Review: WWE Day of Reckoning 2 (Nintendo Gamecube)

WWE Day of Reckoning
Genre: Wrestling
Developer: Yukes
Publisher: THQ
Release Date: 08/29/05

As you might imagine, this was not a game I planned to review. After the horrible disaster that was WM XXI for the XBOX, I was very pessimistic about picking up another WWE wrestling game ever. WMXXI not only received the lowest rating I’ve ever given a game, but was universally considered the worst wrestling game ever made, even receiving a lower overall score at Gamerankings.com than WCW Thunder…which surprise, surprise, was ALSO a THQ published wrestling game.

Granted, it wasn’t THQ’s fault, as they just published WMXXI. It was Studio Gigante, which I doubt THQ will ever let near the WWE license again. Day of Reckoning 2 was made by Yukes, who designed the greatest wrestling game ever made. No, not No Mercy you WWF fanboys, although the Aki staff members who made that game did/do work for Yukes now. Yukes was responsible for Touken Retsuden 4 for the Sega Dreamcast, which is the most realistic wrestling game ever made. Sure it may feature NJPW’s roster from 2000, but it’s still better than any lag filled multiplayer ladder match lacking any semblance of AI that a certain Nintendo 64 game has.

So the two balanced each other out, and when THQ sent me Day of Reckoning 2 to review, I was more than happy to put the hideous experience of WMXXI out of my mind. However, reading fellow IP staff member Matt Yeager’s review of the first Day of Reckoning filled me with a little apprehension. THQ has been published wrestling games for ten years now, and their track record is pretty muddled in terms of quality. Indeed, I’ve considered their WWE games to be slightly above average at best, and the last wrestling game by this company that I’ve enjoyed was NWO/WCW World Tour, which was their second to last WCW licensed game for the N64. So to be on the safe side, I brought in some to help me review this game. Someone who helped me review that unspeakable disaster that was WM XXI. “The Macho Man” Randy Savage!

Ooooh yeah brother! Dig it, dig it dig it! The madness is running wild throughout Inside Pulse one again brother!

Since most of you loved Randy’s Macho Man Diaries, I felt it was only fitting to bring him back for a second time. Or until you email me telling be to stop beating a dead horse.

There’s a dead horse around brother? The Macho man will be happy to take Mr. Ed of your hands since he hasn’t worked in a few years. Oooooooh Yeah!

So, without further ado, let’s “snap into” Day of Reckoning 2.
That was my line!

Let’s Review

1. Story

OOOOOH YEAH! I’m the WWE Champion again. The Macho Man is on top of the hill! Wait. How did I become champion again? I haven’t been in a WWE ring in ten years. I guess Vince woke up and realized that I was doing the rap gimmick before John Cena, and I’m certainly more imposing than Deacon Batista. I mean, I doing a flying elbow brother. ANYONE can do a power bomb. Little skinny Chris Jericho did three in a row as a normal move back when he was wrestling Syxx in WCW, and did HE ever go on to be anything? I rest my case.

But then in a burst of Deja Vu, I’m no longer champion? This is shorter than any of my reigns in WCW when Hulk Hogan would steal the title from me only a day after I won the gold. Hey! HULK HOGAN! He must have used his political power (and McMahon blowing lips) to have me lose the title when I wasn’t looking. In a fit of rage I called up Vince demanding to know how he could let a coward like Hulk Hogan screw me yet again out of a world title. Hogan couldn’t go. Name a memorable match he ever had? I headline against Bret Hart, Ric Flair, the Stinger, Ricky Steamboat, and Jake Roberts brother. Hogan had to be carried in his matches against the UNDERTAKER! I mean that should tell you something right there.

After 15 minutes of screaming to Vinnie Mac, Vince just says to me, “Randy, what on earth are you babbling about? Did you hit the coke again? For god’s sakes, it’s 3am!” I told him all about how I turned on my TV and was WWE champion and then lost it in a cruel stroke of fate. Vince then explained to me I had just been playing a video game and that I wasn’t REALLY the world champion. Then he hung up on me swearing to get a restraining order if he woke up tomorrow with all his potted plants smashed like last time I had a narcotic induced freak out. Idiot. LAST TIME I was on acid. In retrospect, I still think Hulk Hogan was behind my not being champion any more.

Day of Reckoning 2 is typical for story modes in US based wrestling games. It’s a good idea on paper, but in practice, it’s pretty lousy. It’s nice that Day of Reckoning 2 is a continuation story wise from DOR1, but it one fell swoop, THQ manages to ruin the entire concept by not letting you import the wrestler you played with in DoR1. Instead you’ve got to make an entirely new wrestler. Supposedly, this is because the new graphics used for DoR2 aren’t compatible with DoR1. I say that’s stupid and shows exactly what’s wrong with wrestling games as a whole and how out of touch the once impressive Yukes and THQ are with their own audience. Ask some gamers if they’d rather be able to import their old CAW (create-a-wrestlers) and be able to use them again, or have slightly, ever so subtly improved graphics, and the odds will be heavily in favor of the importing. Instead we get the same basic rehashed WWE story mode we’ve had through pretty much every WWE game spread out over all three consoles this generation. You climb the ladder, you make some alliances, you get betrayed, and you walk over the exceptionally inept AI on your way through a plotline that even Vince Russo would say “Wow, that’s worse than my Oklahoma idea.”

My big problem here, is that we’ve had story modes for about 5 years in wrestling games, starting with the first Smackdown on the PSX. And there has been very little improvement over the years. Don’t get me wrong, if you compare DOR2 to Smackdown, it obvious there has been some evolution. But if you look at the 9-10 games that THQ has published with a WWE license this generation, the story mode has grown stale and stagnant. Yukes is very lucky there’s no competition right now in the US wrestling video game market, because any company with some fresh ideas on a season/career mode, would leave them in the dust.

For most of you who are jonesing for the newest wrestling video game to hit US shores, you’re be satisfied with the claptrap that is presented to you here with a 50$ price tag. But then look how many wrestling fans continued on like lapdogs after the “Katie Vick” angle or the “Gene Snitsky aborts Lita’s fetus” angle or the “Double J gets to main event for years even though no one would care if he got hit by a truck” angle. Oh wait, that last one’s a TNA angle.

I really hope that a career mode that isn’t insulting to a wrestling fan’s intelligence gets made for the next generation of consoles, because after RAW 1, Raw 2, WM XIX, WM XXI, and Smackdown for RAW one thing is for certain: THQ knows they can make third rate wrestling games at full price, and the average wrasslin’ fan would scoop them up like the mindless fan boys they are.

Pretty bad if only because this story mode shows Yukes just doesn’t care any more.

Story Rating: 3/10

2. Graphics

Visually. DOR2 is pretty impressive. It’s the best looking wrestling game on the Game Cube, and it IS true that the graphics are better than DOR1, but only slightly.

Many of the characters, especially during their entrances looks nearly alive. This worries me a bit because this means a lot of gamers are going to make their home rather messy when say, Stacy Keibler or Trish Stratus shows up on their screen. However, there are some exceptions to the graphics. Carlito Colon and Big Show look pretty bad in terms of rendering, as do most of the “WWE Legends.” Hulk Hogan is the exception here as he looks like he’s about to step out of your screen and legdrop you.

Of course he looks the best brother. Hogan’s a slimy weasel. He’s always crying to Vince or Eric Bischoff if he doesn’t get his way and refuses to job. Hell, he won’t even face the Macho Man in a fight. He’s scared I’ll break him in two. Oooooh yeah.

Oookay…. Moving on then.
The Titantron contains actual entrance videos and stock footage of WWE wrestlers. It’s a nice touch, although it is jarring when you compare the video game character to the actual footage of their real life selves. It’s a minor quibble, but it’s still one that stands out.

The in ring action is pretty smooth. there’s very little lag or slowdown in the graphics, and even then it’s only when you have more than a one on one match going on. All the moves are straight out of whatever imaginary grappling textbook you want to invent.

Poffo’s Primer?

Sure Randy.

DOR2 is pretty, I’ll grant the game that. But like so many games this generation, there’s a focus on style over substance, and for every visual ah DOR2 gives us, it earns a gameplay UGH.

Graphics Rating: 8/10

3. Sound

There’s no voice acting for DoR2. I just want to get that out of the way. Supposedly Yukes had a choice between realistic ring entrances and voice acting. Which is funny, considering the last DoR game didn’t have voice acting either. Again, this reeks of cutting corners and choosing to make a quick and sloppy product over something of quality.

Instead of voice acting we’ve got badly written dialogue that runs across the screen. I guess Yukes is so used to people being fine with no voice acting in console games from a generation ago, they thought it’d be fine to actual back pedal in terms of progress. or they just didn’t realize that in the US, mike work is as important to getting wrestlers over as their actual in ring ability. Case in point: JBL and…that guy who I can’t name or Randy will go nuts.

Hulk Hogan! You stinkin’ pansy! Whorin’ out your daughter on VH-1 so you can have some more spotlight. Well, if the Macho Man had a daughter, she’d not be my media puppet. Ooooh yeah. Man, I wish I had my Slim Jims contract back…

The WWE theme music of each wrestler featured in the game is also available in the game, and is faithful to a note. There’s also some generic rock and metal tracks that are easily forgettable and only worth a footnote here in the review.

Once again, there’s no advancement or improvements over the original DoR, and in many cases, the game is worse in this area than games released a generation ago. I mean, Akklaim’s WWF War Zone had several speeches for each character recorded. And that was a PSX disc. Yukes and THQ can claim the game Cube Discs weren’t big enough to hold any voice acting, but I can’t believe that considering a PS1 CD could hold a few dozen minute long speeches.
Another check in the disappointment column for this game. Same rehashed sounds we’ve had for years. And now, we’re lacking voice acting as well.

Sound Rating: 4/10

4. Control & Gameplay

If you’ve played one Yukes/Aki made WWF (or WCW) game in the past 9 years, you’ve played this one. From WCW vs the World to Day of Reckoning 2, the controls are pretty much the same through and through.

That’s not to say this is necessarily bad however. After all, these same controls made the N64 wrestling games super popular, and WM 2000 and No Mercy became actual system sellers. However, considering so little has changed in the gameplay, it irks me that the cost still remains 50$ for the same reason I’m bothered by sports games selling at full price when there is minimal change in the game from year to year.

So what is new in the DOR2 engine? Well, the counter system has remained the same, the same basic gameplay is intact. How hard you press a button still determines what type of move you will do, and the control layout is the same basic format as in previous Game Cube WWE games.

Submission wrestling has changed however. Instead of the same old button mashing bonanza that we’ve come to see once a leglock or figure four is place on a wrestler, Yukes has focused on use the Game Cube’s C stick to be the submission wrestling focus. Pressing the C stick in any of the four directions creates a different results for your attacking grappler. You’ve got rest holds like the reverse chin lock which do little damage, but allow you to regain some health. You’ve got a taunt (god knows why they consider this a submission move, but they do in this game) which gets the crowd behind you more. Then you have two submissions moves, one which drains attack power, and one which drains their health. Personally it’s only these latter two that you’ll ever really use against the computer. Even in multiplayer matches, you’ll just use taunt and rest holds to be a dick to your friends.

Now this would be interesting, except that Yukes added a second layer which rather ruins it. At least against the computer. While you are being put into a submission hold, you can move your C stick to guess which of the four choices your opponent is going to do. If you are right, you break the hold. I won’t ruin this for you, but when you play the computer, due to the amazingly poor and repetitive AI, you’ll be breaking the holds about 7 out of ten times after playing a half dozen or so matches. Basically Yukes has made it even easier to slaughter the computer controlled opponent. And trust me, these games have never been difficult in the first place.

Generally the controls are good. I’m glad to see SOMETHING new was added to the gameplay in DoR2, but the end result with the submission aspect is far more suited to multiplayer action than against the computer.

Still, the old adage is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And Yukes certainly has feel comfortable enough to rest on the laurels of gameplay they introduced a decade ago to US gamers.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 7/10

5. Replayability

Well, the story mode in Day of Reckoning 2 is only a one-shot. Once you beat it, there’s no point in playing it again. But there’s more to DoR2 than one simple linear mode.

There are 45 wrestlers to choose from in this game, even though it’s not a full WWE Smackdown and Raw roster. However, again we’ve got back pedaling. Games like WCW mayhem held 56 wrestlers, and that was on a PSX/N64 platform. Even THQ’s own 1997 WCW/NWO World Tour held 44 wrestlers. Are we honestly saying in 8 years, we only found the ability to cram one more guy onto a next-gen console? Again, I have issues with this. Still, 45 is very good compared to say, the Genesis’ Super Wrestlemania with a whopping 8 guys.

There’s also only ten match styles on DoR2. We’ve got things like Hell in the Cell, Cage matches, Last man Standing, Tag matches, and so on. But again, nothing new has been added in a long time. Remember when wrestling games allowed SURVIVOR SERIES matches? I do, because they were back on 16 Bit systems. Where’s War Games? or the Elimination Chamber? How about an Inferno Match? Or a barbed wire ring like Akklaim’s ECW game had. A Lumberjack match, Coal Miner’s Glove match, six man tag matches and more are all real matches that could be added to a wrestling game. Instead, we once again get the same old, same old hackneyed repeats we’ve had in our poor WWE games for years. Is it really that hard for developers to try and add something new to a wrestling game.

In truth, DoR2, like most WWE games this generation are a graphical upgrade and a throwback in regards to everything else. Sure you can play the same old match types and have the same matches against the computer using different guys, but there’s only one way to get any replay value out of this game, and that’s multiplayer. Your friends can actually think and don’t fall into the same patterns 100% of the time, so it can be fun and challenging.

There’s also the WWE Shop Zone where you can earn money to unlock stuff, but that gets boring fast.

There’s little reason to play DoR2 more than a weekend. You’ll have gotten everything possible out of the game. Unless you’re a diehard wrestling fan boy, this game is a rental only.

Replayability Rating: 3/10

6. Balance

Remember back when wrestling games had actual AI. I can. Games like All Japan Pro Wrestling vs Virtua Fighter, Fire Pro Wrestling: Six Man Scramble, and even WWF Attitude had some sort of depth to what the computer would attempt to do to you move-wise.

The computer makes Eugene look like a Machiavellian politician in terms of strategy. It will never use the momentum shift on you, it will attack sporadically and often nonsensically. It is passive on the highest difficultly level, and all but invites you to beat the snot out of it.

After an hour, you will be able to predict the exact layout of your match. The computer is that vapid. Really the only thing that separates out the difficulty levels is how often the computer reverses your moves.

DoR2 is a cakewalk. There’s no way you should lose a match, even on the highest difficulty, if only because the computer is that much of a pushover. Call it telegraphing, call it following the same repetitive cycle, call it a shoddy programming job. Just don’t call this game difficult at all, because it’s anything but.

Amazingly pathetic single player mode. That’s as nice as I can be.

Balance Rating: 1/10

7. Originality

OOOOOH YEAH! The Madness is…

Oh screw it. WM XXI was such a slap in the face to every game on the planet, wrestling fan or not, that I had to make fun of it with the Macho Man gimmick in order to not going insane and butcher the families of everyone involved in with the development of that piece of crap. Here this game is just bad enough that I know it could have been something decent had Yukes actually tried instead of giving us regurgitated pabulum. It’s too good to make fun of, but far too mediocre to enjoy. And that just makes me angry instead of witty and sarcastic.

Aside from a new submission style gameplay, there’s not a single lick of originality in this game. DoR2 is pretty much the same wrestling game THQ has been publishing for Yukes and/or Aki since WCW vs. the World. I’ve pretty much had it with the entire genre due to developers not thinking outside their box or daring to give us anything more. I’m also pretty sick of other review sites who try and pretend there’s anything innovative in the latest batch of wrestling games. And most of all, I’m sick of gamers being that pathetic and sheep-like to whip out their check book or credit card and pay 50$ for the same damn game they’ve bought a half dozen times before, albeit it with a slightly different roster. Just this year alone we’ve had a nearly unplayable game in WM XXI, and now this. At least DoR2 can be enjoyable on some level, but it’s mediocre and bland.

Thank god the new Smackdown vs Raw game for the PS2 will add at least one new match type with Buried Alive matches. So in five years we’ve gotten two new match modes. Wow. Yippee.

Come on Yukes. TRY and make something innovating like you used to last decade? PLEASE?

Originality Rating: 1/10

8. Addictiveness

Even with all my bashing of this game so far, one thing remains to be true. Wrestling games are fun. At least for the first hour or three you play them. I got sucked into the story mode until I realized it was par for the course. I enjoyed watching the entrances and seeing how real they seemed, until I’d watched a dozen and realized it was pretty boring.

Single player mode you will get sick of in a single day. But multiplayer mode? That’s what makes this game a fun weekend rental. You just smack talk your pals while piledriving and suplexing each other till the cows come home. In this regard DoR2 can be a lot of fun, although the momentum shift is annoying for everyone involved when it happens to them.

If Yukes could work on the AI for their games, this would be worth coming back for. But that won’t happen as long as the crap keeps on selling.

Addictiveness Rating: 4/10

9. Appeal Factor

Because the average wrestling gaming fan is now starved due to only one federation being active in the US (Remember ECW and WCW games?) with a video game contract, THQ could release a game filled with stick figures that danced around saying “We knew you would buy this. Ha ha ha.” And it would sell. And you KNOW IT. You’d buy it because you desperately want to play a wrestling game and god knows you won’t import the good stuff from Japan because the wrestlers have slanty eyes or you’ve never heard of them before. You’d rather have a mediocre game emblazoned with HHH’s face on the cover than a game with some depth and challenge with names like “Onita” or “Don Frye.” Even the ol’ Giant Gram is a better wrestling game than anything released stateside in years. I’m not one of those Puro freaks who assume anything with Misawa or Stan Hansen or W*NG Kanemura is an automatically better game. I prefer American wrestling. I Grew up on WCCW, the AWA and the UWF. But I am willing to admit to you, that Japan has better wrestling games that are more worth your money and time. So what if you have to import. Isn’t the key thing to get your hands on a quality game? You can always DESIGN your Rocks and your AJ Styles.

Oh…screw it. I’m probably just wasting my breath and fating myself to emails from people who thought Austin flicking everyone off every 60 seconds was genius.

Like Madden, you’re going to buy this game no matter what if you’re even remotely a fan of the genre. So go buy it. Enjoy your sense of Deja Vu while you’re at it. God knows it’s not like there’s a monopoly on the genre in the US or anything…

Appeal Factor: 7/10

10. Miscellaneous

Mediocre game done by a mediocre developer. The sad thing is WWF games used to be great. Yukes used to be a great developer too. Now they’re just shadows of the past clinging desperately to an outdated legacy hoping their millions of zealots won’t notice.

This isn’t a bad game at all. It’s just an obvious rush job to meet the now yearly WWE fix for each system. If you have DoR1, there’s no point in buy this. If you have Wrestlemania XXI for the Xbox, then this game will seem like a sweet release into Utopia for you. Trust me, I’d rather play DoR2 and no other wrestling game ever again, than have to go through even a chapter of story mode in the crap Studio Gigante suckered people into buying.

I’m highly disappointed that nothing new has been, and probably ever will be done with wrestling games for the near future. Sure there may be 1-2 miniscule updates each year, but in the end, they will be so minor the advancements will only seem noticeable compared to a game from the generation of consoles before.

Yay for appealing to the lowest common denominator I guess.

Miscellaneous Rating: 5/10

The Scores
Story: 3/10
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 4/10
Control & Gameplay: 7/10
Replayability: 3/10
Balance: 1/10
Originality: 1/10
Addictiveness: 4/10
Appeal: 7/10
Miscellaneous: 5/10

Overall Score: 43/100
FINAL SCORE: 4.5 (Slightly Below Average)

Short Attention Span Summary
This is a rental ONLY. And only for a weekend when you’re going to have a get-together with your fellow wrestling friends. Story mode is okay if this is your first time with a wrestling game, or you’re coming back to them after a long hiatus. Otherwise there is nothing in this game you haven’t experienced before. If you’ve already got a wrestling game for a console this generation you enjoy, then there is no point in wasting a hard earned fifty bucks on this. Still, I recommend this a thousand times over WM XXI. It’s just sad to see that it’s been years since a quality WWE game, and I’m pretty sure we’ll be waiting a few more years until we have one again.