It's WrestleMania week! This is like the Stanley Cup Finals/World Series/Super Bowl for wrestling fans, so I figured it was the right time to jump back into the world of wrasslin' video games. We've already covered the iconic WWF: No Mercy, and it's dimwitted cousin WWF Attitude. This week, we leaping forward to the Playstation 2 and another of the most beloved wrestling games of all-time; WWE SmackDown! Here Comes The Pain...
Featuring the cover athlete BROOOOOCCKKKK.....LESSSSSSNAAAAARRRRRR! (That's for you current WWE fans)
I won't lie, my heart belongs to the Nintendo 64 when it comes to wrestling games. Not just No Mercy, either. All the THQ games from that system (going back as far as WCW World Tour), stole countless hours from my childhood. They may not have had the deepest career modes of all-time, but the controls were perfect, and the multiplayer was legendary. I loved those games. I bought the first couple SmackDown! titles when they released on the original PlayStation, but they didn't hook me in the same way. Once the SmackDown series made it's leap to the PlayStation 2, it really hit it's stride. Shut Your Mouth was pretty good, but Here Comes the Pain is - in my opinion - the definitive title of the PS2, the SmackDown series, and early 2000's pro wrestling.
It really played a big role in shifting the wrestling video game genre toward a more simulation style game, being able to work on specific body parts during a match and seeing the damage that has been done to each leg, arm, etc. It pumped steroids into the THQ grapple engine everyone knew and loved. It really took the gameplay to the next level, and aside from the obvious graphical enhancements, I remember this feeling like the first game that was taking full advantage of a more powerful console (the PS2 as opposed to the original PlayStation).
I love the career mode in this game, too. I like the tight menu, no walking around. You pick what you want to do between matches, and it happens. Its the KISS method - Keep It Simple, Stupid. It also introduced the Elimination Chamber to video games, and I found that as fun as I did ladder matches when they were first introduced back in WWF No Mercy. It was the first time bra and panties matches were playable too, but, yeah...
It has a great roster, plucked from a great time in pro wrestling. Tight controls, great graphics, fun career mode, Here Comes The Pain checks all the right boxes. I haven't played it in a long time, but doing a little homework for this episode brought back a lot of great memories. This is unquestionably one of the crown jewels of the wrestling video game library, and my buddy Andre joined me this week to help explain why.
Enjoy the podcast, and enjoy WrestleMania, fellow nerds. It's still real to me dammit.