WWE Day of Reckoning
System: GameCube
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Yukes
Released: August 2004
Genre: Pro-Wrestling
Capabilities: Memory Card

Review Written: September 20, 2004

****Winner of GameFAQs September 2004 Review of the Month Award***

After two decent outings on the GameCube with Wrestlemania X8 and Wrestlemania XIX, THQ and Yukes are still out to prove they can make a great wrestling game on Nintendo’s console. To establish that they mean business, they dropped the ‘Wrestlemania’ trademark of the title, and renamed this installment Day of Reckoning. DoR may not be the pinnacle of all wrestling games, but it is easily far better than its two predecessors.

Yukes’ intentions for its GCN wrestling titles were to make them feel like you were playing the classic N64 games made by AKI (makers of Revenge & No Mercy). They did this by slowing down the pace of gameplay and enabling it so wrestlers don’t pop up right away after a big move much like they do in Yukes’ Smackdown titles. While I think Yukes hit the mark just right with the pacing of the game this year, the wrestlers stay down on the mat far much longer than you’d desire. I do have a personal gripe with the controls; if Yukes would of really wanted this to feel like a tried-and-true AKI game, then they would have included the rising counter-strike option that AKI had in all its games by holding the R button while your wrestler gets back up on his feet. By leaving this option out, my character would end up on the receiving end of more damage while he tried to properly position himself against his opponent. It’s not that big of an issue, but it is enough to make a difference, and seemed like the one thing this engine needed to come out on top.

The developers did bring over a couple gameplay mechanics from their latest Smackdown installment last year. One of them is the character damage bar, which is a portrait of a outlined human next to a character’s stamina gauge, and it changes in color on how bad the body parts are taking damage in a match. The next thing they brought over is an escape meter for major submission holds like the Dragon Sleeper, Sharpshooter, etc. Mash away at that A button like there’s no tomorrow to escape a hold or make the opponent tap out. I didn’t like how it was implemented in Smackdown last year because a body part’s health wore down rapidly when continuously worked upon, but the rate of the damage being yielded now is much more satisfying.

Yukes has tried something new called ‘momentum shifts’ and I believe it is an exclusive in DoR. A Momentum Shift is an innovative maneuver which gives a player who is getting their butt kicked one last chance to come back into the match. When a player’s stamina gauge is flashing ‘danger’ the player has about a 20-second window of opportunity to pull off such a feat with one of many pace-changing moves like a low blow for example, and it’ll steal your opponents momentum and boost yours up dramatically to give you the upper hand. I love this feature, and it works out perfectly, especially if you catch a friend of yours who likes to show off a little too much.

If there is one major downer in this year’s game, it has to be the roster. There are only 35 currently active WWE Superstars in the game (34 if you don’t count The Rock). And while there are still plenty of big names in DoR such as Triple H, Kurt Angle, The Undertaker, and Shawn Michaels, there are also some noteworthy omissions like Eugene, Billy Gunn, FBI, Maven, all three of the Dudleyz, La Resistance, and current WWE Champ, JBL. In exchange for this lack of roster depth there are five legends included in the forms of Greg Valentine, Brutus Beefcake, Roddy Piper, Andre the Giant, and Bret Hart. Big props for bringing in Andre & Bret, as any true wrestling fan should appreciate these two being available to play in a WWE game for the first time in years.

f you recall the past two Wrestlemania titles, both of them never really had an in-depth story mode the last few Smackdown games have showcased. Things change this year as there’s a brand new Story mode, complete with storylines from WWE writers. It takes place over a year of programming where you take a created superstar and have him work his way past the WWE’s developmental league, into lower tiered WWE programming, and finally land a contract with either the RAW or Smackdown roster. One thing that sticks out is having certain winning conditions in matches, like beating an opponent within five minutes, or not using your finisher to achieve a victory. I had a blast playing through the story. However, it’s very linear compared to the Story mode in the Smackdown games. There are no real decisions you can make to establish your character as a face or heel, and storylines don’t change whether you win or lose. If a match is lost, the game will simply make you retry until you win or until the desired match scenario is achieved. The only actual choice you make in the Story mode is to compete in the RAW or Smackdown rosters and the story is the same in both, but with different superstars and minor dialogue changes to accommodate the proper characters. It’s also disappointing you can’t play through the mode as any of the WWE wrestlers, though I can understand where the developers are coming from since it wouldn’t make any sense in the given storylines. Even with all those drawbacks, the story mode is still one heck of an experience your first time through.

Now what would a WWE game be without its wide selection of popular gimmick matches? Aside from the standard tag team, one-on-one, triple threat, and fatal four way matches there are also Cage, Hell in a Cell, Hardcore, Ladder, Tables, TLC, & Royal Rumble matches to choose from. These all play out the same in the past, my only qualms with them are that I wish the partner AI in tag team contests was a little more smarter and that the Ladder matches were a little longer. The mode is in dire need of making the belt unreachable until a few minutes into gameplay much like it is in Acclaim’s Legends of Wrestling games. The only major new mode in this GCN version is the Bra & Panties match brought over from the PS2 games. It’s not as much fun as you’d think, as it stays very similar to the PS2 version where you simply mash buttons to remove garments from one of the WWE divas (ed. note: That’s not fun?) . Sadly, Yukes omitted the popular Elimination Chamber that debuted in the latest PS2 game, but there is still an enormous amount of gameplay options to keep any wrestling fan happy.

The Create-a-Wrestler (CaW) got a bit of a boost and is almost on par with the spectacular one from the Smackdown games. There are a plethora of textures to apply to shirts, bikinis, face-paint designs, jeans, you name it. Dig far enough and you’ll find Yukes included some parts and move animations for a lot of the notable missing wrestlers I mentioned above. The entrance editor is just as in-depth as it was last year; the only thing I would like added to it would be the ability to create a simple titantron like you could in RAW 2. One other minor complaint I have with this CaW is you still can’t manually add letters to costumes. It would save a lot of time compared with creating them in the paint tool. All in all, another stellar CaW mode, and if you’re like me, you’ll spend a good few hours in it to make the quintessential WWE Superstar.

The wrestlers got a big boost in graphic quality this year, as they look nearly identical to their real life counterparts. From the many wrinkles of Ric Flair to the countless tattoos on The Undertaker, almost any detail you remember on a WWE athlete makes its way into DoR. Yukes does an amazing job accurately animating all the athlete’s trademark moves, and they make sure to add that extra ‘oomph’ for finishers by adding in replays and other video effects to add to their impact. The entrances are also spot on where wrestlers make their way to the ring exactly like they do on television, complete with each superstar’s respective pyrotechnics and titantron movies.

There is no commentary again this year, and I’m still not going to complain about it since nobody can get it right these days. Most of the entrance themes are right on the money, with almost all WWE stars having their respective themes (there are a couple exceptions like Ric Flair and the legends). However, one big inclusion in the audio department is licensed music used during gameplay. This is a much welcomed change of atmosphere from the generic rock riffs that populated wrestling games of the past. THQ licensed some big rock and rap artists to do the honors for the soundtrack like Anthrax and Public Enemy. Even better, these songs can be used as entrance themes for created wrestlers. It’s too bad there are only 11 tracks, as the songs end up repeating faster than you’d like.

In the end, this is easily the best WWE game on the GameCube. If Yukes would’ve made the Story mode a bit more non-linear like the Smackdown games and added the elimination chamber, this could’ve been one of the best WWE games this generation. Still, there is a lot to offer and plenty of elements to distinguish it from being a Smackdown-clone. If you’ve looking for the right WWE fix for the GCN, then I highly recommend you purchase WWE Day of Reckoning.

Score: 9/10

Back to Gruel's GameFAQs Review Page