"I came into WWE Day of Reckoning (or DoR, whichever you prefer) expecting the best wrestling game Iíve ever played. Its successor, WWE WrestleMania XIX provided the best actual wrestling experience in a game. Chain wrestling, diverse counter wrestling, believable technical wrestling, and brutal hardcore warfare were all made possible thanks to Yukes trying new things, and improving things, like sound effects, to plateaus they had never been before. Itís a shame its sequel fell short of even m..."
I came into WWE Day of Reckoning (or DoR, whichever you prefer) expecting the best wrestling game Iíve ever played. Its successor, WWE WrestleMania XIX provided the best actual wrestling experience in a game. Chain wrestling, diverse counter wrestling, believable technical wrestling, and brutal hardcore warfare were all made possible thanks to Yukes trying new things, and improving things, like sound effects, to plateaus they had never been before. Itís a shame its sequel fell short of even meeting the standards set by its predecessor, and in far too many places, the game is actually much worse than XIX, something that should never be the case.
For whatever reason, Yukes has added a whole bunch of needless little things that take away from the game. Was that their intent? I sincerely doubt it. In fact, Iím sure they thought these things added to the game, otherwise, they wouldnít be here. Unfortunately, that isnít the case. The light flashes that occur every time a move is countered, for example, do add emphasis to the counters, but they canít be turned off, and really get distracting during bouts, especially ones involving technical wrestlers who are proficient at counter wrestling. the problems with in-game counter wrestling, and the game as a whole, donít end there, sadly.
Yukes also decided to add a new shoving animation when you engage your foe in a hard grapple (requiring you to hold the A button and then grab onto your foe), the previous game didnĎt have this, and was better off for it. The new animation takes away from the realism, especially when the grapples lead to countering, as the light flashes that occur with counters get really distracting then. As a wrestling fan who loves being able to lose himself in the heat of an exciting bout, these changes certainly damper things, as they take me right out of the game. They didnít exist in XIX, and the game was better off for it, as you could easily lose yourself in the back and forth action. Here, that isnít the case, and wrestling fans lose out.
There are a host of other, small problems that didnít exist in XIX that also mar this installment. The statistic system from the fifth SmackDown has been carried over here, only now, you have no way to improve the stats of in-game wrestlers, leaving you with some unfairly one-sided contests. The little voodoo doll-like damage meter from that game has been brought here as well, and exposes some of the flaws with it, and the damage model in general for this game. Chops to the chest, for example, appear to damage the head and neck region, while a chop to the chest/punch to the jaw turnbuckle combo appears to just damage the chest. This problem really mucks with the psychology of a match, as Iíll intend to damage one part of the body with a move and then have to needlessly alter my strategy to accommodate the gameplay flaws. Luckily, 99% of moves attack the region of the body they should, but for those that donít, itís incredibly annoying. Itís not helped by the fact that the collision detection is now far looser than it was before, leading to some missed moves and potential losses due to an opponent getting up and hitting a special on you.
Speaking of specials, Yukes has thankfully removed the adrenaline rush that occurred when you or your foe activated the ability to use one. This allows for much more consistent reactions to moves, and prevents the no selling that prevailed during XIX when they were activated, leading to more realistic action. Unfortunately, this is undercut by the removal of being able to use the analog stick to get up, forcing you to mash the A button to get up, and to earn a submission win with the ďtug of warĒ bar borrowed from the fifth SmackDown, a feature done better here than it was there, but still not done as well as it could have been since the new submission system prevents the exciting back and forth submission escapes that kept the action going and kept the competitors on an even playing field. Oh well, at least the new method instills a sense of fear when submission specials are done, as they do far more damage than the ever have before, which is certainly a good thing in this genre.
The new system certainly allows for easier squash matches, but it does make it a bit harder to tell an exciting tale in the ring. Yukes has added in a fantastic ďmomentum shiftĒ attack that allows you to hit a move you assign when youíre at your lowest level, just hit A and B at the same time and give yourself a last ditch chance to not only turn the tide, but possibly win the bout as well. Unfortunately, the extra ďEXĒ specials from XIX are gone, instantly leaving you with two fewer possible moves in your arsenal than before, and weapon specials have also been removed in favor of a vastly improved, single, brutal weapon blast and a weapon grapple system that does what it came to make up for the lack of weapon specials. Despite these shortcomings, you still have for more special moves available to you than in any other game, which is kind of sad, since the bar is lowered, and yet still higher than in most games in the genre.
A new weight detection system works wonders for the realism of the game, despite some odd move setup animations (such as a double arm choke hold used when you attempt a fireman carry slam) that take me out of the action, the game as a whole benefits far more than it suffers with the new feature. Now, you can just mash the A button if you have enough strength and momentum on your side and slam a foe much larger than you. Thereís still room for improvement to be sure, but the base theyíve created here works better than anything else thatís attempted weight detection, and that means a lot in the current wrestling game climate.
The relatively robust move selection is accented by the wide variety of specials you can make use of during a match, allowing for very little repetition of moves throughout a match. Iíve had thirty minute bouts go by without a single repeating move, and itís refreshing to have a game that allows this. The style-specific counters from XIX (and Fire Pro Wrestling), such as the mist spewing counter to a power bomb, are back, but sadly, arenít done as well as before, since not all of the ones from XIX have been carried over here, and those that are new donít equal the missing ones. While I love the countering system as it is, since itís the best out there, thereís still room for improvement. For example, the issue Iíve cited could be remedied easily if they allowed you to customize each move setupís counter, which would be a logical step for things, and would extend the life of the game, as you could have even more realistic matches, while adding more of a personal stamp to your wrestlerís moveset, although customizing each move certainly does that job nicely.
Move animations look pretty crisp, such as the new tugging animations for submissions. When you slap on the Crippler Crossface, for example, youíll be treated to Chris Benoit ripping and tearing at his opponentís head and neck until they have no choice but to submit. A similar back-and-forth animation is used for the gameís lone, disappointing Sharpshooter, which features the executer pulling on his opponentís body while the foe tries to claw his way to the ropes, a feature that almost makes up for how horrible the base move actually look. Sadly, there are some newfound problems with some of the moves, shortcuts taken with the counter for Kaneís choke slam highlight this. The moveís counter no longer features the full animation for the moveĎs setup, but instead shows off a shortened one that acts as a dead give away that itís going to be countered, as if the massive flash of light signaling a counter wasnít enoughÖ
Luckily, this is an exception, and not the rule, as most moves feature smooth countering animations, and if it wasnít for the light flash being a tell-tale sign for a counter, weíd all be able to enjoy some smooth, realistic wrestling action. Hopefully, future installments will nix this problem, and wonít take anymore shortcuts with the countering animation, as these problems kill the flow of a match. The current match flow does work well for new, legendary roster additions like Greg Valentine, Roddy Piper, and Bret Hart. Although the first two are just begging to be in a game with a chain match feature. Here, you can at least recreate the first WWF ladder match ever between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, and do a mighty fine job of it thanks to the pacing set forth in this game.
Despite the above shortcomings, there is a lot of good within Day of Reckoning. Created wrestlers blend in really well with in-game superstars, a feature carried over in well, every wrestling game series other than Yukesí SmackDown games. The revamped design tool allows you to make pretty much any design you want, from a t-shirt logo to facial hair, but is limited by the inability to place anything below the waistline, an understand, yet annoying, issue. The revenge mode from XIX has been replaced by a proper story mode, which works well in some places, such as the actual plot, and then fails in others, as that plot is repeated no matter which show you join up with, and just gets old quickly. For me, it was worth dealing with the far too linear tale to see the title belts, which look better here than in any other game. Yukes actually gave the leather some texture to it, which makes a world of difference. Itís a shame the belts still lack depth on the metal plates though.
I do wish theyíd have kept in the unlockable ďrevengeĒ mode camera, as it gave you complete control over the camera, allowing me to capture some fantastic tombstone piledrivers on the ramp way. I also wish theyíd have either kept or refined the revenge mode stages from XIX, which, when unlocked in the main game, allowed you to play in some odd situations (such as having to throw a foe into traffic), and forced you to use your brain to keep coming up with reasons to face off in these insane situations. The traffic one isnít too far fetched, actually, I could see that being a viable stipulation in Memphis, and really, in an industry that has had mud matches, shark cage matches, and Viagra on a pole matches, anything is plausible. As the old adage goes, ďitís wrestling, and we say so.Ē
Yukes has done a phenomenal job with the visual look of Day of Reckoning. Nothing in the game, from the wrestlers, to the arenas, to the weapons looks out of place (well, barring the odd purple tank top for Bret that should be black). Theyíve also worked wonders with the character models, giving them detailed bodies and eerily realistic faces (Bret Hartís is just uncanny). Unfortunately, the attire, which in previous entries had some separation between the material and the flesh, now appears to be grafted to their bodies. Essentially, it looks like they just painted a nude character model and called it an attire, something that isnít helped by the fact that the wrestlers only have one attire, while the females have both wrestler attire and bra and panty match attire. Thankfully, this (and the previously noted lack of title belt depth) are the only real visual flaws in the game. Some might take issue with the series-specific table damage, where the person doing a move through the table goes through in a way that prevents them from getting up instantly, but I rather enjoy that aspect, as it makes you think about what youíre going to do before you do it.
This is something that is lacking in Yukesí SD games, and Iím glad that it doesnít carry over here. With this series, itís obvious that they understand the ďwhyĒ behind tables, and other aspects of wrestling. The match types, for example, are better here than in any game since No Mercy. While this doesnít hold true for the cage match, since you canít smash your foes into the mesh, it does hold up with the other modes. Ladder matches are built around the ascent up the ladder, and the danger of the ladder itself, something replicated well here, although not as well as in XIX due to the removal of the body slam on the ladder, which had a vile sound effect that got across just how much bodily harm was being done with that one attack. TLC matches have the burden of doing this on top of having an expectation for out of control falls, another thing recreated well here, especially since ladders can now be tipped over, sending the person on top of them plummeting to either the mat, or the arena floor. The good aspects of the collision detection are highlight in this mode, as you can send a foe crashing to the mat, and on the way, he makes contact with the referee, sending him to the floor. Complete insanity, and all of it is believable within the context of the game.
Weapon shots, which looked good in X8, and okay in XIX, have been built into something that can realistically end a match, as theyíve now been given one effective move for each weapon, and what an move it is. Say you grab a steel chair from under the ring, youíve got it in your hands, and you want to clock your opponent something fierce. Here, you can do that, and when you hit them with the chair, theyíll fall like a ton of bricks. With the smaller weapons, like brass knuckles or the ring bell, you can then grab them in a headlock and punch their lights out a few times, drawing blood or unconsciousness. Unfortunately, the mini-cutscenes for bleeding are still here, but the injury ones arenít.
To my surprise, the sixth SmackDown game featured the bleeding cutscenes done far worse than before. Since the action didnít stop for them, youíd frequently find yourself in a situation where you couldnít see your wrestler, and in six man matches where one fall wins it all, it can easily lead to a loss that would have been prevented had they just used the DoR method, or better yet, the Aki method of a wrestler just clutching at his bloody head, and not making a big, match-interrupting deal out of it. Iíd love it if Yukes would just put their Toukon Retsuden bleeding system in this series, as it featured realistic bloodletting, and did so without getting in the way of the task at hand.
I would be remiss if I didnít mention the fantastic audio featured in Day of Reckoning. Outside of the basics like the theme songs being nearly full, and clear, there are now licensed tunes in place of the generic garbage that littered previous games. While they arenít the best songs in the world, they do fit the in-game action. To my amazement, Yukes actually improved the in-ring sound effects, as weapon shots now sound deadly, and every move has a louder, more effective effect for it that gets across the damage done. Sadly, the out-of-ring sound effects have suffered a bit. Most notably, attacks on the ramp way, which previously sounded as if they broke bones, now have the same sound effect as landing on the arena floor.
Oddly enough, the vicious, correct, metal-landing sound effect is retained when you slam your foe into either the side of the ambulance or into the lighting rig in the Survivor Series arena. When slamming foes on the ambulance itself, you get the same arena floor landing effect for everything but the tombstone piledriver, which gets the proper, vicious sound effect. Whether this was the intent of Yukes, or (more likely) just a victim of a tight deadline, the game suffers as a result. I also miss the vile sound effect used when you could slam your opponent into the pit area next to the rampway, as that pit area has now been shortened, and doesnít allow you to slam folks into the rampway connector. At least you can now do things like the RKO from the arena floor onto the ramp with this, so itís not a total loss. The crowd noise has also been toned down quite a bit, which works as both a blessing and a curse here. On one hand, it shifts the focus to the new, improved sound effects, and on the other, it can reduce the in-ring drama due to the crowd not being as hot. Iíd have to say that the trade-off is about equal here, especially since the crowd makes a ton of noise when you go for insane dives, some of them, like RVD across the ring five star frog splash from XIX are now impossible to replicate though, giving you fewer chances to dazzle the crowd, which is a bit of a bummer.
For a third installment in a series, WWE Day of Reckoning is both a success and a failure. The mere fact that things have been removed from this series without any real reason for them is sad, and yet the game succeeds in many ways in spite of the needless losses it has incurred. Iím also thankful for the little things that have been retailed, like the Scott Casey/Ken Shamrock-style ankle lock, which they could have just removed in favor of keeping Kurt Angleís standing version in. While this series hasnít quite gone through the same renaissance that the TR series did, itís still far better in its third installment than the SD series is in its sixth, and while quite a bit has been lost from XIX, the DoR-specific additions make up for it to a certain degree, as you can still tell a tale in the ring, and in many ways, you can tell a better one than you could in XIX, itíll just take a bit more effort to do. Iíd love to see Yukes combine everything theyíve learned into another GC game, and give the user more options over some of the problematic visual effects, like the bleeding. Until then, Iíll keep enjoying this fine game, which succeeds far more than it fails, and delivers a rock solid wrestling game at the same time.
Community review by jpeeples (February 14, 2005)
Jeremy Peeples has been writing about games since 2000. GameFAQs was his first stop, and that led to a writing gig on Game2Extreme, then VGPub. In 2005, he was brought aboard Hardcore Gamer Magazine, and has been a regular Youtuber since 2006.
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