WWE Day of Reckoning (GameCube): Does It Hold Up?
WrestleMania 30 has come and gone, and I spent most of the day before the big Sunday pay-per-view playing an old favorite: WWE Day of Reckoning. Released in 2004, the grappler was meant to be the GameCube's answer to the PlayStation 2's SmackDown series. Whether or not it was actually better than THQ's other line of wrestling games is certainly arguable, but there's no denying that Day of Reckoning was still a hell of a lot of fun to play.
So there I was on the eve of WrestleMania, just about 10 years after the game's launch. When I first played Day of Reckoning in 2004, it instantly became one of my favorite wrestling games. I was glad to see that even now, it's still a great deal of fun and a sheer joy to play, even if some aspects have aged better than others.
The first glaring sign of age in Day of Reckoning is its roster of WWE Superstars. You've got awesome old school talent like the late, great Eddie Guerrero, Kurt Angle, and Rob Van Dam. You've also got lackluster guys from a bygone era that include the Bashams, Val Venis, and Mark Jindrak. Obviously, the roster is filled with guys who were an integral part of WWE in 2003 and 2004. Oddly enough, top guys like JBL (who was the WWE Champion at the time) and the Dudleys aren't in the game.
Thankfully, the Superstar creation mode in Day of Reckoning is fairly robust, so you can build any of today's biggest names from the ground up. They may look a little off, and more modern finishing moves aren't in the game, but it's better than nothing. Case in point: I made CM Punk but gave him a Shining Wizard finisher as a throwback to his Ring of Honor days because there's no Go to Sleep in Day of Reckoning. Close enough. At the very least, the creation mode holds up nicely when put side-by-side with more modern wrestling games.
That's about it for creation modes, though. Unlike recent WWE games, Day of Reckoning doesn't give you the chance to create your own rings or storylines. The lack of said content isn't exactly a deal-breaker, but it is vastly indicative of the fact that this is an older wrestling game only intent on including the most basic and expected modes.
Things get crazier with more players. Also, the ref is down!
I've always enjoyed the single player campaign in Day of Reckoning. While it doesn't let you relive classic storylines, it gives you the chance to create your own wrestler and climb the ranks of the WWE. You can either join the Raw or SmackDown rosters, but the basic storyline is the same. Throughout your journey to the top you win championships, face betrayals, and mix it up with legends.
Wrestling games are better with at least two players, and Day of Reckoning is no exception. I invited a buddy over the day before WrestleMania, and we had countless great matches. Day of Reckoning is surprisingly fast-paced, making for a more arcade-like experience. Moves are pulled off quickly and can be broken up at any moment, causing funny animations of wrestlers falling on their heads. Dodging and countering are fairly simple actions. And the wrestlers themselves move around the ring noticeably faster than they do in more modern games. Four-player hardcore matches are especially hectic and hilarious.
Even though Day of Reckoning is 10 years old, it's hard for me to bash its graphics. This is partially because it still looks okay, but also because wrestling games haven't improved much visually. The Superstar models are accurate, but the audience still looks like a flat, pixelated mess. To be quite honest, WWE 2K14 only looks a little bit better than Day of Reckoning, which is saying something considering the latter is a decade old. Oh, it should be noted that the music is pretty bad here, though — can't ignore that. Seriously, it all sounds like Linkin Park-inspired crap rock.
The verdict: Day of Reckoning holds up as a raucous arcade wrestling game
I really enjoyed the recent WWE 2K14, but quite frankly, I still like playing Day of Reckoning more. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles seen in later games, and the complete lack of the Elimination Chamber and backstage areas is a bummer, but it's still great to play, especially if you've got some friends over. The roster is clearly dated, but if you've been a WWE fan for some time, that likely won't bother you. Plus you can always create any recent Superstars that you like.
The debate for “best wrestling game ever” will never be settled, but Day of Reckoning is definitely one of my favorites. The fact that I can play it 10 years after its launch and still have a great time is telling of how well it holds up ... or how little wrestling games have evolved ... or perhaps how much they've devolved. Whatever the case, if you're a WWE fan and feel like revisiting a classic, you can't go wrong with Day of Reckoning. Just be sure to bring some enthusiastic friends along to get the most out of it.
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