WWE Day of Reckoning 2 Feature Preview

We get to the bottom of the mystery-tinged plot in Day of Reckoning 2's story mode.

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The team behind THQ's upcoming WWE Day of Reckoning 2, Yuke's, has long been known as one of the premier grappling game developers in the world. The developer's track record with the SmackDown! series on the PlayStation and PS2, along with the first Day of Reckoning game on the GameCube, points to a wrestling game resume that's filled with far more highlights than low points. With the second game in the Day of Reckoning series, Yuke's is combining its trademark attention to detail in the gameplay department along with a storyline that picks up right where the last game left off.

You won't find better-looking models on the GameCube. Yuke's is pushing the console to its max with DOR2.
You won't find better-looking models on the GameCube. Yuke's is pushing the console to its max with DOR2.

First, let's talk storyline. This is our first real hands-on time with DOR2's story mode, so we're excited to dig right in and get started. The first thing you'll do when beginning the DOR2 story mode is create your original WWE superstar using the game's flexible create-a-wrestler tools (more on those in a bit). After choosing from a number of different mat-style templates (grappler, striker, and so on) and customizing your burly avatar to your heart's content, it's time to enter the story mode and begin your trip to WWE greatness.

The story opens in the same manner many WWE Raw broadcasts begin these days, with Eric Bischoff walking to the ring, complete with the familiar scowl on his face. Bischoff begins the evening's televised festivities by replaying the final moments of a previous week's bout between Chris Jericho and Triple H on the Titantron--a match with a controversial ending that saw Triple H pin Y2J while simultaneously tapping out. With no clear-cut winner in the match, the world heavyweight title is abandoned and put up for grabs at the end of a three-week tournament that will pit your created wrestler against some of the biggest names in the WWE.

The first opponent in our play-through of the opening chapters of the story mode was Randy Orton, who breaks in on a private pre-match moment between you and your love interest, WWE diva Stacy Keibler. After cleaning up the floor with the legend killer, you'll move on to Jericho and take him down. Next, it's time for WrestleMania and your chance to claim the heavyweight championship belt as your own. Well, almost. In the most unlikely of scenarios, it turns out someone has stolen the belt right out from under the nose of Eric Bischoff, on the very night it was set to be awarded to the undisputed champ. At least, that's the story Bischoff is telling. Did Triple H or his crony, Ric Flair, abscond with the gold? Is this some sort of strange game on Bischoff's part to keep the audience guessing? And why is Muhammad Hassan involved in this whole mess? These are just some of the questions that will be answered in Day of Reckoning 2's story mode, a mostly linear story that is told entirely through onscreen text.

As you make your way through the storyline, you'll periodically have choices to make, which usually involves the next opponent you wish to take on. You'll also be upgrading your created wrestler after each match by using experience points earned in each bout. Areas of improvement include attributes like strength, speed, and durability, and skill areas such as striking, mat technique, and aerial attacks. How you spread out these points will determine the type of wrestler your virtual grappler becomes in his career.

The storyline is entirely text-based, but there's still some pretty decent writing going on.
The storyline is entirely text-based, but there's still some pretty decent writing going on.

DOR2's storyline is greatly assisted by the impressive visual quality of the WWE Superstar player models found in the game. We've said it before, but it bears repeating: Day of Reckoning 2's wrestler models look stunningly real. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that these are among the most realistic and authentic-looking representations of WWE superstars ever seen in a video game. Whatever graphical horsepower the GameCube has left in it, the Yuke's team is certainly getting the most out of it. The body and face textures look great, with a wide variety of facial expressions to really convey the emotional context of any situation (sure, we're usually talking anger, but you get the picture). They move well in the ring, too, sporting nice animations that add a lot to the overall presentation. It helps that the game seems to sport above-average collision detection as well. For example, players react when they run into one another, and holds are commonly broken when coming in contact with another grappler, which makes three- and four-man matches that much more interesting.

Control Freaks

In terms of controls, perhaps the biggest innovation to DOR2 is the user-controlled submission system. Whenever you execute a submission hold on a downed opponent, you'll be able to choose from one of four different submission types--submit, taunt, drain, and rest--by pressing in one of four directions using the C stick on the GameCube controller. Each submission type is either beneficial to you or detrimental to your opponent. The "submit" submission is just what it sounds like, a hold designed specifically made to convince your foe to tap out, while a "drain" submission will sap the stamina of your opponent. The system is balanced by the fact that your opponent will be able to choose one of four submission-style counters as well. If he chooses the same move as you, he'll counter your submission hold and the advantage will be his. In terms of how the moves animate, there doesn't seem to be any difference between a "taunt" move and a "submit" move. In other words, Y2J's "walls of Jericho" can be used as either a move designed to drain your opponent's stamina, or to get him to tap out.

The new submission system controls play sort of like rock-paper-scissors.
The new submission system controls play sort of like rock-paper-scissors.

The same momentum-shift feature in the first game returns in DOR2, and it still remains difficult to pull off (it's still pretty cool when you actually do make it work). If you're unfamiliar with how it works, here's a brief rundown: if you find yourself precariously low on spirit, the word "danger" will appear onscreen. During this "danger" window, if you manage to press the A and B buttons at precisely the right moment, you'll perform a special move that will swap your momentum for your opponent's, thus giving you that crucial second wind needed to pull out victory from the jaws of defeat. It's tough to execute and you only get one per match, so if you're going to use this special move, you'll need to pick your spot carefully.

Counters still require lightning reflexes, and reversing grapples and strikes is still tied to the left and right triggers, respectively. By holding down the right trigger, you can brace yourself against striking attacks (though you won't be immune to grapples). Furthermore, you'll be able to pull off your signature slam or hold by pressing the A and B buttons together, provided you've filled up one of three special-move gauges. You can fill these gauges by successfully pulling off moves, or by playing to the crowd with taunts by pressing the directional pad. Your special-move window lasts only so long, so it's important to have your foe in the correct position to really dish out the maximum amount of carnage. Speaking of carnage, wrestlers bleed just as they did in the first game, but this time around, you'll actually see the blood spill onto the mat once a wrestler is busted open.

Yes, there's a bra-and-panties match option. No, we're not showing any more screens of it.
Yes, there's a bra-and-panties match option. No, we're not showing any more screens of it.

DOR2 has a pretty involved three-level tutorial for getting your feet wet with all of the controls in the game. After each tutorial level, you can choose to take a skills challenge that will test your knowledge of all the different move controls at random. For those who are looking to express their creative side, DOR2's create-a-wrestler tool is easy to use and seems pretty powerful. You'll have plenty of facial expressions, hairstyles, and gear to choose from at the outset, and you'll be able to unlock new content for your created brawler by accessing the game's WWE shop and ponying up the cash you take home after each match. There's even an entrance-creation tool that will let you design the exact type of ring entrance you're looking for--from the music and background movie playing during your entrance, to the move set you use as you traipse down to the ring (including the ability to take a ride down the ramp via buggy a la Stone Cold, or a limousine just like JBL), among many other options. All in all, if you like to tinker with your created superstars, you'll likely feel right at home here.

With the requisite match types, (such as hardcore, tag team, fatal four way, and triple threat), plus ring types (standard, cage matches, hell in a cell), as well as venues (SmackDown!, Raw, and pay-per-view environments like Backlash and Summer Slam), Day of Reckoning 2 is aiming to be a sequel that is every bit as impressive as the original game. The countdown to the game's late-August release has begun, and we'll have a full review of the game as soon as it hits retail shelves.

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