WWE Smackdown! Here Comes The Pain Review

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Playstation 2

THQ’s Smackdown series has dominated the World of wrestling games for the past four years. Anticipation for their fifth title has been unprecedented, with expectations set extraordinarily high. Finally, Smackdown: Here Comes The Pain has arrived, but was it worth the wait? Read on…

Listening to fan feedback and criticism, THQ set out to not only improve their product, but also completely raise the standard for all future wrestling games to follow. They could have sold just as many copies by simply updating the roster and adding a few new moves. To their credit, they instead decided to revamp the entire game.

One of the biggest improvements in Smackdown: HCTP is the new location specific damage. In previous games, you could beat on your opponent for 10 minutes, and they would act like nothing happened. This time round, you can actually target and damage specific body parts, including the head, torso, and limbs. There is a body meter, which changes colour to indicate areas that are injured. Attack someone’s leg with a steel chair and they will start to limp. With the targeted leg damaged, it will make it more susceptible to submission manoeuvres. This makes wrestling much more satisfying, showing the result of your brutal efforts.

For the first time in a Smackdown game, if you inflict a lot of damage on a superstar, they will also start to bleed. Making someone bleed is no easy task, requiring the most damaging moves at your disposal. Quite rightly, blood flow is restricted to men; so if you were thinking about busting Trish open, forget about it!

Another big change this year is the improved grapple and submissions system. There are now four types of grapple available, each with their own moveset. Grapples include power moves, submission moves, quick moves, and signature moves, which are individual to each wrestler. This means that each wrestler has 16 available grapple moves, compared with last years four. The counters have also now been expanded to a 2-button system, for blocking different kinds of offensive moves.

In another effort to make each character feel truly different, a weight detection system has been added. Small characters such as Rey Mysterio will no longer be able to pick up heavy guys such as Big Show. This means you must take advantage of your characters strengths (In Rey’s case, his quickness), and adopt a different strategy with each opponent.

The bulk of the Single player experience traditionally takes place in the Season Mode. Here you must ascend the ranks of the WWE in a quest for Championship Gold. Along the way you earn attribute points, which can be used to develop your characters ring skills. Points can be added to your Strength, submissions, endurance, technique and speed, making each customised wrestler your own. Additional costumes, characters, arenas and (strangely) loading screens can be purchased in the WWE Shopzone from Smackdown Dollars earned during matches. There are over 200 storylines available, which are written by WWE Writers. In addition to original storylines, there are also some that draw inspiration from classic WWE storylines from the past and present. Thankfully, the awful first-person view from Smackdown: Shut your Mouth has been removed, and replaced with an easy to navigate menu system. Here you can choose to talk to Superstars backstage, buy merchandise, check your attributes, view Season information, add new stables, or start a match. Being in complete control of your destiny, you can choose what roster your on, and even if the fans like you or not. With some storylines being character specific, it’ll be a long time before you see everything that Season Mode has to offer.

‘Here Comes The Pain’ welcomes three new match types to Smackdowns already impressive line up. Debuting at Survivor Series 2002, the Elimination Chamber is one of WWE’s most brutal matches to date. Taking place in a steel dome, two competitors battle it out, while another four Superstars are sequentially released from confines inside the Chamber. Each man must be eliminated in order to be victorious.

In what can only be described as every mans dream match, Smackdown: HCTP also introduces the Bra and Panties Match. Here you must strip a WWE Diva down to her underwear to gain a victory. Women’s wrestling has been somewhat overlooked in previous titles, making this a welcome addition. Out of respect, Stephanie McMahon cannot be used in this match type, which probably has something to do with her father…

The third new addition is the First Blood match. Long regarded by fans as one of their most wanted features, you must bust open your opponents head to win the match.

Exhibition matches include Single, Tag, 6-Man Tag, Handicap, Hardcore, Royal Rumble and Survival. Other match types include 3 Stages of Hell, Cage, Elimination Tag, Hell in a Cell, Iron Man, Ladder, Last man Standing, Lumber Jack, Slobber Knocker, Special Referee, Submission, Table, and my personal favourite, TLC (Tables, Ladders and Chairs). With 6 detailed television arenas, all 14 Pay-Per-View arenas, and backstage areas including a Gym and Times Square, matches are kept fresh and exciting.

All’s good so far, but whom exactly will we be playing all these features with? Smackdown: HCTP features 65 WWE Superstars including a few surprises. All the latest additions to the roster are onboard, including Goldberg, Rey Mysterio, John Cena, Rodney Mack and Shawn O’Haire. They join fan-favourites such as The Rock, Steve Austin, The Undertaker and Triple H. Keen to keep the game as up-to-date as possible, THQ even found time to add Ultimo Dragon, and make Kane unmasked.

In a surprise move, eleven WWE Legends have been added, including both members of Legion of Doom (Hawk and Animal), George ‘The Animal’ Steele, Hillbilly Jim, Iron Sheik, Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka, Nikolai Volkoff, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Sgt Slaughter, ‘The Million Doller Man’ Ted Dibiase, and ‘Old School’ Undertaker. Each legend comes to the ring in a retro Wrestlemania Mini-Ring, which will bring back fond memories for long time fans.

One of Smackdown’s main strengths has always been the excellent Create A Wrestler Mode. This enables you to create your dream wrestler, and compete them in all available match options. You can tweak every aspect of your created grapplers image, clothing, profile, moves, abilities and entrance. Although being almost identical to last years Create mode, no other wrestling game comes close to the level of detail you can control. Ever wondered who would win against your Aunty and Bruce Lee in a Cage Match? Create them and find out!

To the disappointment of fans, a couple of Legends were noticeably absent from the game, including Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior. I later came to realise that the Create-A-Wrestler mode was so extensive that this really wasn’t a problem. With enough time and effort, you can accurately create anyone imaginable. THQ have even included over 70 unlockable movesets, featuring the most popular Superstars moves of all time.

Every aspect of Smackdown: HCTP is visually stunning, including the character designs, arenas, and animations. Every mannerism, movement and pose has been expertly captured to bring each WWE Superstar to life like never before. Even though we all tend to skip the entrances, they are as accurate as ever. The addition of a 3D crowd further adds to the realism, in a way their flat, 2D counterparts never could.

Raw Commentators Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler are taking a break from announcing duties this year. In the past, audio tracks have tended to become repetitive quite quickly, so this is no real lose. Anyone who has attended a WWE live event knows that they can’t hear the commentators anyway. The in-game sound effects and music capture the live atmosphere perfectly.

Smackdown: HCTP features the depth of a simulation game, while retaining its Arcade like playability. With 65 wrestlers, a massive Season Mode, numerous match types, and the unrivalled Create A Wrestler tool, Smackdown HCTP is a dream come true for wrestling fans.

Serving as a wake up call to all other contenders, Smackdown Here Comes The Pain is truly the greatest wrestling game (and indeed Beat-em-up) on the market today. With limitless replay value, Smackdown: HCTP is a must-have addition to everybody’s collection!

The countdown to Smackdown 6 has begun…

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