WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain Hands-On Impressions

We get our hands on an early version of THQ's next SmackDown game.

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WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain
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At ECTS 2003 in London, we were able to get some brief hands-on time with THQ's next WWE SmackDown! game for the PS2. The final game will feature more than 50 of the WWE's top wrestlers, though the early version of the game featured only four: Brock Lesnar, Kurt Angle, Golderg, and current WWE Raw heavyweight champion Paul "HHH" Levesque. Also present were the female wrestlers Torrie Wilson and Rena "Sable" Mero, who were available for play in an "underwear match" that, as ridiculous as it might sound, can be won by tearing the clothes off your opponent. As we saw, the game will feature full, TV-style wrestler intros for each wrestler, complete with live-action video clips of the wrestler on dual monitors on either side of the big-screen monitor that shows the wrestler's name in his or her appropriate logo.

The game's control scheme seems similar to the previous SmackDown! game, Shut Your Mouth. The X button is used for strikes, and most wrestlers seem to have an easy three-hit combination attack that you can perform by hammering this button. However, the third hit in this combination is often damaging, but much slower than the previous two, and a prime target for a strike reversal, which can be accomplished by tapping the square button with good timing. Square is also used with different controller combinations for grapples, though it can also be used to counter grapples. Circle is used to throw opponents into the ropes, while triangle causes your wrestler to run.

Though the version of the game was fairly early, its gameplay already seemed to flow quite well. No single tactic dominated the match--being too predictable and favoring one kind of attack, such as throwing out one too many punches, kicks, and other strikes, generally set us up for a reversal. Major grapples and throws, as well as jumping attacks from the top rope, trigger a motion-blur effect that cuts to a few different dramatic camera angles.

Once you build up your "S" meter with enough solid hits and grapples, your wrestler can perform a "SmackDown," a signature maneuver that is often exceptionally damaging, by pressing L1. Performing these moves often causes your wrestler to briefly pause before performing the attack to look around at the audience and get the crowd going before actually executing the attack, which causes the WWE SmackDown! logo to briefly sweep across the screen. The game seems to have plenty of other minor details, including wrestlers clutching at injured body parts and gasping for breath later on in a match. Certain maneuvers can even cause wrestlers to bleed profusely.

WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain seems to be coming along well. The game is scheduled for release on the PS2 later this year.

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