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Retro Respawn – WWE SmackDown!: Here Comes the Pain

Sometimes we all get a random hankering to play a certain game now and then, don’t we? You might not even have thought about the game in question for weeks, months or even years, but one day it pops into your head and you think, “Oh yeah, haven’t played that one in a while…”. WWE SmackDown!: Here Comes the Pain definitely falls into that category for me.

I can’t recall what made me start thinking about Here Comes the Pain again. It may have been that I was watching some WWE from the 2003 era and it jogged my memory, but for whatever reason, it popped back into my head, and I decided to go back and complete the season mode with a wrestler I’d never completed it with before. This is sadly something you can’t do in the modern WWE 2K games as they always insist in you creating your own insipid grappler for the single-player story mode. That wasn’t the case back in 2003 as the entire male roster of the game was open for you to select and lead to glory.

I still remember the very first WWE “Superstar” that I took to the ring with in career mode. It was Yoshihiro Asai, better known as Ultimo Dragon. Dragon not only had pretty low stats, but his small stature meant that when he got in the ring with the likes of Brock Lesnar, Big Show and Undertaker, it would take me ages to wear them down, whilst they could crush me with three to four attacks. However, I forged ahead regardless, with my goal being to take Dragon to the WWE Title. Along the way I formed a stable with Undertaker and John Cena called “The Big Ticket” that saw us feud with a heel stable led by Brock Lesnar. I lost to Lesnar at No Mercy in a battle of stable leaders but eventually went on to win an Elimination Chamber match at Survivor Series to give The Big Ticket the final bragging rights. Eventually, I entered WrestleMania XIX and defeated my stablemate, The Undertaker, to claim the WWE Title at last.

Why on Earth do the modern WWE games not let you do this anymore? Believe it or not, there a people out there whose favourite wrestlers are the Heath Slaters and Bo Dallases of this world, and they would love to take them to the top of the WWE. I guess that 2K wants you to essentially make yourself in CAW form so that career mode becomes your story, but in Here Comes the Pain, that Dragon run to the top was my story as well as his. I was emotionally invested in Dragon as a wrestler, and I took him from the literal bottom of the pile all the way to the top. We essentially climbed that mountain together arm-in-arm, and that’s what made it all the more satisfying.

How Here Comes the Pain’s season mode differs to the previous game in the SmackDown series, Shut Your Mouth, is that you only get to play one year this time instead of two. Though the removal of a full year is disappointing, it does mean that you get a somewhat tighter storytelling experience, and it also means it doesn’t take as long to take multiple wrestlers through the mode. A lot of the stories in season mode have branching story paths depending on how you do in matches and what decisions you decide to make. For instance, whilst playing as Rob Van Dam, I was approached by Eric Bischoff as to whether I wanted to defend my newly won World Title against The Rock, Bill Goldberg or both of them in a triple threat. Being the fighting champion that I am, I accepted the triple threat match, which meant that both Rock and Goldberg went out of their way to give me a kicking in the build up to the title match.

Graphically, Here Comes the Pain looks smoother overall than Shut Your Mouth, with the lighting being slightly darker than in the previous game. This leads to the wrestlers looking more realistic, but it also takes away some of the vibrancy and colour that was such a big part of making Shut Your Mouth so visually arresting. For the most part, every wrestler is well detailed, with even lower card guys like Rodney Mack and Rico looking a decent amount like their real life counterparts. This is an improvement on Shut Your Mouth, where most of the effort was put towards the main stars, with the lower card guys kind of getting shafted graphics-wise.

The gameplay has also had a noticeable tweak, with each wrestler now having four different types of grapples to choose from. By pressing circle and a direction on the D-pad, your chosen wrestler will grab his/her opponent and hold onto them for a limited period of them. Depending on what direction you pressed on the D-pad, you will then be able to perform a signature move, a power move, a quick move or a submission move. In addition to this, Here Comes the Pain also introduces specific body damage. Each wrestler has a picture of a body next to their name, and if you target specific parts of the body with attacks, they will start to change colour to show that damage is being done. For instance, if you are playing as Ric Flair and keep attacking your opponent’s leg, the legs on your opponent’s body display will change from yellow to orange and finally red. Once a body part goes red, it will make a wrestler more susceptible to being pinned or submitted, and it will also cause them to occasionally stop moving to nurse the injured area.

This adds a tactical element to matches depending on which wrestler you select. For instance, when I went back to the game for this recent playthrough, I played season mode as Kurt Angle. Angle’s two finishing manoeuvres are the Angle Slam and the Ankle Lock. As the Angle Slam predominantly attacks the back, I would work over a wrestler’s mid-section so that I could have a better chance of winning once I charged up my finisher bar. If I wanted to win by submission, I would target the legs to weaken them for the ankle lock. There would be no point working over an opponent’s arms as I wouldn’t have any moves to make the arm work count, and it would end up being a waste of time that I could have spent working over a different area of the body. However, if I were to take to the ring as Stone Cold Steve Austin, I would specifically target the head in preparation for the Stone Cold Stunner.

I really enjoyed my return trip to Here Comes the Pain, and I blew through the season mode again in almost an entire day because I was enjoying it so much. It really is an addictive game mode and sorely lacking from modern WWE releases. I’d highly recommend playing this game if you’ve never done so before, it’s an absolute belter!

Looking for other great content here on the site? Well, why not check out Samantha’s review of V-Rally 4? You can read what she thought by clicking right HERE

If you’re interested in picking up WWE Smackdown!: Here Comes the Pain, then you can visit the Amazon page for it right HERE

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