WWE Day of Reckoning 2 Hands-On

Stacy Kiebler is your love interest in DOR2's story mode. And now that we have your attention, please check out our updated hands-on impressions.

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We got our first look at THQ's WWE Day of Reckoning 2 in April, during the thralls of WrestleMania XXI. Despite being very early in development at that point, we got a pretty good idea of where the game was heading for its fall release. THQ recently dropped by with an updated build of the game to give us an idea of some of the refinements the Yuke's development crew has added. Fortunately, the crew also gave us a first look at the story mode that will be the centerpiece of DOR2.

During the two months in development since our last look, one of the biggest areas of improvement has been the roster, which has been nearly completely fleshed out. We say "nearly" because, except for the WWE legends lineup (which hasn't been finalized yet), the entire main roster has been set for the game. Notable additions to the DOR2 lineup include WWE Raw talents such as Muhammad Hassan and Eugene; SmackDown! luminaries like Orlando Jordan, Carlito Caribbean Cool, and Heidenreich; and rising stars such as Chris Masters, Gene Snitsky, and the lovely Christy Hemme. For a full list of the entire DOR2 roster, click on over to page two of this article.

What else is new? How about the assisted defense controls, which act as a sort of simplified version of a counter against both grapples and strikes. When activated with either the right or left trigger (for a strike or grapple defense, respectively), your wrestler will strike a sort of protective stance that will dramatically lessen the amount of damage a kick or a punch will do to him or her, or it will allow your wrestler to become basically invulnerable to grapple attacks. While you won't be taking any damage with the assisted defense system activated, your stamina level will suffer.

In fact, as we learned in our first hands-on look at DOR2, stamina plays a bigger role than ever before this time around. If your superstar is completely drained, you'll not only be inflicting less damage per strike or be more susceptible to attacks from your foe, but you'll watch as your controlled character visibly slumps around the ring while desperately trying to catch his or her breath. The assisted defense mechanics are in place to let beginners step in and find success with the game's defensive controls right away, though the DOR2 producers assured us that standard counters will also be intact for more-advanced users.

Beyond the assisted defense controls, the big story regarding DOR2's gameplay will be the submission system, which we stole a peek at in our first look at the game. Beyond some much-needed streamlining of the menus that drive this rock-paper-scissors-style control (and some code-tweaking behind the scenes), the actual mechanics work very similarly to how we first saw the mechanic. When you engage in a grapple against an opponent, you'll be presented with four options to choose from. These four options will represent the types of submission holds you can execute on your opponent. A rest hold will let you regain some of your stamina while still tightening the screws on your opponent, for example.

Muhammad Hassan at his stereotypin' best. Hassan is just one of the new grapplers in DOR2.
Muhammad Hassan at his stereotypin' best. Hassan is just one of the new grapplers in DOR2.

As a defender, you have two methods of breaking the hold. You can either choose the appropriate counter hold (by pressing the C stick in the same direction your foe chose), or, once the hold is clamped on, you can use the standard "tug-of-war" button-mashing method to break loose. Though it wasn't included in the build we saw, the producers say the type of submission hold you choose will be displayed on the screen (though presumably not before your opponent has chosen his counter).

A momentum meter will build up as you progress through a match, and there are several ways to fill it up, from pulling off high-risk maneuvers to using taunting submission holds that will draw a pop from the audience. Once you've filled up your first (of three) momentum meters, you can pull off your finisher. If you're really looking to dish out the pain, you can hold onto your earned momentum for a bit longer to fill up your second and third momentum containers, which will give you more opportunities to execute your trademark move, in addition to providing better camera angles to view it from.

Reclaiming the Title

During our hands-on time, we liked how the matches felt. In particular, we liked the overall sense of speed and power displayed by the game. This was partially due to the easy-to-learn control scheme, but a larger part of the enjoyment was the direct result of some interesting, additional camera angles the game employs. During certain holds and throws, the camera will switch to a ringside view that really gives a sense of "being there" to the matches.

Hell in a Cell, TLC, even bra-and-panties matches; you'll have plenty to do in the game.
Hell in a Cell, TLC, even bra-and-panties matches; you'll have plenty to do in the game.

It doesn't hurt that the wrestler models look fantastic as well. If the Yuke's development team isn't scratching out the last little bit of graphical power from the GameCube, it's coming pretty darn close. We noticed more-animated faces this time around, and they're especially noticeable during the ring-entrance montages that offer some close-up views of the superstars. Some of the models were spectacularly accurate to our eyes--namely Triple H, Trish Stratus, and the Big Show--while others, like Stacy Kiebler, looked a bit off in our estimation. Still, there's no denying that, nearly across the board, this is a graphical step forward for the DOR series.

So how are all these gorgeous player models going to interact outside of the squared circle? Mainly in DOR2's storyline, which has been beefed up from the first entry in the series. Since our last look at the game, the developers have made a few tweaks to how the story will unfold. Yes, DOR2's storyline will still be a continuation of last year's game, but despite what we reported in our initial preview, you won't start with the championship belt. Also--and here's some disappointing news--you won't be able to take your character from the first DOR and transfer him to the sequel. Of course, there's no stopping you from creating a replica of your alter ego in the second game, but it's too bad nonetheless.

In terms of the plot, we saw the opening few scenes of the mode, which opened with Eric Bischoff entering the ring and declaring that the recently vacated heavyweight belt would now be put up in a championship tournament...one that your created character will presumably be front and center in. The scene then cut to a conversation between the protagonist and Stacy Kiebler, who plays your love interest in the game. We'll repeat that just to let it sink in: Your love interest is Stacy Kiebler.

Christy Hemme does the Macarena for her adoring fans. The game will feature fully 3D crowds when it ships later this year.
Christy Hemme does the Macarena for her adoring fans. The game will feature fully 3D crowds when it ships later this year.

Due to the size limitations of the GameCube game disc, there won't be any voice-over in DOR2, so the plot will unfold via text on the screen. The producers told us the story mode will include between four and five hours of action, and it will comprise 52 matches. The storyline will still unfold in a linear fashion, but there will be (as of yet unspecified) choices to be made during the mode that should add some variety to the storyline. You can also expect to see references to previous rivalries and storylines from the previous game whenever characters from the first DOR make appearances. As producers told us during our first look, the DOR games are really seen as self-contained versions of the real WWE. Even though it uses many of the same rosters found in the real WWE, the series has themes and storylines all its own.

Day of Reckoning 2 is still a few months away from its proposed early fall release date, so there's plenty of time to shape up the audio portion of the game--large chunks of which were missing or incorrect in the build we saw. Still, based on both the success of the first game and what we've seen of DOR2 so far, it seems the developers at Yuke's are intent on delivering another impressive entry in the series. We'll be following the game's development all the way through its arrival in retail stores, so be sure to check back soon for more information.

Continue on to the next page to see a full rundown of Day of Reckoning 2's roster.

Day of Reckoning 2 Roster

RAW SMACKDOWNDIVAS
Randy Orton Kurt Angle Trish Stratus
Triple H John Cena Stacy Kiebler
Batista Undertaker Torrie Wilson
Chris Jericho JBL Christy Hemme
Christian Carlito Caribbean Cool
Edge Booker T
Chris Benoit Rey Mysterio
Shawn Michaels Rob van Dam
Shelton Benjamin Eddie Guerrero
Eugene Big Show
Kane Heidenreich
Tajiri Rene Dupree
Ric Flair Kenzo Suzuki
William Regal Chavo Guerrero
Hurricane Orlando Jordan
Maven Paul London
Gene Snitsky
Chris Masters
Muhammad Hassan

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