GAMECUBE REVIEW: WWE: DAY OF RECKONING 2

Nintendo wrestling fans have been patiently waiting for the day when Yukes and THQ would upstage their already popular Smackdown series on the PS2 with a stellar wrestling title on the Cube and it looks like their day of reckoning has come. DoR2 is the best wrestling title available on the Cube and I'm going to even go so far as to suggest that it indeed has stolen the Heavyweight Championship Belt from Sony's console, thus making DoR2 the best wrestling title available...on any system. However a caveat remains: It's only the best when played with other humans because the CPU AI is simply too erratic to enjoy for long periods of time.

Yukes not only improved the visuals of the wrestlers (increasing polygon counts) but managed to inject some incredible new innovations into the mechanics of the game. The new stamina based system works well for the most part, but there are some inherent kinks to be ironed out in future renditions of the series - God willing. In previous games players will remember getting into the ring with a stronger opponent and being beaten to a pulp while they could barely get a grapple to initiate. The stamina meter changes all of that and creates a better sense of balance. Each move drains stamina from the meter which in effect will leave stronger opponents weak as kittens after having their way with you for awhile. This allows you to champion the reversal and take the fight back to them once they are weakened, which is what brings people to their feet in arenas and living rooms the world over. This feature alone captures the true essence of why people love wrestling in the first place. Where it falters slightly, is that it tends to draw out matches far beyond their expiry date in my opinion. That's a completely moot point if you love long dramatic wrestling bouts.

Certainly the stamina meter is a welcome addition but it's the submission system that changes the face of videogame wrestling and is a keeper for all eternity. The submission system is mapped to the C stick and allows wrestlers to select 4 different moves depending on which way the stick is directioned. Submit (Up-C) puts immense pressure on your opponents weakened areas. Drain (Right-C) drains the opponent's stamina allowing you some breathing space. Taunt (Left-C) reduces your opponents crowd momentum while Rest Hold (Down-C) increases your own stamina. Your opponents aren't overpowered by this system either. If they guess exactly which move you're going to execute and initiate the same on their C-Stick, the move is broken. I'd love to see this mechanic utilized in an online game, when you're player 2 can't simply look over once the submission animation begins to see which move you're pulling resulting in a cancel.

Players eager to continue last years game with their created wrestler will be disappointed that there is no import feature available. THQ explained that it's due to the vastly improved polygon characters used in DoR2. However this is a pretty fatal oversight as the story mode continues from the first DoR. This means that you'll have to either recreate your character from the first game in the games robust create feature or simply invent another one....think of it like the two Darren's on Bewitched. Maybe no one will recognize that this years version of "Big Bruiser" is 4 inches taller and black. The story mode while perhaps a little drawn out is the only way you'll unlock many of the games various arenas, so it's a worthwhile venture.

DoR2's biggest drawback is the lack of space on the GC disks which didn't allow for voiceovers from your favorite wrestlers. This isn't the fault of Yukes as they did the best they could under the circumstances, but reading the text isn't the same as hearing it delivered from the mouths of your favorite grapplers. The games second knock concerns its bizarre AI. Sometimes the wrestlers will just stand there unable to do anything while other matches will require every amount of talent you've got in your little fingers. Unfortunately the game bounces back and forth between challanging and cakewalk.

If you can overlook the lack of aural excitement, DoR2's presentation and is second to none...for now. The ring entrances are excellent and the sheer amount of wrestling modes, characters and arenas are sure to delight any WWE fan. The roster of available wrestlers is hefty at 45 (including Divas and Legends) and while that's great for a Cube wrestling game, the upcoming Smackdown 2006 promises more than that - so DoR2 can bask in the spotlight for a little while longer.

I was extremely impressed with the first DoR's control scheme and the sequel finetunes everything. It's definitely not a button masher. Players who spend the time learning the proper moves, timing and when to effectively use their stamina and submissions will find a challenging deep game. Much like Soul Calibur, DoR2 really rewards those who take the time to understand the nuances of the control.

This is definitely the games swansong on the Cube and it's definitely going out on top. I expect to see this franchise continued on the next gen consoles although I suspect that it might not be a Nintendo exclusive given the amount of popularity and good press surrounding the series. In any event if Yukes tightens up the AI, continues to evolve the submission and stamina meters and puts the voices back in, WWE fans everywhere will be falling over themselves to play the third iteration. Just don't expect to import your character next time either.

 

Preview By Vaughn

Last years Day of Reckoning received quite high praise from our resident reviewer Dan and the upcoming sequel just might follow in those footsteps.

Sporting a 30% increase in polygon count, not only will the wrestlers look more realistic (check the screens) but will possess incredible looking facial animations that have yet to be seen in a videogame to date.

We'd be happy with just a visual upgrade (even though DoR looked great anyway) but THQ and Yukes aren't stopping there. The gameplay which semi-relied on button mashing in previous Cube versions will now be more strategically geared. "Every action in the game will either increase your stamina or drain your stamina," explains Matt Greig, the creative manager at THQ. "So if you're at a point where you want to end the match, you can take a risk, use up all of your stamina and try to end that match right then and there. But if that risk backfires, if you actually end up expending all of that stamina and not ending the match, you're now at a disadvantage. Your opponent could now come in and end the match based on the fact that you have low stamina."

As well, a new submission mechanic is currently being implemented and will be executed with the Cube controllers unique C-Stick control, perhaps much like EA's "Total Control Punching" system in Fight Night Round 2. If you press up with the C Stick, we're told that your wrestler will expend a great deal of stamina applying a powerful submission hold on your opponent. Pressing down will allow your wrestler to apply a rest hold which increases your overall stamina. Other uses are currently unknown.

If you spent anytime at all with last years game you'd have no doubt realized that the Story Mode was little more than a one path donkey. Yukes has listened to gamers complaints and promises a branching storyline inspired by the quest for power, greed and success rather than the usual "chase the belt" affairs common to most other wrestling titles.

All in all the only bad news this time out is that this is definitely Yukes swan song for the GameCube. After this one hits storeshelves later this year that will definitely be the end of an era....and some great wrestling titles completely unique to Nintendo's funky little box.

 

Click For Media
System: GameCube
Dev: Yuke's Media
Pub: THQ
Release: Aug 2005
Players: 1 - 4
Review By Vaughn
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.0
GRAPHICS
4.5
CONTROL
4.5
MUSIC/FX
2.5
VALUE
3.5