WWE Day of Reckoning First Look

THQ unveils its newest GameCube grappler.

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On the eve of WrestleMania XX, THQ has unveiled the newest addition to its WWE library. WWE Day of Reckoning is a GameCube game currently under development at Yuke's, the world-famous wrestling developer responsible for the SmackDown! series of games as well as last year's GameCube game, WWE WrestleMania XIX. An enhanced story mode, new grapple tactics, and a greater attention to WWE-style presentation are just some of the exciting changes that THQ is making this year.

Day of Reckoning will start you out as an unknown wrestler who will have to fight through the ranks to become a top dog.
Day of Reckoning will start you out as an unknown wrestler who will have to fight through the ranks to become a top dog.

Last year's game introduced a storylike season where you took a WWE wrestler on a quest for revenge. This year's story mode, called "school of hard knocks," takes a page from the Tony Hawk's Underground playbook and casts you as an unknown wrestler. You'll start out in the minor leagues of wrestling, outside of the WWE. Here, you'll hone your skills and increase your attributes by squaring off against no-name jobbers. After proving yourself down in the minors, you'll get a shot at a WWE contract. But actually earning this contract won't be easy. This is the point at which you start facing actual WWE superstars, who aren't exactly at the top of the list but are still more powerful than your rookie grappler.

Once you've earned your contract, the story begins in earnest, and you'll get wrapped up in the weekly power struggle that is the WWE. You'll choose to go to either the Raw or SmackDown! brand once you've got your contract, and you'll deal with factions and other superstars who are out to backstab you and screw you over. So it's your goal to overcome all this adversity and make it to WrestleMania as the number one contender, eventually winning your brand's championship belt. All of the WWE's belts will be represented in the game, so you'll likely run your way through the various championships as you gun for the top prize. The story mode represents a full year of action and will contain all 12 pay-per-view matches, all of the WWE TV shows, some backstage areas, and even some minor league arenas, such as gymnasiums. In all, you'll end up taking part in around 50 matches in this mode.

Of course, the game will have plenty of other modes and options beyond just the story. THQ hasn't nailed down a full list yet, but it did show off the game's new bra-and-panties match, which marks the first time the mode has appeared on the GameCube. Yanking off clothing in this females-only matchup involves using a tug-of-war system.

Tug-of-war also comes into play elsewhere in the game. Day of Reckoning has a much-improved submission system, and the submission moves will employ this tug-of-war system--both players will mash the A button to either cinch in or break out of submission maneuvers. Location-specific damage has also been implemented, and this will have an effect on how successful your submission holds will be. So, for instance, if you focus on moves that work the arms, then arm-based submissions will be tougher to break out of.

The bra-and-panties match makes its first GameCube appearance in Day of Reckoning.
The bra-and-panties match makes its first GameCube appearance in Day of Reckoning.

Graphically, Day of Reckoning has been given a pretty major overhaul when compared to last year's GameCube game. The player models have all been redesigned and look much more realistic. Specular highlighting has been used on the wrestlers' bodies to give them that shiny, oiled-up look. Skin and clothing also stretch and move around in a much more realistic-looking fashion. The stretching of clothing comes into play the most in the aforementioned bra-and-panties match, where you'll see the WWE divas ripping the shirts and skirts off one another in a pretty convincing fashion.

Also on the list of graphical upgrades is a fully 3D crowd, which should look much nicer than the previous game's 2D offerings. Day of Reckoning's entrances are done with the game engine, and these have all been redesigned to look much more realistic. THQ briefly demonstrated the difference by showing off Triple H's entrance from WrestleMania XIX and then showing his new intro for Day of Reckoning. Little touches, like the walking animations and the way Triple H moves in the new game, make these entrances look much more realistic. The game also has some great camera work in it that is much better at showing off the action. The entrances look more like they do on television, something that was missing from the entrances in last year's game. In the ring, the camera will cut away to different angles to better showcase the impact of each move. So suplexes, piledrivers, and the like all look much more damaging.

The in-game models also "sell" the pain of each move much, much better this time around. A prime example is watching Chris Benoit take a pedigree from Triple H. After the move lands, you'll see Chris writhing around on the mat in pain. The camera will also cut to close-up shots of wrestlers' faces when serious damage is done. If you pop a guy in the face with a chair, not only is the impact more dramatic, but the aftereffects--usually busting him open and causing him to bleed--look all the more painful. On the surface, these might seem like minor touches, but they go a long way when it comes to making the action look more dramatic. Finishers also get special treatment here, with unique blurring effects and multi-angle views of the move. All in all, the game looks really nice. On the sound side, the game won't contain voice or commentary, but it will feature the latest WWE soundtrack possible, so accurate entrance music will be in the game.

Over the years, wrestling games have gotten better at displaying the give and take of momentum swings that occur during a wrestling match. Day of Reckoning will take these concepts one step further by including a move that will shift all of one player's momentum to the other. Details on how this will work are a bit sketchy at the moment, but it will basically allow a wrestler who has been beaten to the brink of unconsciousness to turn the tables all at once and take control of a match, just as they often do in real life.

WWE Day of Reckoning will include around 40 current WWE superstars. The final roster hasn't been set in stone at this time, but the version of the game on display contained Stacy Kiebler, Trish Stratus, Triple H, and Chris Benoit. The game will also feature a series of unlockable "legend" characters, some of whom have never appeared in any of THQ's WWE games, though specific superstars are unavailable at this time.

A group of unannounced
A group of unannounced "legend" characters will join current superstars like Triple H and Chris Benoit.

The game's superstars, as well as your created characters, will be rated in multiple attribute categories, such as strength, speed, stamina, countering, submission, and charisma. These categories, along with the wide array of move sets, will be used to differentiate the superstars from one another, which is one of THQ's key goals for the game. Your personal playing style will have to change depending on which wrestler you choose, since some will be better suited for striking or submissions than others. Finishers are governed by an onscreen momentum meter. Once this meter is full, you hit A and B to activate your finisher and then hit A and B again to perform your finisher. As in previous games, you'll be in finisher mode for only a short period of time, so you'll have to act quickly once you've activated the move.

WWE Day of Reckoning looks like it'll have an impressive set of changes and upgrades compared to last year's GameCube game. The game, though still in an early state, is very playable and looks great. Day of Reckoning is currently on schedule to rumble into stores in September, and we'll have more on the game soon.

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