The WWE is one of the most popular entertainment programs on television today and now also has International tournaments so fans outside the United States can go and see the sport in action. Obviously with a franchise as big as this, a video game is a given and THQ pulled out all the stops for the latest version of the Smackdown series on PS2.
Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain (Smackdown: HCTP) offers two primary game modes; exhibition and season. In exhibition you can choose two superstars to duke it out in a number of match types. The match types include TLC (tables, ladders and chairs), cage match (where you have to escape a ten foot cage to win), submission (the opposing wrestler must submit to you rather then a pin) and many others. In exhibition mode you can have fights between male and male, male vs female and female vs female.
The other game mode, and where you will spend most of your time whilst playing Smackdown: HCTP is the season. In season, unlike exhibition you can only choose male wrestlers. The objective of the season mode is to win the main event at Wrestlemania the next year. It begins in April, at the conclusion of Wrestlemania and you have to work your way up in the General Managers mind to be considered a shot at the title. Obviously with more famous wrestlers such as Kurt Angle it will be much easier because you will get more fights, but other lesser known wrestlers will offer more of a challenge.
During season mode your task is to win championship belts, and it won't be long before you get offered a crack at one. Between matches you will have some decisions to make for your wrestler which can entirely change the outcome of the season and your current career. For instance, a wrestler may give you trash talk about your car, and you can either choose to ignore him or hit him. Hitting him will start a fight in the parking lot and cause many surprise attacks during shows. It will eventually culminate in a fight at a pay per view event. Lots of off ring things can occur such as one of the female wrestlers becoming your manager and this too can affect the season. The developers have captured the off ring goings on in the WWE almost perfectly. There can be problems with the scripting though. It is possible that you can lose a match, but the storyline will dictate that you win it making the match pointless.
Between each match during season mode you will attend to your locker. At your locker you can visit other wrestlers if available, talk to the GM and demand a title match and also visit the Smackdown store. In the Smackdown store you can buy the ability to use pay per view rings in exhibition mode, unlock different loading screens and others. Also from the locker you can check out your wrestlers profile.
As expected Smackdown: HCTP features a wide variety of official superstars from the WWE. Names such as The Rock, Kurt Angle, A-Train etc all feature as well as lesser known wrestlers. Smackdown: HCTP features both male and female wrestlers Each wrestler looks incredibly lifelike and contains all their special moves, attributes, entrance and theme music. Each wrestler has a few Smackdown moves. Performing normal moves will fill up a Smackdown meter and when full a Smackdown token is granted. Smackdown moves are the wrestlers finishing moves and more often then not can end a match there and then.
However if you want to create your own wrestler you can. Smackdown: HCTP features a very extensive create mode. You can choose male or female body type and then customise their build, weight, height and other things such as entrance. Of course doing this provides the ultimate challenge because you start off with no respect from other wrestlers or the GM of WWE itself.
Smackdown: HCTP is easy to get accustomed to. The face buttons are used for hitting, running, grappling and tagging partners in tag team matches. The AI can be toned down to a low level but there are numerous difficulty levels to choose from. On screen, a meter tells you how hurt and weak the opposing wrestler is. Smackdown moves cause this meter to flash red which imposes maximum damage. Wrestlers will also writhe on the ground in pain and become stunned when standing up, giving you a good indication that they are almost finished. The gameplay is fast paced and in no time at all an opposing wrestler can have flipped you, punched you and kicked you to the ground.
Smackdown: HCTP features numerous Pay Per View events such as Summer Slam and Survivor series. These pay per view events are held in spectacular looking stadiums and winning these offers more cash to be spent in the store. The game also features International events in England, but the Australian events are still not included in the calendar. Each environment that the fights take place in look superb, and feature a 3D chanting crowd. Tables are located under the ring itself, but be careful not to be disqualified using them.
Graphically the game is very impressive with the aforementioned player likeness and animations, huge stadiums to fight in and other graphical features. At times matches can feature up to six wrestlers in a ring at once, but even then the frame rate remains stable with no slowdown. A credit to the developers. Get a decent, unexpected hit on an opposing wrestler and blood will appear on the character model.
Sound wise the sound effects are quite good with theme music for each wrestler and the sound of flesh hitting flesh. Commentary is provided for non-official events but only in a text format. Multiplayer is offered on the same console only.
Smackdown: HCTP is a must buy if you're a PS2 owner and a fan of the WWE. Even if you're not and you have liked non WWE wrestling games in the past then definitely check Smackdown: HCTP out because it truly is one of, if not the best licensed wrestling game to ever be released.