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The engine is a throwback to the old days of WWF No Mercy that some fans have been clamoring for. There are some changes. Weak grapples are now automatic, you do not enter a fixed "Grapple" position - you just hit A + Direction and the move is done. The same goes for your special finishing move. Strong grapples work as they did in No Mercy. Movements and animation seem to be faster.
For information on how the fight plays, such as the purpose of strong and weak grapples, see the gameplay section of WWF No Mercy. Except for the differences noted above, it's the same.
Also like WWF No Mercy, there is no life bar, just a "spirit" bar. The spirit bar determines how well you're feeling by color & length. The lower your spirit is, the more time you spend knocked out on the ground, and the more susceptible to pins you will be. Blue means weak, green means normal, and red means strong. When it goes below blue, you enter a "Danger" state. When the bar goes beyond red, you enter a "Special" state.
There is also a little black silhouette next to your spirit bar that represents the health of your body parts. These parts are split into: Head, Torso, Arms and Legs. Opponents can target your body parts, and you can target theirs, by using specific moves. If a body part is constantly attacked, it will glow yellow, then orange, then red. The more a body part is hurt, the more susceptible it will be to submission moves that target that area. This is why it is important for someone who has a special submission finisher that targets the head (Like a Dragon Sleeper) to have lots of grappling moves that focus on damaging the head (Like DDTs).
Submission moves work differently than in No Mercy. In NM, players just initiated a submission move and hoped they would tap out. Here, players have to mash the A button in a tug-of-war fashion to get the circle in the middle of a meter closer to the "Submit" end and far away from the "Escape" end. This surely has broken many controllers.
One of the bigger new changes is the "Momentum Shift" attack. When you reach the "Special" state, you can do your finishing move. Momentum Shift is the same thing, except you can use it in your "Danger" state. This will perform a different move (Usually an illegal low blow, or some quick grappling move) that will switch your spirit bar with theirs. This can only be done once per match per wrestler. The wrestler who was the victim of the Momentum Shift will not be able to use another Momentum Shift immediately after. They will have to get out of the Danger state, and then fall back into it, before the option appears.
This game's story mode is unlike the completely different and non-wrestling game like story mode from Wrestlemania XIX. It can only be played with your specially created wrestlers (Or CAWs). It cannot be played with any female CAWs either.
It tells the story of an aspiring wrestler, a rookie. He works his way up from the small crowd indie shows, to the untelevised dark matches, to second string show "WWE Heat", to being drafted to a major brand, joining a major heel (bad guy) stable (group), winning various championships, and then leaving that group when they betray you.
Unlike WWF Wrestlemania 2000 or WWF No Mercy or any of the SmackDown! series, this mode is extremely linear. You HAVE to win every match, or else you don't progress through the story. You can only lose one match, one of your early ones, and that's because you have to lose it. It's impossible to win. You do not get to make any choices that affect the story. Early in your rookie's career, you get to choose if you want to join the SmackDown brand or the RAW brand. The story stays the same no matter where you go, there are just different wrestlers. The story is clearly designed to make the most sense in the RAW brand (Since there was no major heel stable on SmackDown! at the time).
If you choose RAW, you are forced to join the stable Evolution, led by Triple H. If you choose SmackDown!, you are forced to join (an entirely fictional stable created for the game) The New Ministry, led by The Undertaker. Who gets betrayed, who does the betraying, who you feud with, etc, is the same. New faces, new dialogue, same events and animation.
- The roster was, at the time, the smallest one yet. While many loved the addition of legends like Bret Hart to the game, many wrestlers, including current world champions like John Bradshaw Layfield, were not included in the game due to space constraints.
- The story mode, while a huge improvement over the difficult and largely awkward one found in Wrestlemania XIX, is too linear and does not offer the freedom and twists found in the Nintendo 64 games that inspired WWE Day of Reckoning.
- Some complain that the game, like previous Yuke's GameCube wrestling games, still feels like a SmackDown! afterthought. These criticisms mention that while the gameplay is still fun, Yuke's does not put the same extra effort and polish into its GameCube line of video games.
|SmackDown!- Know Your Role- Just Bring It- Shut Your Mouth- Here Comes the Pain|
|Raw (1994)- Raw (2002)- Raw 2|
|Smackdown vs. Raw series|
|WWE Smackdown! vs. Raw- 2006- 2007- 2008- 2009- 2010- 2011|
|Program/Pay Per View games|
|Superstars (1989)- Superstars (1991)- Superstars 2- Royal Rumble (1993)- In Your House- Royal Rumble (2000)- No Mercy- Survivor Series|
|WrestleMania (NES)- Challenge- WrestleMania (1991)- Steel Cage- Super WrestleMania- The Arcade Game- 2000- Road to WrestleMania- Road to WrestleMania X8- X8- XIX- 21- Legends of WrestleMania|
|WrestleFest- European Rampage Tour- King of the Ring- Rage in the Cage- War Zone- Attitude- Betrayal- Day of Reckoning- Aftershock- Day of Reckoning 2|
|With Authority!- Crush Hour|