Thursday, September 22, 2016

WWE Smackdown! Here Comes The Pain - Shining Star

Whenever I’m not roaming around in open world games, I love to play wrestling games. I’m a wrestling fan and damn proud of it. I’ve been a fan for 15 years now. Sure I could’ve studied but oh look, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is on TV facing The Rock! Gimme a hell yeah!

With WWE 2K17 coming out and most likely going to disappoint as much as Mighty Number 9, it’s no surprise that wrestling fans take these games with as much doubt as possible because of how burned they’ve been in the past. WWE 13 was okay but had a terrible unfixed glitch where the AI would kick out at one like superheroes. WWE 2K15 was terribly buggy and lacking in features from 2K14. WWE 2K16 was a baby step forward but it was still half-baked in terms of “modern wrestling simulation” that these are presented as. However, I would present the universal title of “fun wrestling game” to WWE Smackdown! Here Comes The Pain (goddamn, that’s a long name).

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure WWF No Mercy is the king of wrestling games in general, if everyone who’s played it is to be believed but personally, I was a fat little lad in the Philippines when the Nintendo 64 was popular as hell and I personally never played the game. I don’t even know if I’ve ever seen an N64 in the Philippines. Consider me biased.

If The Ascension were here, they’d say “WWF No Mercy? Here Comes The Pain brought no mercy and it’s so much better!”

So what does Here Comes The Pain have? Well, it’s a more polished version of WWE Smackdown! Just Bring It and Shut Your Mouth. Graphics look a little less pixelated but it’s not perfect, especially the facial features. Unmasked Kane looks like his face is melting. Steven Richards looks like he’s covered in volcanic ash. Triple H’s forehead looks like a toaster and his nose looks like it was injected with cooking oil. Enough about the character models because I could go on. The point here is that the character models don’t look perfect but it’s forgivable because 13 years ago, this game was the hottest thing since Kane’s hellfire and brimstone.

This game has a lot of debuts. This is the only game that Goldberg’s been in until WWE 2K14. We have John Cena, Chavo Guerrero, Batista, and Rey Mysterio making their Smackdown game debuts and surely, everyone bought the game to play these main eventers. Yes, even main eventer Chavo! This game was also the first to have the Elimination Chamber, which is basically a 6-man elimination cage match. Aside from the cool cage match, this is also the first game to feature Bra and Panties match, where you pick divas (they’re women superstars, now!) and try to rip the clothes of your opponent. Probably not the best game mode to play with your parents around unless dad’s cool with it. And maybe don’t let dad play alone or else mom will throw the game away. Ahem, moving on.

Here Comes The Pain plays similarly to previous Smackdown games as it uses the same engine, something that Yuke’s still use to this day in WWE 2K17, as terrible and dated as it is at this point. You have a grapple button and a strike button and you use the directional pad to determine if you want to go for a powerbomb, a dangerous neck-breaking powerbomb, or a headbutt. It varies for every wrestler so keep grappling and see how you can break your opponents’ necks.

You can’t jump over the railings and brawl in the crowd anymore just like in Just Bring It but the best part of this game is that you’re still not restricted to the arena. In hardcore matches or falls, you’re free to go around backstage and cause havoc with another wrestler’s skull. There are secret rooms only found if you throw your opponent into these cracked walls made of paper mache. You can even climb a helicopter outside the arena and do a diving elbow like the absolute madman that you are.

The Ascension would say “Just Bring It? More like Just Bring Shit! Here Comes The Pain brought everything it takes to be a good game!”

 As mentioned before, a new match type featured in the game is the Elimination Chamber, which is hyped to be a brutal match. Well, not discounting the fact that it’s a 6-man cage match where you can dive off the cage to land on an opponent, you lunatic. If you’re interested in beating each other with weapons and more chaotic match types, there are Ladder, Tables, TLC, Last Man Standing, and Hell in a Cell matches. A personal yet brutal favorite of mine is using the steel steps to bash someone in the gut followed by a bash to the skull. It’s brutal but 13 years ago, when I was still a young boy, it was the coolest way to wield steel steps, even though they’re supposed to be heavy as hell.

The unlockables in WWE ShopZone are varied. They include alternate attires for divas and wrestlers, arenas like WrestleMania XIX, and playable legends. There are just 6 unlockable legends which include The Road Warriors, Jimmy Snuka, and G.I Joe legend Sergeant Slaughter. You unlock all of these by playing through Season Mode and earning SmackDown Dollars. Didn’t know WWE paid their superstars with their own currency in some weird communist kind of way.

Before each season mode, you’re tasked with assigning superstars to either Raw or Smackdown. At first it seems like busywork but it’s actually planning the rest of your year on who you’ll fight, team up with, or have storylines with, filling it with endless possibilities for comedic angles. Examples of possible storylines you can play out include Rhyno teaming with up with The Rock in a tag team called Fart Poo, as well as a fiscal Charlie Haas main eventing WrestleMania after going through The Hurricane, Jimmy Snuka, and Chris Jericho and using The Worm as a finisher. Shoutout to NewLegacyInc, by the way.

In season mode, which is surely missed by fans in these 2K games, you take a wrestler of your choice and it’s your task to take him to the main event of the grandest stage of them all - WrestleMania! The best part about this is exploring the backstage area of the arena. It’s not like Shut Your Mouth where you have to walk in first person and possibly get lost, trying to make your way around the building and even the city. Here Comes The Pain sticks to plain old menus so you won’t have to waste your time looking for people around backstage. It’s still fun to look at the menus and see if Goldberg is at the parking lot, wanting to have a spontaneous brawl with you because you either said something anti-semitic or made a joke about him getting injured after trying to punch a limousine window.

The Ascension would then say “WWE Shut Your Mouth? You shut your mouth because you suck! Hahaha wasteland!”

After all these paragraphs of horrible wrestling jokes, is this game still fun though, after all this time? Well, let me tell you that I actually bought used copies of this game twice last year. One for $9.99 and another for $4.99. I admit I’m looking at this game through heavy beer/graduation/nostalgia goggles.

The graphics haven’t aged that bad but it still aged better than Smackdown vs. Raw, the next game. Some wrestlers like Kurt Angle and Triple H look like they’re made of shiny plastic. Steven Richards has an unusually red mouth. Okay, I’m sorry, I said I’d stop talking about the wrestler models.

Running grapples are nonexistent because if you run and try to grapple an opponent, your wrestler would just go behind them like an idiot. Your opponent can’t be standing still if you want to spear them or give a hurricanrana. It’s a terrible mechanic. It’s wrestling! Take the spear! That’s the spot, idiot!

The music gets a bit repetitive. Imagine Dynasty Warriors music except a little blander. This diet nu-metal music sounds okay for its time but it does get repetitive for menus, matches, and cutscenes. There’s no commentary or voice acting whatsoever so you’re stuck with subtitles everywhere. It’s still acceptable though if you forgive the game for its age.

With WWE games, they get so much better in hindsight. As WWE 2K games try to be a perfect simulation of WWE programming, it sometimes forgets that these are games and they’re at their best when they let loose and go crazy in the fun factor. There’s a reason why Here Comes The Pain is still looked fondly to this day. Next to No Mercy, it’s the measuring stick to what a good wrestling game should be. So far, the gameplay of this game is still more fun than the simulation-type gameplay we’ve had in modern games. The gameplay is still why people like me would keep coming back to this game after all this time.

So play Here Comes The Pain, the shining star of WWE games!