THQ have shockingly ditched their WWE WrestleMania series for Gamecube and have instead announced that their next wrestling game for the Ninty console will be called WWE Day of Reckoning.
Due for release in September, the game is currently being coded by Tokyo developers Yuke's, the people behind both the WrestleMania and SmackDown! games. Day of Reckoning - the first shots of which can be seen accompanying this article - will feature new additions to the 40-strong roster (including old school legends), the ubiquitous create-a-character mode and the inevitable improvement in graphics. But the main change will be in the game's main single-player mode, now called the School of Hard Knocks, which will be much more storyline focused.
The game will see your character start off by having to fight in minor leagues before even being given the opportunity to face WWE 'superstars'. As your wrestler improves, you'll eventually get noticed by the WWE and work towards obtaining a title shot. Even when you do strike wrestling gold though, the game's not over as you have to continue defending the title against new challengers.
Many of the new gameplay characteristics have taken their lead from last year's PS2-only SmackDown! Here Comes The Pain, including Bra and Panties matches and a targeting system that allows you to work over specific body parts. Meanwhile, cartoon-style 'Danger!' and 'Special!' speech bubbles pop up on screen at the appropriate moment if you're close to either losing a match or being able to execute your finishing move, the selection of which now places far more focus on submission manoeuvres.
The last WWE game for the Cube, WWE WrestleMania XIX, failed to match the sheer wealth of options of the well-regarded PS2 SmackDown! series and its central conceit - that your character has been fired by Vince McMahon and, to gain revenge, has to scupper his plans to build a new stadium - was as flimsy as it is ridiculous. So the main single-player mode, instead of offering ring-based action, instead saw you clambering around a construction site and fending off a hapless slew of builders and guards and offered little in the way of long-term satisfaction. Compared to which, Day of Reckoning can only be an improvement.
Meanwhile, current rumours suggest the WWE Raw series for Xbox has also been ditched and that the game's Japanese developers, Anchor, have been dropped by publishers THQ. Instead, we've heard reports that a new, as-yet untitled, WWE series for Xbox is currently being developed by a US-based studio. However, when we quizzed THQ on the future of WWE Xbox games, they refused to make any comment. We'll keep you posted as soon as we hear anything.
WWE Day of Reckoning is due to be released for Gamecube in September. For loads more on the game, check out the May issue of GamesMaster magazine, on sale Wednesday 7 April