Happy Wrestlemania season! Last year I reviewed the N64 AKI Wrestling Games to celebrate Wrestlemania 33, and since I’ll be attending Wrestlemania 34 in New Orleans this year, I decided that today on the first Games Growing Up that doesn’t feature Mega Man since October, we’re gonna take a look at WWE Smackdown!: Here Comes The Pain! for the Playstation 2. Released in 2003, this game captures wrestling in the midst of the Ruthless Aggression Era, the time when Wrestling wasn’t as popular as it was in the late 90s, but the in ring product had never been better. This game is almost 15 years old now, does it still hold up?
I want to start off by taking a look at the roster in this game. Here Comes The Pain had arguably the best lineup of wrestlers in any wrestling game until WWE 2K14 released in 2013. This lineup is star studded, featuring The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Brock Lesnar, Undertaker as the American Badass, Chris Jericho, Ric Flair, Goldberg, Shawn Michaels, The Hurricane, Goldust, and more.
Though the roster is amazing, the gameplay of Here Comes The Pain is spotty. The goal is to win matches, obviously, throughout a season mode. In order to win these matches, you have to out-wrestle your opponent up to a point where you gain a finisher, hit your finisher, and then pin them or make them tap out. This finisher is stored in a little Smackdown! token next to a meter that fills as you damage your enemy. You could do this, or you can take the easy way out, beat up the referee, and beat your opponent down with a chair, and pin them. When you attack them and vice versa, it’s possible to reverse attacks and grapples by pressing R2 and L2, but Often I press these buttons and my character doesn’t reverse.
Along with reversal issues, some characters are so overpowered based on their size, and reversals always seem to work for them. Another huge issue is that some moves take so many button inputs to execute, and sometimes I swear I’m pressing the correct buttons, but the move isn’t executed.
My last issue is how slow the referee counts. In normal wrestling, a referee counts Pinfalls in three seconds, but each second in Here Comes The Pain lasts about 3 seconds, taking forever for a pinfall to be counted. This makes matches take forever since it’s a lot easier to kick out when your referee is a snail.
The rest of the gameplay is great! There are a ton of match types, including your favorites: Ladder Matches, Table Matches, Iron Man Matches, Hell In A Cell, and more. There’s a season mode, which lets you pick a wrestler or create one and fight for titles and feud with other wrestlers. You can feud with anybody from the diverse cast, and you can fight for several championship belts. Overall, the gameplay is a mixed bag.
Like I said with the button inputs, the controls are very strange. You move with the Dpad, and each move requires several button inputs. I feel like the controls are often unresponsive and executing moves is more annoying than fun to do. The controls haven’t aged well.
The graphics of Here Comes The Pain have aged. For the time, 3D models had never looked as good as this, but nowadays, each character looks like a wax figure. Every character is so shiny, and while they look accurate to their real life counterparts, there’s something about it that’s offputting. The stages and rings look nice, and so do the title belts. The game looks okay, but the character models are so ugly.
The music is fine. It’s just popular rock music from 2003, so if that’s your thing, have fun, if not, just put the game on mute and listen to a wrestling podcast. Overall, I have no opinion on the music.
WWE Smackdown! Here Comes The Pain is one of the most famous wrestling games. While I’m sure it was groundbreaking at the time with it’s 3D Graphics and vast roster, it just isn’t a good game in 2018. Here Comes The Pain has not aged well.