TNA Impact! Review
October 28, 2008 by Jereme Puik
Wrestling games have an entertaining history, one that goes back as far as I remember. I have always been a fan of the Smackdown vs. Raw series from THQ that would steal away the competition with its robust gameplay moments. It was interesting to see how Midway would announce just over a year ago that they would be bringing their own wrestling series to the market. TNA Impact! starts things off with a light route into the wrestling world, but ultimately staggers off the true path to making a true wrestling game and could take some notes from THQs efforts.
TNA Impact contains the standard modes you would find in any wrestling game where you create a wrestler and find yourself thrown immediately into the story. You are cornered as an aspiring wrestler trying to make it big after being beaten up and left for dead in Mexico. After a few chuckle-worthy cut scenes and some plastic surgery you are strung along with the revenge arc to get yourself back into the game. The custom creation is a bit lax, for lack of a better word. You are barely given enough to really make your character stand out from your fellow competitors and unfortunately you aren’t able to go beyond that.
Overall, the list is small in customization and completely eliminates the ability to have your theme song, entrance video, lighting…etc. It’s a shame and what made wrestling games the highlight of any gaming session. Now, even though you created your character; the character ends up lacking any real use in the story. Decisions made by the wrestler are pre-determined by the established story and are generic for all wrestlers straight through. There is a plus; however, where as you win matches you will gain points to unlock new moves. Unfortunately this list is small in itself and doesn’t provide much in the way of variety either. Finally, the last nail in the coffin for customization is that your character does not level up or have the stats necessary to build him as the ultimate wrestler.
Your standard flair in gameplay modes appear here with the likes of Standard match, Free for All and Tag Team. New to TNA though is Ultimate X. Here, players have goal to be the first to grab an X suspended above the ring. The match type supports 2-4 players and provides for albeit, entertaining experience when all 4 players are racing after the X. It will still take some patience with the lack of any real AI challenge. AI feels the need to either ignore you in Tag Team or beat the hell out of you forcing that cheap pin to end it all. Yes, you might be having a great match and get the most out of it that you can, but the AI doesn’t seem to want to let get away with much.
You can take a look at some wrestling games of the past and deduce that they were either easy to pick up and play or geared towards the core crowd. Well, it’s easy to say here that Midway chose to keep the gameplay mechanics simple for now. All of your standard moves are here, punches, grabs…and kicks. The special moves and the occasional folding chair make appearances when necessary and provide the variety to take over your opponent. It’s unfortunate that we are only left with one inanimate object to cause the mayhem we’ve seen so animatedly portrayed in its real-life counter part. The big question here is where is the variety? After battling through a few matches you may notice a pattern in which your opponents will more then likely be performing the same moves on you more then once and even in the same match.
To keep track of your wrestler, TNA has its own stamina bar in the upper right and left hand corner of the screen. Characterized by a body image, the graphic will indicate when your wrestler is getting weak and is about to keel over for the pin. What’s funny about this is, during the matches it doesn’t look like as if the wrestlers are really getting much weaker. Despite many punches to the jaw, or kicks to the stomach, it seems as if these wrestlers are the Iron Fists of the world and only abide by how much stamina they have and not their actual health status. Finally, the online modes are quite the usual flair you’ll find anywhere else. Unfortunately created characters can’t be uploaded or downloaded. You are also limited to two-player matches.
Just like any wrestling game, you have the high blasting musical entrances before matches and the excitement of the crowd to build on. Don’t expect high end voice acting to keep you hooked during the story. The voice acting is mostly average to the core, so don’t expect something of high caliber here. Overall, it’s mostly a lax effort here considering the lack of any real spunk to the overall wrestling experience.
Characters don’t really differentiate themselves much other then your created characters of course. The overall look and feel of TNA Impact really goes a long way when you look at the wrestler introductions and over the top entrance stages. There are decent changes from ring to ring that make for a different “experience” more or less, but sometimes it’s not enough and ends up feeling more of the same. TNA Impact!’s overall design could’ve used a bit more time in the art department making improvements on its scenery and a good overhaul on their created characters. Official wrestlers are represented well and give off the only variety of the game that players can choose from.
While, I applaud Midway for their choice in the story aspect and giving us an original twist, so to speak on the wrestling genre, it’s not particularly my first choice in branding this game outside of the other wrestlers out there. Ultimate X, in which players fight to grab an X suspended above the ring, in multiplayer mode is probably the one thing I would point out over anything else that makes TNA Impact worth the rent. Other then that, TNA Impact mostly stumbles on its feet trying to get that running start to make itself worthwhile. There isn’t enough content to really justify itself among other wrestling games.
TNA Impact lacks the content that makes a true wrestling game worth more then the rent. TNA gets thrown in the rental pile mostly because of its lack of character creativity, gameplay modes and a real online mix. TNA Impact does, however, has the potential to pick itself back up with its next entry, so here’s hoping that Midway doesn’t get discouraged from the lackluster reviews it might get. I will say this, that TNA Impact does have the potential to one day take on the WEE Smackdown vs. Raw series once it really makes some changes and adds a bit more originality to the mix. But, if you’re curious about the game, I certainly wouldn’t mind giving it a rental and wait for a price drop. Ultimate X is a fun mini-game to bring out the friendly competition. Also, please add women wrestlers, wrestling games are nothing without them!