WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain Review

It’s been a couple years since I have played a Smackdown game. When the first one on the PS2 came out THQ was hyping the season mode as the best ever. Then we get the game and find out it takes about 4 matches to make it through the season mode and win. Yeah, great season mode there THQ! That pretty much kept me away from a Smackdown game until the hype started building for this one. I watched all of IGN’s video previews of the game, including the Elimination Chamber match before the actual one at Summerslam. Everything looked rather cool. There was now a picture of a body next to each wrestler’s info on the screen that showed the amount of damage each section of the body had taken and the game overall looked much better from a graphics perspective. With this in mind I went out and rented Here Comes the Pain and now here is my review.

Never thought I would say this, but Here Comes the Pain‘s graphics are better than RAW 2 on the Xbox. That in itself is a great achievement, especially considering how crappy the Smackdown graphics were up to the last one I played. Yes, there is still clipping in the game…the fact is no wrestling game will ever be perfect in the clipping area. To circumvent lots of clipping though, Yukes has employed making the ropes and turnbuckles transparent when the wrestlers are next to them in certain camera angles.

The entrances and general wrestler animations just look better here than in RAW 2. They even got Triple H’s water spewing down correctly. The wrestlers don’t look all oiled up at all and the lighting in the game is well done. I did not ever see any stuttering in the animations and found the reaction to be better here than in RAW 2.

Seems all of the entrance themes are here, but unfortunately some wrestlers like Hulk Hogan are not in this game (but he is in the other two WWE games from this year). It seems the lyrics on the entrance themes are gone, much like RAW 2. I will be honest and say I rarely watch WWE programming anymore, so I’m not up on all the new entrance themes and which ones have lyrics or not. The sound of the game itself is phenomenal. Punches sound like they should and the powerful moves that slam a wrestler on the mat sound bone crushing, especially with the larger wrestlers throwing their opponents around like rag dolls.

This game just oozes quality in this section. Even the fans are into it. They will scream when big moves happen, they will say “[Wrestler name] Sucks!” and they’ll even say “Holy S***!” when an amazing move happens. Seems like Yukes went the extra mile that Anchor did not with Xbox’s RAW 2. Just goes to show why Smackdown sells better than RAW. Wrestling gamers know good games when they see them.

Control is good and there are no more of the “instant moves” that I had come to expect from the Smackdown games up through Bring it On. Now you can do moves without grappling or be able to do a variety of moves with grappling. The amount of moves for each wrestler is amazing and easy to pull off. The only problem here is that it will take some time to memorize which grapple goes into which moves. You see, you have to hit a direction and the circle button to grapple. It will do that grapple animation, then you have to push another direction and the circle again for the actual move within that grapple to happen. This of course brings lots of moves to you, but it also could bring a lot of confusion as well or a you could be using the same moves over during a match. This is not as quick and dirty as other Smackdown games and in fact it is very cerebral.

Smackdowns are still in this game (the finishing moves). Hit L1 in a certain situation and your wrestler will pull off one of their finishing moves. Obviously if you do not rough them up enough you will not be able to pin them even when using the finishing move. I find the standing/groggy finishing moves are still difficult to pull off and you have to know the grappling move that will make your opponent groggy so you can take them out. Just keep an eye on the amount of damage your opponent and yourself have taken via the body shot by your info, it is key to knowing when to pin someone or start getting down to business.

Oh my God, what is this? An actual feasible career/story mode? What has the world come to? Yep, Here Comes the Pain brings a great story mode to the table. We go back in time in the series where you went through a year of matches on your way to titles and grandeur. The only minus in the overall concept is that there are only 3 matches per week (and possibly an extra “outside the ring” match involving you) and it’s tough to get some title shot chances. I’m a big Rock guy and I chose him, kept the same stables and the same lineups for the RAW and Smackdown shows. The Rock was immediately embroiled in getting a title shot with Triple H at Judgement Day after Wrestlemania. Triple H of course would have none of this and proceeded to ruin my chances in the weeks leading up to the title match. He even had the audacity to make me beat someone within 3 minutes in order to meet him for the title shot. It felt pretty cool and realistic. Once I got to the title match, Triple H did his usual thing and disqualified himself by hitting me with a sledgehammer in front of the ref.

That’s just the first month and there are lots more months to go. Each wrestler is given a bar graph with 5 attributes. Wrestlers such as Goldberg and Brock Lesnar have a 10 for strength while Triple H has a 10 for Technical for example. There is also an overall rating (out of 100) for the wrestler. As you go through the story mode you can update those bars by getting points to be able to add to them. It’s all very cool. Another cool thing is that unlike RAW 2 people actually come up and talk to you through text. This pushes it far above the Xbox game and just makes this game fun. You will create friends and rivals as you go through the storymode. You will also be involved in different types of matches, which is cool in itself. You can also switch shows from RAW to Smackdown if you want to hold all the titles for instance.

This game also comes with the prerequisite massive amount of match types. Single, Tag-Team, Elimination, 6-Man Tag, etc. are all here. Then you get into the match types like Hell in the Cell, 3 Stages of Hell (where you choose 3 different types of matches to go through), Tornado Tag, Cage Match, etc. There’s even a First Blood match in this game and with it comes blood, something that has been missing for most of the wrestling games I have played lately. You can also create your own wrestler and create your own stables. They can then be used in the story mode. Just adds to the variety in the game.

This game is simply excellent from top to bottom. Graphics, sound, gameplay…THQ may have finally hit everything on the button. I even enjoy that the “instant moves” are gone and a grappling engine has gone in its place, making it feel more like the N64 games.

This game has tons of replay value. The season mode will take you a long time to go through and you can always create a wrestler and put them through that mode. There is also the plethora of exhibition matches you can choose from. You can also have up to 5 friends wrestle with you at the same time. This is probably the best wrestling game I have played in years and it is easily worth the $50 to own.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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