Anyone who has been following WWE programming as of late can attest that Smackdown! has been the far superior program in regards to RAW. This wasn’t just a recent trend, however, as THQ’s WWE Smackdown! line of games has consistently been the best of the three WWE-themed series. Now we have the latest entry in the vaunted franchise and it’s not only the best wrestling game to come out this year, but it very well may be the best wrestling game ever made.
Yukes! has done an admirable job of addressing the issues and problems that have plagued past entries in the series while adding just enough features to make this franchise fresh and engaging again. Issues such as move variety, match depth, match pacing and opponent AI have all been addressed. Toss in some pretty hefty visual upgrades, a few new match types and an engrossing season mode and you’ve got yourself a very deep and entertaining wrasslin’ title.
Once again you’ll be able to control your favorite wrestler as he runs the gamut known as WWE programming. There aren’t too many changes between the season mode of Here Comes the Pain and Just Bring It! but the differences in place amount to quite a large molehill. Making the largest impact is an experience points-based system that allows you to upgrade your wrestler’s abilities as he progresses. Each wrestler now is now rated according to their abilities, taking out some of the ambiguity that ran amok in other Smackdown! Titles. This makes the game even more realistic, ensuring that jobbers like Stevie Richards won’t be able to manhandle Kurt Angle or The Rock. This is especially important for your Create-A-Wrestler who is relatively weak compared to the other wrestlers in the WWE. Be prepared to lose some matches, especially when you start out with a rating of 40 while the lower tiered jobbers are in the 60s. You’ll get points for participating in matches; how many you get depends on just how well you do. After the matches you’ll be able to spend points on various attributes, all of which have a bearing on how well you do against your opponents.
Speaking of the create-a-wrestler system be prepared for the shock of your life. Those of you who were used to beating up on the series’ retarded AI will get their asses handed to them on a repeated basis. While I used to go through an entire season without ever losing a match I’ve found myself losing about 1 of every 3 matches. Hell when I just started my record was an embarrassing 3-8, but hey, gotta pay my dues right? This leads us to another area that has made some great bounds, the computer AI. While they’re not geniuses they’re more than competent this time around. No longer pushovers you’ll have to work hard in order to pull out a pin fall in this game. In a nice little unexpected bonus this helps to add some pacing to the match so that it has time to develop and grow. Many wrestling fans can attest that a great wrestling match tells a story, this is exactly what Smackdown! allows you to do.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive roster then you’ve come to the right place. You’ll get WWE mainstays like Austin and The Rock as well as newcomers like Haas, Benjamin and Batista. Most of the wrestlers appear as they do today meaning that Rock has his new tattoo and Kane is unmasked. In a nice nod to history the roster includes a number of Legends that have graced the WWE rings in the past few decades. This lineup includes the likes of Roddy Piper, Sgt. Slaughter (pre-massive gut days), Hillbilly Jim and the RoadWarriors. A few are available for you at the start but most have to be unlocked in the game’s WWE Shopzone section, accessible in the career mode. The legends can be used in any mode of the game including the career mode so you can put the World Title around Animal’s waist if you please.
In regards to timeline Here Comes the Pain picks up the show after WrestleMania XVIII as you strive to be in the main event of WrestleMania XIX. Forgive me for not being able to relate to the WWE but the past two years of programming have just been a mishmash of horribly booked programs that aren’t entertaining nor or they memorable. Hell, I completely forgot that Jazz was the Women’s Champion at one point in time or that she was actually still on the WWE roster. I do
remember recent occurrences though and I must admit that the game is pretty spot on when it comes to predicting the outcomes of their matches in comparison to the actual product. To show just how accurate the new skill rating system is at accurately predicting match outcomes in Eddie Guerrerro’s first title defense he lost the US Title to the Big Show, just like in real life. In a strange lapse of judgment in three seasons HHH had a record of 112 wins and 2 losses. Everyone knows that HHH NEVER loses, come on guys.
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