Wrestling games have had their ups and downs this generation. On Xbox, every single game (RAW, RAW 2 and Wrestlemania 21) has sucked while on the PS2 the Smackdown series continues to put out solid efforts. On the GameCube things have been pretty good with the Wrestlemania games, although nothing has really stood out.
I never played the original Day of Reckoning, but I had heard good things about it so I was excited to play this new version. Day of Reckoning 2 starts the story up right after the end of the original and also gives you the usual options to do matches outside of the story mode.
The graphics in Day of Reckoning 2 are pretty good and are certainly a step up from the last GameCube wrestling game I played (Wrestlemania X8). It was really nice to see that they actually have full entrances for all the wrestlers, although it is obvious that they cut some corners here and there, such as with Batista’s pyrotechnics.
The wrestlers look a lot like their real life counterpart, but the detail obviously isn’t as deep as you can find in any of the horrible Xbox games. Clipping finds its way into the game, but that is a pretty basic problem with any wrestling game; especially one where you have to create a wrestler in order to get into the story mode. The variables of size and height would make clipping that much more possible simply because there is not a static built-in wrestler to do all the animations with.
The animations in the game are also well done and it doesn’t look like the wrestlers have a stick up their ass and they move at regular speed. There is a bit of a jump between the animations of grappling and pulling off a move, but the camera flipping does a good job of hiding this little problem. I await the day where there is a fluid game from move to move, but realize it is a difficult thing to overcome.
I give high props for having all of the entrance music for the wrestlers. I also applaud the fact that the sound is already pretty loud when the game begins and you can actually hear the entrance music (a problem I talked about in my Wrestlemania 21 review on Xbox for that game). These things within themselves makes a pretty good sound and music category for any wrestling game in my opinion.
The rest of the sounds are also very nice, but nothing really stands out from other wrestling games I have played. The two big absences in this game are there are no announcers (which is a good thing with how it’s been put into other wrestling games) and there are no voiceovers during the storymode. The latter one is hard to overcome since Day of Reckoning 2‘s major mode is the story mode. Yukes has said that they couldn’t put voices on because of space limitation and because they put their time into entrances instead of voiceovers. I can understand that, but I wonder how much better this game could be if it was on the Xbox or PS2. There is a huge amount of text in the story mode and it would have been so much better with voice, but we’re left with what we have.
Control is a tad loose at times, but for the most part it is pretty tight. The standard AKI blueprint of control is alive and well in this game, but no developer has ever quite reached the brass ring of the AKI developed Nintendo 64 games.
The B button is your strike button (punches and kicks), the A button is the grapple button. The grapple button can be pressed lightly for a quick attack of pushed in for a more powerful move. You then have a choice of using the B or A button along with a direction to pull off a move and different positions in the ring (such as against the corner) will result in different moves being available. The X button is used to pick up your opponent if you tap it, but if you press it you will roll your opponent over. The Y button is used to sprint and throw your opponent to the ropes. The Z button is used in tag team matches to tag in your partner. The L and R trigger buttons are used to reverse moves when the indicators come up on screen (if you have the option turned on) and the d-pad is used to taunt your opponent.
The final move is when one of your 3 men fill up. You then press B+A to go into Special mode and then to pull off your special move you press B+A again. Unfortunately it seems each wrestler has only one finishing move whereas in many other wrestling games they have multiple ones, but I will explain the problem with this a bit in the gameplay section.
The fact is that Day of Reckoning 2 is built totally around the story mode. It starts up from the end of last game where you went from being a minor wrestler to the World Champion. Now you’re a top-tier wrestler and there’s a new storyline to go down. The cool thing is that cover woman Stacy Keibler is your girlfriend and she goes through the story mode with you.
One of the major problems right off the bat with story mode are for those people that went through the Day of Reckoning story: you can’t import your wrestler from the game. Yukes says it is because of the new graphic engine, but who really knows. So, your “top-tier” wrestler now has to start from ground zero in the stats portion of the create-a-wrestler mode. Basically you are left as a low rung wrestler in stats, but you face off against top-tier opponents while trying to build your stats.
Story mode can be fun, but there are two problems with it: no voiceover and loading times. I talked about the lack of voiceover in the sound section, but it is important to repeat it here. There is a lot of text and a lot of gestures from the wrestlers in the story mode. The addition of voiceovers would have put this game over the top in my opinion.
The second problem is a little more puzzling because there are actually some long load times in Day of Reckoning 2. It’s hard for me to fathom there being long load times on a GameCube game, but it happens both in the story mode and in other modes. The reason I point that out is because I could understand a problem with having to read the CAW (create-a-wrestler) from the memory card to put in the match in story mode, but in regular mode where you can pick two WWE wrestlers the long loading time is found as well.
One more thing I would like to point out about story mode is that you don’t create a wrestler that has a submission finishing move because you will be severely screwed in any match that isn’t one-on-one. In a tag match you better hope your partner has a non-submission final move because it can be hard to manipulate a partner into hitting the opponent’s partner before he knocks you off the submission. I noticed this problem early on when I was tagged with Chris Jericho who uses the Liontamer as his finishing move. With my stats so low and Chris only having a submission finisher I had a hard time winning the match. You will encounter more of these problems later on in the story mode, especially when you have to face Kurt Angle in a submission match later in the game.
I also need to point out one gameplay addition to the game that supposedly was not in Day of Reckoning. There is a now a stamina meter to go along with your lifeline and special icons. As you do moves your stamina drops and you have to be somewhat strategic in how you attack your opponent so your stamina doesn’t drop to the point where you are winded. I overlooked the stamina when I first started playing this game, but I soon found out I need to keep an eye on that meter along with the others.
Day of Reckoning 2 is fun, but it just didn’t give me as much joy as those Nintendo 64 games gave me.
Once you’re done with story mode and you’ve unlocked the 5 legends the value of the game drops considerably unless you want to go through story mode again with a different type of wrestler. Outside of wanting to do that the replay value for this game is rather poor. This isn’t to say the story mode won’t keep you playing the game, because it is a year in the life of your wrestler, you just have to get past the text-only cutscenes.