Review by lowgonn

"Absolutely Brilliant."

Without a shadow of a doubt, the newest addition to the Yukes/THQ’s Smackdown! Series is definitely the best wrestling game there is. The game speed has been slowed down by a little and it now plays more like a simulation-type of game. Here comes the pain simply blows the competition out of the water. Lets face it- JBI wasn’t exactly that great and though SYM was pretty good, it looked rather cartoony and their season modes weren’t the best either. HCTP takes the good stuff out of SYM, and improves on it a whole lot to ensure hours of fun, be it playing with yourself or with a friend.

Controls : 10/10
The controls have been slightly altered for the better. The reversal buttons are L2 and R2 to counter striking moves and grapples respectively, and the Square button is now sort of a “use” button to pick up weapons, get in/out of the ring, like R1 for the previous games. People who have been faithfully started playing from the earlier Smackdown games might take quite a while to get really used to the controls. But trust me, once you get used to it you’ll never want go back to the old-fashioned way of countering.

Gameplay : 10/10
The AI in this game is simply GREAT. Don’t underestimate your opponent
whom you could beat senseless in previous games as they are now a lot smarter. So, don’t worry if you get trashed when you’ve just started. The opponent also attempts a pin on you after a devastating move now, instead of just standing around like a fool.

With the implementation of the Weight System, Gone are the days which you can win any match you wanted with lets say, Trish Stratus. Smaller wrestlers are now unable to lift opponents way bigger than them. Instead, they have to depend on their speed and Even, so “weaker” wrestlers can also prove to be a challenge at harder levels.

Another great addition is the new grapple system. Front grapples now include the Powerful, Quick, Signature and Submission grapples. Using this new system, each wrestler now has 16 front grapples which are added to his/her arsenal of moves.

Yet another addition is the submission system which is the tug-of-war button mashing fun. To get out of a submission maneuver, you have to repeatly ( and quickly ) press a button and vice versa for performing one of your own. This time around, the wrestlers actually reach for the ropes and there is a bar showing you how close your victim is to tapping out , reaching for the ropes and escaping. Of course, to maximise damage you have to first work on a specific part of your opponents body, made possible by the fantastic new damage system. So, if you want to perform a sharpshooter, you might want to work on the opponent’s legs first.

Graphics : 10/10
Just…wow. Is it Monday night already, or is it just the INCREDIBLE graphics of this game?? Wrestlers look almost exactly like their real life counterparts and are look simply great. Even the tattoos in this game are pretty much accurate. The pyros have been improved, and the entrances look even better this time around. However, entrances seem to have been shortened. The beautiful arenas and moves which have been reanimated ( most of them ) and add to the eye-candy. Move’s like the new Pedigree and F5 look wonderful. Excessive beatings can lead to wrestlers bleeding if focus on his head. Blood is a little disappointing, though. All it does is stay on his/her face and occasionally it’ll fly everywhere. It won’t stain the ring or anything, though. The front row crowds are in 3d and seem just a little hyperactive. ^_^

Sound : 8/10
The BGM is much better and less irritating than before, and I don’t have many complaints about the sound. The crowd is a whole lot better than the dead crowd in SYM now, and there are dozens of new chants like “Jericho sucks!”, “HLA!” and the infamous “We want tables!”. The crowd chants last for only quite a while. I just wish it would be longer to add excitement to the match. Commentary and ring announcing are gone. I don’t mind commentary being taken out, since it was terrible in both JBI and SYM. However, I’m not very happy that they took out ring announcing, as it added spice to the entrances. Most wrestlers have their actual entrance theme music, while others like the Dudley Boys, RVD, unfortunately, don’t. The sounds of moves, etc etc are better than before. Another downside to this game is the absence of voice acting.

Story/Season : 10/10
Better storylines by “WWE writers” will have you addicted to it for a looong time. Each match will earn you Superstar Points ( which is pretty much your ranking ), Shopzone Dollars (to unlock goodies like alternate costumes, arenas, legends and even different bra and panties colours for the respective female divas) I hated moving around backstage in SYM and thankfully it has been replaced with a better alternative. From your locker , you can choose to visit places like the carpark or the GM’s room, use your Shopzone Dollars, edit Stables, check up on other wrestlers’ stats and even build up your attributes.

Fun Factor : 10/10
New matches including Elimination Chamber, Bra & Panties and First Blood will have you hooked for hours on end. Try out the Last Man Standing match, it’ll be a heck of a fight. What’s more, tables now can be broken when you perform particular moves beside a table (for example, Undertaker’s Last Ride)! Feeling nostalgic? Why not use some Legends like Hawk and Old School Undertaker? I’m not very sure how Hillbilly Jim got it, though.

Create-A-Wrestler : 8/10
Not much has changed from SYM. Just some stuff were put in. Not exactly a bad thing, but I wish more there were more improvements to this. CAWs now have teeth, but they don’t look very good. The CAW still looks horrible compared to the superstars.

Overall : 9/10
A very fun game that can last you for quite a while. Forget about Raw 2 and Wrestlemania XIX. Whether or not you’re a fan of the Smackdown! Series or No Mercy, what are you waiting for? Go get it now!! You won’t regret it.

Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/04/03

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