Release Date: August 29, 2005
Buy 'WWE: Day of Reckoning 2': GameCube
For as much negative press as the company received in its heyday, one thing Acclaim truly did right was wrestling licenses. The old WWF games for the N64, while perhaps a little too cerebral for some wrestling fans, certainly were a heck of a lot of fun. Acclaim eventually lost the license somewhere before the Smackdown! games came out for the PlayStation, though, and it was snagged up by publisher THQ and developers Yuke's and Aki right before the jump from WWF to WWE. The Aki games were generally just kind of "there," being neither good nor bad, and the Yuke's games have run the gamut from abysmal (Wrestlemania X8 comes to mind) to exemplary (the previous Day of Reckoning, for example). Where does Day of Reckoning 2 fall? Somewhere in the middle, I'd reckon.
Anyone who's played Day of Reckoning will know exactly what Day of Reckoning 2 has in store. You couldn't perfect the graphics TOO much after the first one, although the problems with the original game's graphics are still present; the wrestlers still look like someone's Wrestlemania figurines - a little too evenly-shaded and plastic for their own good - and there's the occasional polygon clipping, especially if you decide to add a bunch of flashy gear onto your created wrestler.
Like its predecessor, Day of Reckoning 2's main draw is its extensive story mode. You create a superstar and put him once again on the turnbuckle, the story picking up a few weeks after the first game, splicing in a bit of Raw's actual television plot. The World Heavyweight Title has been stolen right before your title match with Triple H at Wrestlemania 20, leaving you the prime suspect ... or at least, the one everyone blames. You don't choose your show like you did last time - you start on Raw, moving on through Smackdown, and at one point sinking low enough to end up on Velocity, a show about as high up the ranks as Sunday Night Heat. It's a little longer than Day of Reckoning's story mode, and about twice as tedious.
Choices in story mode are few and far between and only affect who you are going to face in the next match or three. The matches are either not challenging in the slightest (most singles matches are breezed through with little problem) or way too challenging due to one of the game's biggest flaws: the AI opponents are magnetically attracted to you.
It doesn't matter if it's a tag match, a four-man free-for-all, or the epic and extensive Royal Rumble – the AI will occasionally fight amongst itself, but will much more often make a beeline for you, as the poorly coded script's sole purpose is not to grab victories itself, but to keep you from doing anything of the sort. As I said, this extends to tag matches too, as calling out your tag partner to whack at the referee or the other team's active wrestler often gets your wrestler clotheslined instead. Add in the AI's nigh-godlike countering skills (countering in this game is every bit precognition as it was in the original Day of Reckoning), and you have a recipe for an irritating, and at times simply unfair, single-player experience.
Multiplayer's a blast, however. The controls are identical to the previous Day of Reckoning, with one button being used for grapples, the other for strikes, and both in unison for special attacks. The roster's about as large as Day of Reckoning's as well, yet the sheer progression of how WWE has evolved has caused previously mid-card wrestlers to become the top-card wrestlers you see every week on television.
All of the fan favorites are here, from John Cena to Ric Flair to Batista, as well as a bunch of low-rung wrestlers and Legends such as Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart as unlockables. There are a few more modes in Day of Reckoning 2 over the first one, including the women-only Bra and Panties match (proving that it does take extra processing power to render underwear, as any created female wrestlers are exempt, only leaving the four available Divas) and the 30-man toss-them-over-the-ropes Royal Rumble.
The only gripes that keep this game from being a masterpiece like the original are the previously mentioned shallow/cheap AI and the abysmal, abysmal loading times. It takes a good 10 seconds to load up a match, a story mode scene, or the Create A Superstar mode.
In addition, the CAS mode, while being a little less concise than Day of Reckoning's, manages to put in a 10- to 15-second load for even the most minute of changes to the wrestler, including ones that wouldn't affect his physical appearance such as altering his move list. I could understand this if there were a reason for the game to be hideously compressed, such as including voice acting (by the way, Day of Reckoning 2 STILL doesn't, mostly due to the size of the GameCube disc) or higher resolution graphics, but really, most of what is here is 90% identical to the original Day of Reckoning.
All in all, what Day of Reckoning 2 presents to us is a few tweaks to the original Day of Reckoning - some good, most bad. Less like a sequel and more like an upgrade, Day of Reckoning 2 still manages to be slightly dwarfed by its older brother, turning an exceptionally good game into one that is merely average.