- Original release year: 2003
- Consoles: PS2
So tonight is Wrestlemania – the grandest stage of them all, the showcase of the immortals and superbowl of professional wrestling. Wrestlemania 30 gave us Daniel Bryan’s crowning moment and Wrestlemania 31 proved to be one of the best of all time. What’s Wrestlemania 32 going to be like? Time will tell… I can’t wait for the Hell in the Cell match though.
In celebration of the annual PPV, I thought I’d ‘celebrate’, so to speak, by featuring what many consider is the greatest wrestling game of all time. Of course, that is debatable, but it’s easily the greatest game in the Smackdown series (SvR: 2006 does give it a run for its money though).
Back in 2003, when Here Comes the Pain came out, the Smackdown series was a largely arcade-like Wrestling game, that was easy to pick up and play, accessible, but for the most part, offered a shallow gameplay experience, especially when compared with the AKI engine seen in the N64 wrestling games. The games were okay and fun enough, but gameplay was fairly repetitive. What the series did accomplish, however, was that it paved the way for wrestling games to become a more accurate representation of what happens on TV. They introduced backstage areas, all new match types (I Quit, TLC, Hell in a Cell and many more etc.) and, for the first time ever, The Rock’s People Elbow without it looking like absolute shit.
The simplicity of Smackdown’s engine made matches feel repetitive and meant there was a lacking number of moves to pull off. It was also annoying to hit other players 42 times in the head with a chair, throw them off the top of a 20 foot cell and then hit 10 of your finishers, only for them to look completely unscathed and get back up straight away. Here Comes The Pain finally improved the engine and fixed all of these faults. It was essentially the perfect blend of the accessible ‘pick up and play’ gameplay, but mixed with a more complex and deeper grappling system, with more moves, and more realistic engine. They also added blood, for the first time.
Here Comes The Pain was the pinnacle of the series, offering a great deal of match types (new in this edition, was the Elimination Chamber match and, erm, Bra and Panties match). The Season Mode also returned, albeit shorter than its predecessor, only being 12 months. Despite this, there was plenty of decent storylines to find yourself in and this time, there’s a few deeper ones with branching paths, that last a few in-game months.
In terms of its roster, Here Comes The Pain produced a fantastic roster, featuring the last appearance and first appearance of many favourites (you’ve got legends like Hogan, The Rock, Stone Cold, Goldberg, Booker T, Chris Jericho and the list goes on).
After 4 Smackdown games, the developers finally managed to deliver a wrestling game that took the easy to play style of the originals and blended it perfectly with a more in-depth, slightly slower, more realistic fighting engine. There’s so much to do as well, that there’s still plenty of wrestling fans who play it to this day. In fact, every year they release the new annual WWE game, we wonder why it’s so difficult for them to ever match the quality of this 2003 title.