WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain
System: Playstation2
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Yukes
Released: October 2003
Genre: Pro-Wrestling
Capabilities: Memory Card, Dual Shock 2 Analog Control & Vibration Feedback, Multi-Tap for up to 6 players

Review  Written: November 18, 2003

The WWE’s line of Smackdown games have been around for a while now on the Playstation consoles. The newest installment, Here Comes the Pain (HCtP), is the fifth game in the series and is developed again by Yukes. This year’s main new additions are an enhanced grappling system, two new gameplay modes, and the inclusion of 11 retired “legends.” Of course, the main question that pops up for every new Smackdown title is that the new content enough to justify another $50 purchase. The answer to that question is the same as every year before it where you pretty much have to be a serious wrestling fan to appreciate the added extras to warrant that purchase.

Of course the first thing all WWE fans want to know is what the latest roster changes are. HCtP has a 62 character roster, and while that may be a deep number at first, keep in mind that 11 of those wrestlers are the legends that brings the total number of active superstars down to 51. The roster has changed quite a bit since the last Smackdown title, Shut Your Mouth (SYM). A lot of major new wrestlers are in here such as Bill Goldberg, Rey Mysterio, and Scott Steiner that join the usual main draws like Kurt Angle, Triple H, and Brock Lesnar. Other notable gained extra wrestlers that appear in HCtP, but not in the recently released Wrestlemania XIX and RAW 2 are Ultimo Dragon, Rodney Mack, and the World’s Greatest Tag Team. The gained 11 legends brings back many memories as Rowdy Roddy Piper, Ted Dibiase and Jimmy Snuka (but no Hulk Hogan!), among others make their return to the ring. Unfortunately, they are all lacking their old entrance themes and come to the ring with no music and in those ring-decorated golf carts that appeared at Wrestlemania III.

Yuke’s changed some parts of the gameplay mechanics drastically, and they’ll be noticed right from the get go. The first thing is that 16 moves can now be done from the front grapple system. That is because there are now four different kinds of grapples for all wrestlers (quick, power, submission, signature) and four moves can be done out of each grapple. This is rather nice as it adds a much-needed extra amount of maneuvers that can be performed out of grapples. Also the reverse system is changed in HCtP, instead of square, now L2 and R2 are used for blocking strikes and grapples, respectively. Some of the submission moves also have a meter where button mashing is required so the superstar won’t tap out. Personally, I hate the meter because I’ve always despised any wrestling game that requires button mashing and the blistering thumbs that result from it (anyone remember Royal Rumble and RAW from the 16-bit days?).

Also noticeable is body models next to each character’s name and they change color as they are dealt damage like a car model would in a racing game. What also has an impact on this is the added attribute system for the wrestlers. The superstars now have stats for strength, technique, speed, and endurance. This effects wrestlers a bit and adds a bit more of an authentic flair because now you won’t see smaller characters like Stacy Kiebler or Rey Mysterio being able to suplex and powerbomb bigger athletes like Brock Lesnar or Big Show with ease as they were before in previous Smackdown games. The wrestlers will also take a random several second animation where they shutter in pain if they have been dealt a great deal of damage. Even though the wrestlers stay on the ground for a while after being dealt a major move, the gameplay still has that fast-paced “arcadey” feel that has been known throughout the Smackdown games, but just no where as bad as it was before.

The in-depth Season mode from SYM makes its return, and this time features storylines actually written by the WWE creative staff. Before the season starts off, the rosters can be edited to your desire and you can also change weather or not a wrestler is a “heel” (bad) or a “face” (good). The storylines is what makes this WWE game stand out from the rest, and actually give some motivation for finishing up the single player mode. Every week you start off in the locker room and can choose to do several things. Instead of roaming around the arena in a first person view as before, a list of arena rooms appear and they will list if a superstar is there or not to talk to. The GM can also be visited so a title shot or program transfer can be made. If a match is won, experience points and Smackdown dollars are awarded to either distribute to the aforementioned stat categories or buy locked legends, arenas, and Create-a-Wrestler parts. So rest assured, there is plenty to do and accomplish in the Season mode again and it sails high above the single player modes the other WWE titles have to offer.

Two new gimmick matches join the already staggering amount of other extra match types that are available to choose from. The first and biggest addition is the six-player Elimination Chamber, where two superstars start in the ring while the other four are locked in each corner of the chamber, they enter the fray each following minute, and the last man standing wins. This is a blast to play, as the added parts to the chamber can be taken advantage of for far more spectacular leaping splashes from the top of the chamber, and the wrestlers can be thrown through the glass shards protecting each corner chamber too. The other new match type is the Bra & Panties match which is obviously limited to just the WWE divas. It really isn’t anything special, mostly in part that it requires much hated button mashing to rip off the bra and panties off the diva. All of the other match types from before are still here, and are compatible for up to six players with two multi-taps so the most can be made out of the Table, Ladder, Cage, Hell in a Cell, and many other match types.

The awesome Create-a-Wrestler (CaW) mode is back again, and except for one thing I’ll touch on in a moment, it is one of the best CaW modes to ever grace the genre. There are millions of possibilities, and all the die-hard fans will be making sure to check out all the tiles and textures they can deck their creation out with. This is still the only CaW that gives the player the option of adding text on their costumes, something that I always take advantage of. I took about four hours myself making sure my created superstar met my every need. The thing that’s disappointing about this year’s CaW is that there is none of the extensive entrance editor options that RAW 2 and Wrestlemania XIX both have that enables the timing of pyros, and many lighting effects.

HCtP musters out everything it can out of the PS2. The wrestler models just look too good to be true, and are just a couple notches under the superb ones found in RAW 2. From making out all the wrinkles on Ric Flair, to the many tattoos on the Undertaker, the wrestlers are near perfect to their real life counterparts. One thing I do not like about them is that the wrestlers now seem to have a slight shinier texture to them, and it kind of oddly distracts from the gameplay in a weird sense. It took Yukes five years, but they finally managed to add blood textures to the wrestlers. Also, the entire floor of the arena now consists of 3D crowd models, with only 2D sprites in the bleachers. The moves are also animated quite well, but some of the taunting animations look plain out weird such as DDP’s Diamond Cutter pose, and Cactus Jack’s “Bang-Bang” taunt. Aside from that and the occasional bits of clipping that’s expected out of wrestling games, there’s nothing else that detracts from the graphics.

Yukes did a surprising maneuver in the audio department. They stripped the game of any audio commentary whatsoever, which is a shame because they could have improved it given the right amount of effort. I never really cared for the background music tunes in the Smackdown series, and it doesn’t really help when previous ones are reused. I always have wished the developers would have the wrestler’s entrance themes as background music during matches instead of generic rock riffs. Speaking of the themes, HCtP gained several extra authentic themes that didn’t appear in the recently released RAW 2 and WMXIX. Randy Orton, Eddie & Chavo Gurrero, and Matt Hardy all come out to their correct themes now, but a few still have some instrumental or older theme replacements like the Dudleyz, Victoria, and Stacy Kiebler.

Just like almost all the previous Smackdown games, HCtP should has plenty of replay value. The Season mode alone will be the main mode where countless hours will be spent in the intriguing storylines, and earning enough Smackdown dollars to buy all the locked items. Also creating wrestlers, stables, and taunts will consume a hefty amount of time too. The plethora of extra match types is always nice, and will provide plenty of multi-player gaming marathons with up to six players.


Graphics: 9.3
Sound: 8.5
Gameplay: 7.8
Replay Value: 9.2

Overall: 8.7

I don’t know how they do it, but Yukes does to Smackdown like EA does to Madden and adds enough new material to warrant a purchase. However, if you own more than one of the next-gen systems and is having a tough time deciding which WWE game to get between HCtP, RAW 2 and WMXIX, then just think of what each game has what the other doesn’t. HCtP has legends, tons of match types, and very robust single player & CaW modes. RAW 2 and WMXIX has slightly better gameplay, entrance editors and Hulk Hogan. If you are me and like what has all the extras to get the most out of your game then go with HCtP, but if you prefer more authentic wrestling controls and are a true Hulkamaniac, then go with one of the other two titles.

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