It really seems that there is no end to the sports entertainment known as wrestling. Just when you finish reviewing a game for one system, you've got another one that comes out for another. After just recently reviewing WWE WRESTLEMANIA XIX for the GameCube, THQ has released WWE SMACKDOWN! HERE COMES THE PAIN for the Playstation 2. And, from what I recall, I made the comment about how WRESTLEMANIA XIX was the best wrestling game yet. Well, I'm here to tell you it didn't hold on to that title for too long.
The SMACKDOWN! series is the longest running wrestling game franchise on the market right now, and while it has taken its blows in the past for its gameplay style, SMACKDOWN! has become the definitive wrestling game on the Playstation 2. While it wasn't too long ago that the last incarnation of the game, SHUT YOUR MOUTH, was released, HERE COMES THE PAIN capitalizes on its success and, while not changing a ton about the gameplay, does add some things that were missing from the last game.
The biggest change is the new and improved grappling system. While the overhaul of the grappling system was begun in SHUT YOUR MOUTH, it has completely been transformed in HERE COMES THE PAIN. The new system has four different types of grapples: submission, quick, power and signature. Each of these four types is selectable by pressing a designated button on the directional pad or thumbstick. So to perform one of these, you would press the directional pad in the direction you wish, lock up using the specific grapple. To pull off a move, you would press the directional pad in another direction, resulting in a specific move. It sounds complicated at first, but I promise it is really easy to get used to.
Another addition to the game is a location-specific damage meter that is shown beside your health at the top of the screen. When you beat on a certain part of the body, say the leg, the meter will show what damage has been done to that body part. The more you hurt it, the easier it will be to make your opponent submit. The reversals system has been upgraded as well, and the animations for the reversals are a lot smoother now than before.
While wrestling games continually get better looking as time goes on, HERE COMES THE PAIN is the best looking one yet. To me, SMACKDOWN!'s wrestlers have always looked a little blocky, but the newest incarnation seems to have fixed this. The wrestlers look realistic and very fluid with the animations, although there is still a matter of clipping problems and sometimes the characters don't look quite like their real-life counterparts.
HERE COMES THE PAIN
While all the matches are great, the season mode stands out the most. You can take any wrestler (even created ones) and begin your journey through the WWE. You are allowed to pick if they will be a Raw or Smackdown wrestler, and are treated with cut-scenes throughout the game to tell their story. The locker room is where you can hang out and change your moves, prepare for matches or even confront other wrestlers backstage or in a parking lot. And while the Create-A-Wrestler is still superb, there were really no changes to this from SHUT YOUR MOUTH.
Even without the commentating from Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross, WWE SMACKDOWN! HERE COMES THE PAIN is the best wrestling game on the market for any platform. The SMACKDOWN! series has become the best there is and any wrestling fan would be wise to pick up a copy of this one.