX? The game wasn’t too bad but the shitty story mode crapped all over everything else the game had to offer. There was some significant steps made in Wrestlemania XIX, enough so that I was looking forward to Day of Reckoning when I heard they were working on some of the problems that I had with the previous game. Is the game able to hang with its N64 predecessors or is it just another disappointment?
After last years abortion almost anything would be preferable in this area. The advertising for Day of Reckoning centers on how the game takes a rookie’s dream and turns it into a superstar’s reality. In the story mode you take a created character and work your way up the ranks of the WWE. As the story mode starts you are brought into Vince McMahon’s office as a talented rookie, he gives you the opportunity to prove yourself, and if you are able to impress him and are lucky enough, he’ll put you on TV. Then you are turned over to Jonathan ‘The Coach’ Coachman who will set you up in a series of dark (untelevised) matches against other no name talent. Sometimes these matches will have special win conditions such as ‘Hit your finisher twice’ or ‘Make the opponent submit’. If you impress the higher ups enough they’ll move you onto Heat. From Heat you will do the same thing again, work your way up through a series of matches in order to be put on one of the major shows, either Raw or Smackdown.
Sounds pretty good huh? Unfortunately it sounds much better than it is. The story mode is broken up in Chapters which flow from one to the next, however there is no room for flexibility and branching. As if to mock you the game will have several different points where you are given a choice but will automatically fill in the answer instead of letting you choose for yourself. If you lose a match you have to keep doing it till you get it right unless it’s not required for you to win. Everything sticks to the script without you getting to make a decision except for one, which program do you go to Raw or Smackdown? There’s only one big problem with that both shows have the exact same storyline just with different wrestlers. For a game that is advertising revolves around the story of making a rookie into a star, there’s no reason to play through the story mode more than once. Better than what we got from last years game, but still far behind the times.
Day of Reckoning looks great and is a step above the previous title. The character models of the wrestlers are remarkable for how much like the person they represent though some do look slightly chunkier in the chest than their real life counterparts during the entrances they otherwise look fantastic. The clothing textures are smooth and realistic looking instead of tacked or painted on. There are better camera angles that are used to show the action in Day of Reckoning and for the most part it’s a great improvement on the previous game but sometimes the camera will go behind the guy who is still standing on the apron during tag matches. They have also added camera effects for finishers like showing it from different angles which help add to the impact of the move performed.
The best part of the graphics is how smooth everything is animated. Especially in the entrances they now walk to the ring like you would expect them too instead of an odd robotic jerking like they have something stuck up their ass, except for Lance Storm who always walks like that. The game looks great in motion, the moves look good and there are tons of different reversal animations instead of seeing the same couple over and over again. My biggest gripe about the graphics also has to deal with the reversals, everytime you or your opponent pull one off there is a white flash on the screen, problem is that the game is reversal heavy so on harder modes the screen will be flashing often. Enough to give you an epileptic fit.
The create-a-wrestler section has been hugely updated in terms of graphics compared to the last two games. If you want to create a guy you’ll be able to practically customize everything much like the create-a-wrestler from the Smackdown series. With a little effort your finished product will not look out of place from the other wrestlers in the game, which is great that they’ve made such a huge improvement in this area since you can only use created characters for the story mode. Create an entrance is thankfully back as well and mostly the same. With the create and entrance mode you can control everything about how your entrance appears down to the camera angles and pyro used and it’s easy enough to create one that looks good.
Blood is back and it’s now harder to bust open your opponent than in the last game. When you do bust an opponent open it will cut to a close up of the wrestler holding his head so you can see the damage. Small droplets will fly off of the other wrestler when you hit them hard enough after you’ve got them bleeding but no blood stains the mat at anytime.
The sound effects are a passable assortment of crunching and slamming sounds that work with the game. There are crowd chants in the game that work well, including the crowd chanting ‘Holy —-‘. They don’t actually say shit, they just pause for that part, and while they’ll chant it at appropriate times like falling off of a ladder, they will also chant it at just a close two count which is weird. Other than that the only good thing to say about the sound is that everyone’s entrance theme is in the game.
As for the bad? The story mode has a lot of text dialogue boxes, and between that and the lack of commentary the absence of any voice work is very noticeable. Even bad commentary fills up the silence between the crunching and slamming noises. There is some licensed rock and rap tracks to the game but I found most of them annoying and they all got old very, very quickly. There is no original music available to use for created wrestlers outside of the licensed music, so you can chose to either use the annoying tracks or other wrestlers themes. With so revolving around the created wrestlers would it have killed them to include even some generic tracks to use outside of the licensed tracks?
The control scheme from the last game is back, if you haven’t played the previous game it essentially is a streamlined version of the classic AKI system. You can do light grapples without locking up by just pressing the A button and a direction and strikes with the B button, and strike combos by repeatedly tapping the B button. Holding down the A button will initiate a lock up to do strong grapples by pressing the A button again and a direction and you can also do strong grapple strikes with the B button while locked up or combo between the strikes and grapples, pressing A and B together allows you to pull off your finisher. L and R counter grapple moves and strikes respectively.
For the most part the game controls are excellent; countering feels sharper this year and takes better timing to accurately counter a move which might be frustrating for some. Other than that the controls are intuitive and the streamlines AKI system allows for faster paced matches. Some of the changes and additions they’ve made from the last game kind aren’t changes for the better though. When you get knocked down in this game you stay down. You get to your feet faster by tapping on the A button fast, but even if you have a high durability and get up faster you still stay down for awhile. It’s easier to just wait for the opponent to do something to you and reverse it so you can get up faster. Another addition is the Momentum Shift. When you’ve been beaten down badly enough there will be a period of time that you will be able to do a Momentum Shift move that will swing the tide of the match into your favor and is pulled off like a finishing move by pressing A and B together. I’ll get to my gripes about that in the Balance section. Submissions use a tug of war system with mashing the A button to try and move the meter towards Submit.
The controls are fairly intuitive and the streamlined AKI system works well for faster paced matched though I wish there was less emphasis on mashing on the A button for almost everything.
There are four different difficulty settings which as far as I can tell only change how often the computer controlled opponent reverses moves. On every difficulty level the computer reverses a decent amount, except in every other way the AI just isn’t very good. For as much as the computer reverses on the Hard and Expert difficulties the AI isn’t very aggressive and most of the time it’s flat out predictable. Sometimes the computer will lift you to your feet and then take a moment before throwing a punch as just an example of how passive the AI occasionally is. On the harder settings most of the moves done to you from the computer will be countermoves from reversing your attacks. While the harder difficulties are more difficult than the ones from Wrestlemania XIX they come off as feeling cheap at times instead of actually hard.
Even worse examples of the computers AI are all over the place. Sometimes during matches the computer will randomly attack the ref and get himself DQ’d. Tag Matches are just a mess since your partner is completely useless. Same goes for the computer AI on the opponents side, you’ll be faced with handicapped matched in the Story mode that don’t feel like handicapped matches since the computer controlled opponents don’t work together to lay an ass whoopin on you. For all of the different styles of wrestling and wrestlers that are in the game, most of them wrestle in the game in the exact same way. Also it’s hard to figure out what will keep an opponent down as sometimes you’ll be able to keep someone down with an armdrag but then you’ll hit your finisher and they’ll bounce right back to their feet. I’ve hit guys 3 times in a row with my finisher who have got right back to their feet only to keep them down with a snapmare.
The Momentum Shift is an interesting addition to the gameplay since it is meant to simulate the momentum shifts in real WWE matches like Hulking Up or Eugene Tarding Up or whatever it is he does. Good idea in theory but in practice it kill some of the difficulty. If the computer is putting the beat down on you, it’s often better to just let them go for it and then us the Momentum Shift to turn the odds in your favor. On any difficulty I’ve never seen the computer use the momentum shift so it becomes a one sided thing in single player. In multiplayer it’s really annoying to be beating up a friend who shifts the momentum and wins.
The story is not worth playing through more than once as it is the same story everytime you play, and the story isn’t exciting enough for multiple viewings. There are plenty of modes in the exhibition mode but the bad AI kills playing any of the modes single player for too long. If you can get some people together to play the game it might be worth your time to check out.
Though it may not have been done very well, I think this is the first wrestling title where the story mode is exclusive to characters you create. Everything else in the game has been done in other wrestling titles.
If you can grab some friends and haul them over to play the game it can be very addictive. Beyond the bad AI is a solid wrestling title with several modes to keep you and some friends entertained for awhile. The story mode is slightly addictive just for the curiosity of seeing what happens next, but it’s over too soon and there are too few options to keep it addictive.
It’s a WWE wrestling game on a Nintendo system, there is plenty of appeal for the game even if some of the appeal is just to see whether or not it’s another No Mercy. There is always an audience for this type of game that no matter how bad the previous games were are still willing to take a chance on the new game. Including me. There’s been plenty of hype and advertisement for the game as well.
It always amazes me when a new wrestling game can come out and still manage to all the things wrong that you thought they understood years ago. Wrestling games should be already at a point where they are online not still struggling to figure out the basics of what we want. Look at sports games, they’ve gotten to a point where they are refining the broader points of the games since they already have the basics down. I know when I play a hockey game what button I will generally use to pass doesn’t matter if it’s ESPN, EA, or the Hitz franchises. Most wrestling fans would agree that some variation of the AKI wrestling engine is what we want, but the wrestling games keep going back to the drawing board and giving us games that only have half of what some wrestling games had a couple years ago. Not to beat a dead horse here, but even No Mercy had branching story lines. Day of Reckoning already feels outdated, especially in comparison to the Smackdown series the game just seems like an after thought.
Shopzone has returned with cash the you earn in the Story mode to spend on weapons, moves, arenas, etc. After beating the storymode once you will unlock all of the Legends in the game including Andre the Giant, Greg Valentine, and even Bret Hart which are great additions to an otherwise lacking roster. Seriously, who decided to not include the Dudleys in the game? Know who the tag champs are for Raw, it the Basham Brothers who’ve never even appeared on Raw. The f’n Basham Brothers but not the Dudleys? Fire the person who made that decision. A good portion of the roster is questionable, there are only two cruiserweights on the roster, Rey Mysterio and Chavo Guerrero. Why is this? Likely to include room for the Bra and Panties matches.
Overall Score: 50/100
Final Score: 5/10 – Average.