Review by Robshi

"Total Nonstop Action? More like total disappointment."

I had been looking forward to playing TNA Impact for quite a while through 2008, thinking that it might be a good rival to the WWE Smackdown vs. Raw series of games. I figured it might let me get a good look at what TNA is like. When I started playing the game after receiving it for Christmas, I was sorely disappointed. I will now explain through this review why this was the case

Graphics

The graphics for this game have been done pretty well. The wrestlers all look realistic, and the entrances look fantastic, even if they are incredibly short. I don't really mind the short entrances, seeing as I'd rather just get to the action in the ring. However, you'll likely be disappointed if you expected to see long, glorious entrance animations.

The ring looks okay, although the ropes don't react that convincingly with the wrestlers, they seem a little stiff to me. You also don't really see the audience, they are hidden by a veil of darkness. That said, the graphics do look pretty good.

Sound

The music for this game is okay, whilst you're flicking through menus you'll hear various rock songs that seem to suit the game pretty well. I don't know how accurate the entrance music is for each wrestler as I don't watch TNA, but you don't see much of the superstars entrances anyway so it doesn't really matter that much.

The sounds in the ring are rather poor, you will hear a very repetitive commentary that just gets annoying after a short while, combined with standard wrestler grunts and screams which don't seem to change for each wrestler. The slams and bumps in the ring do have good sound effects though.

Gameplay

At first glance, the game controls look rather simple, even if it does rely on holding L1 or L2 a lot on the controller. The problem is, the game doesn't give different moves with the use of the D-pad or the analogue stick in conjunction with the action buttons. As a result, every wrestler's move-set is extremely limited. The only exception to this is grapples from a tie-up, but that only gives four extra moves. This means you get about nine moves to use when your standing and three or four different moves on three separate parts of a grounded opponent. Add a finisher, one or two running moves and a move for the turnbuckle and that's it.

Worse still, the move-sets aren't unique for every wrestler. Every wrestler has a style: grappler, high-flier etc. and their style is what really determines their move-set, with only the finishers for each wrestler being unique. So, as you can imagine, this game gets very tedious and dull very quickly, as you're using the same moves over and over in every match.

Reversing moves sounds very simple, you press R1 to reverse any type of move. Yet the timing of this is very difficult, I can barely reverse any moves whilst the computer reverses moves fairly frequently, which hardly seems fair. It would be easier if they used a frequent prompt telling you when to press the button up on your wrestler display, yet it rarely comes up and isn't really useful. They could have sorted this system out somewhat. It would work really well with a few tweaks.

Then there is the way physical damage is handled in this game. How damage affects wrestlers during play is very unrealistic. They do have a figure of the body on each wrestler's display with colours showing how badly hurt the wrestler's body is in different parts, yet this has no implication on how the wrestlers act at all. Even after taking tons of damage, a wrestler will still get up the moment his back hits the floor, only staying down for a moment or so after some big moves. There is also a stun meter, which fills up after wrestlers take damage and when it fills completely, your character will be dazed and be unable to attack or defend himself until the meter empties. This is hugely frustrating as you find yourself wiggling the analogue sticks with little or no effect for your efforts every time you take so much damage. Besides, if a wrestler takes a battering in the early part of a match, and then turns things around and mounts and assault of his own as a counter, he isn't going to get knocked delirious by one lucky punch from his opponent is he?

The one thing that has been done well is how you get your finisher. As you perform strong moves and grapples in a match, your impact bar fills up. When it is full, it ignites and you get a certain amount of time to perform your finisher, which uses a simple button combination to pull off. This works well but it's a shame that you can only do standing finishers like this, as I'm sure some wrestlers in TNA use ground moves and aerial attacks for finishing moves. That, plus one or two finishers in the game look like they've been edited and arranged to work from a standing tie-up to fit the system. Other than that though, it's okay.

As for the match types, tag matches are rather annoying by the choice of button for tagging your partner. If you don't position your wrestler exactly right to tag, you'll end up climbing onto the ring apron instead, which is always annoying.

Then we move onto the Ultimate X match, which sounds good when you first hear of the idea, but it has been executed very poorly. This match has a cross structure of wires above the ring with an X hanging above the centre of the ring, and the winner is the first one to climb up and get it. Basically the match will boil down to someone stunning their opponent, climbing up towards the X, and either grabbing it or being knocked off. If they get knocked off, the opponent will then climb up and try to get the X, where he'll either win or get pulled down, and it will go on like this until someone finally grabs the X and ends the tedium. This could have been done so much better.

Story

There is a story mode in this game, where you play as Suicide, a wrestler who was beaten up by two thugs after refusing to throw a title match and who wakes up seriously injured and unable to recall who he is. After a lengthy recovery, he returns to the ring and you start to play through his matches. Annoyingly, you must win every match to progress, although it's easy enough to beat.

The storyline is pretty basic, and isn't really a plotline you'd see in real life wrestling. You basically just play match after match before getting a little segment of plotline, before being thrown into more matches. It's gets very repetitive and doesn't last very long. I played it for an hour or two a day for four days and the game was telling me I'm 70% through it. You'll finish it off pretty quickly.

You do unlock more wrestlers and arenas through the story mode, but most of the wrestlers you fight and unlock are just jobbers who are fictional characters by the games designers who all have the same finishing move. You'll never want to play as them and they're only really there to fill out the storyline. It wouldn't be that bad except for the fact that there are other TNA wrestlers they could have put in the game if they'd bothered. The whole of the women's division is missing from the game for one thing, plus I can name one TNA wrestler that I'd love to play as who isn't in the game as an unlockable and I don't even watch TNA!

Another annoying thing is that you also unlock copies of earlier wrestlers, which makes no sense to me since I can't even tell the difference between the copies. You basically unlock something you already have and that takes up a character slot. Would it have killed them to put in other superstars instead?

One thing the game is really missing is the option to create your own wrestlers. I hear that they have included this in the story mode for the Xbox 360 version of the game, but it isn't in this version. It's a shame really since that is a really fun feature in wrestling games.

Another thing the game is lacking is title matches. Although certain matches are championship matches in story mode, you can't have exhibition matches that are for titles and the championship belts don't exist outside of story mode, and they barely show up in the story. That's another missed opportunity by the developers.

Lifespan/ Replay Value

You will really get tired of this game very quickly, if you don't get put off by it minutes after playing it. The storyline doesn't last very long, and once you beat it you have nothing really left to do other than play exhibition matches. Then again, by the time you've beaten the storyline, you'll probably be sick of the repetition and tedium of the matches.

Final Verdict

Stay with the Smackdown vs. Raw series. If you must try out this game, go and rent it, at least then you'll be glad you didn't waste your money buying the thing. For now, it seems that THQ is the only one that can make a good wrestling game. This is a very poor attempt at a good wrestling game.


Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 01/07/09

Game Release: TNA iMPACT! (EU, 09/12/08)


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