Friday, October 21, 2005

WWE Day of Reckoning 2

WWE fans, Gamecube owners, WWE fans who just happen to be Gamecube owners, rejoice as one of the most enthralling wrestling titles today has landed on the system. Since Aki Corp.'s departure from the WWF/WWE license post Nintendo 64, wrestling titles haven't been the same. Yuke's Media Creations that were at the time the sole developers of the Smackdown brand on Sony Playstation consoles took up the task of delivering to Gamecube owners a wrestling franchise to call their own. After a couple of well intentioned but severely lacking titles, things were taken into a new direction. Throwing the Wrestlemania license over to the XBOX platform, Yuke's began on a journey to make good on their offering to Gamecube owners a wrestling title that accentuated their talents and benefitted the potential consumer audience. With the new Day of Reckoning brand, Yuke's was well on its way to bringing that perfect title, but there was still some things that were out of place, at least until now.
Day of Reckoning 2 essentially picks up where the first Day of Reckoning title left off. After building your way up from the minor leagues into the WWE big time and after weathering allegiances and betrayal, your jobber would reign supreme with the World Heavyweight Title in tow. Well, somewhere between then and now, the title was lost in a match and due to a simultaneous double fault (pin/tap out) the General Manager of RAW, Eric Bischoff, was forced to vacate the title. With the title now up for grabs, a tournament between RAW's best (including you) is conducted to determine who would earn that championship belt. This is where everything begins to fall apart however as during the final moments of the tournament the title goes missing and of course everyone is suspect. Unfortunately for you, due to circumstances before and during the tournament your character ends up becoming the most suspect of all. Comprised of your standard, dramatized WWE storyline, you will once again be tested as you fight to clear your good name, weed through the lies and deception until one truth prevails and ultimately seek championship gold. In Day of Reckoning 2 even your best friend could essentially be your worst enemy.
Now, Day of Reckoning 2 doesn't steer very far from the over dramatized musings of the TV show but it certainly seems to amount to much more than the "pauper to king" storyline presented in the first game. The story also does a good job of keeping things moving as well as the player guessing as your progress from chapter to chapter. Throughout the storyline you'll be given choices to determine how your character will react in certain situations. For instance, if someone you know has been ambushed at ringside, you may be given the option of staying where you are and not getting involved, or risking your neck to go out there and provide some help. However, the way this impacts your character's integrity in the eyes of your peers could come into play despite your best (or worst) intentions. If there was any glaring fault to this aspect of the game, it would definitely have to be with the fact that you can't import your Day of Reckoning characters into this game. According to THQ, Yuke's changes to many areas of the game wouldn't allow the transfer of older characters into a new product. So yeah, get ready to put those creative juices to work in creating those custom characters of yours.

In Day of Reckoning 2, the name of the game, is strategy. There are two aspects to Day of Reckoning 2 that makes it the most realistic wrestling title out there on the market today. One aspect is the visual quality of the game, the graphics; and the other has to do with the game's combat system. Anyone who has played wrestling titles since the N64 days knows what is usually expected of these kinds of games. Back then, strategy was the focus and now strategy is still the focus. Where Aki left off with games like WWF No Mercy, Yuke's has tried to re-establish and even surpass with the Day of Reckoning titles. With Day of Reckoning 2, fans of that particular combat style will have a lot to like about this game.
First things first, the light/heavy grapple system is more or less a centerpiece to this system. How you connect with your opponent and deal with the situation will determine your outcome. When grappling opponents there is literally a move for every situation you could get them in. If they're on their back or on their stomachs, there are moves to deal with them there. If they are set up in the "tree of woe" on the turnbuckle or caught up in the ropes, there are moves to punish them there too. The freedom of choice and types of techniques you can pull off allows you almost total control over any situation. From here on however is where things get interesting. The game's submission system for instance has been majorly tweaked, providing even more control for players to dish out their fury. Upon performing a basic submission hold, the game prompts you with four distinct options that are activated by pushing the C-Stick in that respective direction. You can choose to actually perform a dedicated submission hold on an opponent in order to get them to tap out, you can choose to drain their "Spirit" meter through the attack, you can choose to use the submission as a means to hold your opponent down while your character recovers both strength and stamina until the referee breaks the hold or you can choose to use the hold to drain your opponent's stamina.
However, be mindful that this new submission system, like the old one, can be effectively countered by your opponent, but even that requries some strategy as well. When you are prompted with those four options, your opponent will be prompted with them as well. Now, if your opponent happens to choose the exact same option that you do they will effectively break the hold and counter your attack, of course if they fail, then they get to suffer per the option you chose. The greatest thing about this feature is that is that it forces players to think as to how they should play their strategies. Should the attacker try to drain his/her opponents Stamina to put them at a physical disadvantage? Or should they go for broke and try to submit them for the tap out? As such, the person being attacked may want to keep an eye on their own physical condition as well as their opponent's to better anticipate where the attack will come from. If their stamina is already low, then it's likely that their opponent may want to try and eliminate the rest of that to try and sway the match in their favor, or maybe if the attacker's stamina is low, it is likely that they may want to use the submission as a means of catching their second wind. Understanding the specifics of the match will help in predicting when and how to counter effectively.

Now that it has been brought up, it's probably best if the Stamina feature was explained. New to Day of Reckoning 2 is another aspect to your character's physical condition called Stamina. Basically, stamina is just like what it is in the real world, a level of how long you can endure strenuous activity. With that said, it should be a no brainer that keeping an eye on your stamina and being mindful of how you fight should be top priority. For example, if you're a gung-ho fighter who likes to come out throwing fists, you may want to change your strategy or make sure that those punches you're throwing count. The more you do without providing a break of some sort, the more your stamina gauge will deplete. Once your stamina hits the red zone or hits empty, your character will begin to show signs of fatigue and will begin to move slower and fight less efficiently. Don't fret however, as the stamina gauge does build itself up automatically no matter what, because of this, running out of stamina will most likely be a consequence of reckless fighting or long endurance during matches. Nevertheless, it does provide even more reason to be in tune with the make up of the game as well as your character in order to keep things in check. In addition, the guard maneuver has been tweaked as well. Pressing either of the shoulder buttons will initiate a guard depending on their respective counter controls. The "L" shoulder button for instance will guard against grapple attempts, effectively pushing wrestlers away or defending against the grapple itself while the "R" shoulder button will guard against physical strike attacks by tensing up the body and taking the blow head on. Both of these guard techniques are called "withstand" techniques and while they are advantageous, withstanding too many blows with this maneuver will begin to take a toll on your stamina gauge as well so it's best to use these with caution.
Another notable aspect of the game's enhanced interface has to do with computer controlled opponents and how they deal with these new options even at higher difficulty level. One major notable positive is that computer controlled opponents aren't as cheap as they seemed to be in the first Day of Reckoning game. They'll realistically counter attacks instead of trying to counter everything thrown at them even three versus one onslaughts like in Day of Reckoning. They will also use more dedicated strategy based on the new submission system and the inclusion of the withstand technique. Momentum shifts also return in this game which are essentially last ditch efforts to turn a match over in favor of the one using the Momentum Shift. Of course Momentum Shifts can be countered which helps to stave off opportunists looking for that easy reversal victory.
As mentioned before Day of Reckoning 2 has taken large strides into providing a realistic combat scene that is dependent upon strategy and dedicated fighting techniques to win the day as opposed to your basic wear down and win scenarios seen in most other games of the genre. Nearly everything that is attributed to your success in the ring (or lack thereof) are based upon the choices you make and you literally have full control over such choices as well. Button mashers beware, as your antics will get you nowhere under the new guidelines presented in Day of Reckoning 2. As far as here and now is concerned, you will find no other wrestling entertainment title out there that does what Day of Reckoning 2 attempts to do and succeeds at doing so.
Yuke's Media Creations certainly went the distance to provide a more phenomenal experience with Day of Reckoning 2 in comparison to the first title. Increasing the polygon counts for each established superstar especially in the facial error made for a more visually stunning looking title. Day of Reckoning 2 could very well be the most realistically looking wrestler to date and possibly for the remainder of this console generation. The character models all look very lifelike in comparison with their real life counterparts. When the camera zooms in on Triple H's face during his entrance, you can see the wrinkles in his brow, the depth and contours of his facial profile, even the creases and dimensions of his muscular frame as opposed to it looking like simple texture work. With that, mannerisms and taunts during entrances and in matches are more authentic looking as well as other additions such as tattoos and other markings. Some characters who boast more sophisticated entrances, such as John Bradshaw Layfield (JBL), are spot on complete with a very polished looking, longhorn adorning limousine that rolls out onto the stage.Other minor additions such as sweat coming off of a wrestler after a fierce attack or watching a busted open brawler dripping blood on the mat and leaving stains as well takes the authenticity of the game's aesthetics to a realistic degree.
The wrestlers aren't the only aspects of the game that benefit from the increased visuals either. The various arenas and venues have been restructured which seems to give off a very noticeable amount of depth to the environment. Crowd models are also rendered in 3D as well and seem to boast variety in placement as well. Their chanting, screaming and overall activity is realistically affected by wrestler entrances as well as high and low points during matches. The presence of seeing fans going wild during John Cena's entrance from the front row all the way back to the nosebleed section on the balcony seem to only aid in showing how much larger and more lively these arenas have gotten. Created wrestlers also somewhat benefit from this as well. Although, certainly not on par with the established roster of superstars, created wrestler character models do look much more defined and detailed than they did in Day of Reckoning, even doing away with that pseudo-plastic look for more realistic skin tones and body body make-up. As far as visuals go, all around, Day of Reckoning 2 benefits from the virtual face lift.
Day of Reckoning 2 sports a lively soundtrack much like Day of Reckoning with vocals as well as instrumental songs that play during menus or while in matches. Titantron entrance music is clear and doesn't sound as muffled as it did in Day of Reckoning. The basics of sound and music are all here which isn't a problem in the slightest, however, due to the smaller storage capacity of GCN discs, voice overs were omitted from the final product. For a game that improves in so many ways, the lack of this feature is a bit of a negative consequence despite being the only glaring flaw in this aspect. As great as the story mode is it does leave something to be desired when characters are still given the silent treatment as in Day of Reckoning. Announcer cues during entrances are there however, detailing the various superstars coming down the ramp as well as their statistics and and where they hail from. The Create A Wrestler mode even has prerecorded voice samples for generic characters like a "Ninja" and even some samples of common names such as "Kevin." While it doesn't make up for the former oversight it does provide some solace in other areas of the game.
Being the type of game that it is, Day of Reckoning 2 boasts a huge variety options that the game's appeal can last for an indefinite amount of time. While the Story Mode obviously has a beginning and end, the rest of the game outside of that is pretty much up to your own discretion. The variety of match types and customization options to create any match you want within those parameters can go a long way. Of course, there is also the Create A Wrestler feature which is a lot easier to navigate and setup than in the first Day of Reckoning and boasts a few more options to boot. You can also earn money in matches to spend at Shopzone for items to further personalize your characters or buy new items/weapons for use during matches. There are also "hidden legends" wrestlers which can be unlocked through play when you meet certain conditions.
Since the start of the Gamecube's lifecycle, WWE fans have had a rough run of things when it came to titles starring their favorite TV superstars. With Aki Corp. working on other, more varied projects and the developer in charge of the Playstation "Smackdown" series up to bat to develop for the Gamecube, there was no telling if the glory days of the WCW/NWO games on through to WWF No Mercy would ever return. While things aren't perfect yet, Yuke's Media Creations have made huge strides in delivering to Gamecube owners an experience based on the WWE license that stands on its own two feet as one of the greatest experiences among the genre within the Gamecube's game library. While there are some downpoints regarding the lack of voice overs and the inability to transfer data to a game that is essentially a continuation of a former story, there is still a lot to look forward to in Day of Reckoning 2 for those looking for a that wholesome experience. The prettiest looking wrestler to date and possibly beyond within this console cycle, an enhanced combat system that could very well surpass that of WWF No Mercy's and a conglomeration of quality features built up over the course of this generation combined into one package make it one of the best choices for WWE aficionados looking for an authentic experience unlike any other.


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