Review by MTincher

"An Entertaining Game Watered Down by Many Flaws"

Overview
TNA Impact! was filled with many expectations during its first stages of development. People expected the game to be a Smackdown vs. Raw killer. They thought the game would be comparable to some of the great Japanese wrestling games, such as King of Colosseum II and Virtual Pro Wrestling 2. However, with these lofty expectations fans were putting into the game, it would be very difficult for an inexperienced Midway group to develop such a game. Even with the help of some of the TNA roster, many wrestling fans are disappointed with the end product.

Gameplay (7.5/10)
As you first enter the main menu and glance at the match types, you will quickly notice the game is lacking in this area. First of all, there are only nine different match types to choose from – most of which are slight variations of each other. The match types in Impact! includes standard, tag team, submission, falls count anywhere, handicap, and the most innovative match in the game, the Ultimate X. Nonetheless, there are many different gimmick matches that occur in TNA that could have been included into the video game. For instance, a Six Sides of Steel or barbwire match could have been installed into the game.

Despite the lack of matches, the gameplay can be very entertaining. The controls are simple and quick to learn. The ease of the control scheme is perfect for pick up and play game. You can perform normal attacks, or you can enhance the strength of your wrestler's attacks by holding the strong button along with the normal attack button. The submission controls in Impact are unique – in a good way, though. To apply a submission hold longer or to escape a submission, you must successfully press three buttons quicker than your opponent. If you are successful, you will apply the hold longer or will escape, depending on the predicament you were in. Next, the way you must kick-out of a pin is fun. To kick-out, you are required to fill up a bar by wiggling the left control stick as fast as possible before the count of three.

Finishers are easy to perform as well. While executing moves throughout your mathc, there is an IMPACT meter that slowly fills up. Whenever this becomes full and lights up, you will be able to render your opponent helpless with your finishing move. To successfully land this, you simply lock-up with your opponent and then press the B button.

Reversing an opponent's move is one of my favorite parts of any wrestling game. In Impact, there is one button to reverse moves in this game, unlike in Smackdown vs. Raw where you have one button to reverse strikers and another button to reverse other attacks. The use of one reverse button simplifies the process of preventing your opponent from landing a devastating move. However, there are a couple of gripes I have with the reversal system. First of all, you are unable to reverse a reversed punch. In the Smackdown vs. Raw games, I loved when a friend and I or the CPU would constantly reverse each other's punches, and then finally reach a climax when one or the other of us succeeded in landing an attack. Not being able to reverse a punch more than once takes away from some of the excitement. Secondly, you are unable to reverse finishers. I like having a slim chance in preventing my opponent from landing their favorite move on me to end the match, but you are unable to accomplish this in Impact.

Since the ring is six-sided instead of a normal square, you would imagine it might be more difficult to Irish whip an opponent into a turnbuckle. Well, I wish I could say this is not the case, but it is. I find it very difficult to whip my opponent into a turnbuckle unless we are in very close proximity of the corner to begin with. However, I don't blame this on the developers because I don't know how they could have made it easy. Although sending an opponent into either of the corners all the way to the left or right of the screen is not hard, it can be very difficult for the remaining four.

The tag team matches can be frustrating at times because of the weakness of your partner's A.I. At times you will be needing assistance in having him break up a pinfall attempt for you, but he will slowly walk by your covered body and do nothing. At other times, you will need him to prevent the opponent from breaking up a pinfall, but instead he leisurely strides across the ring, which enables the opponent to prevent you from winning a match.

The best part of this game is the Ultimate X match. This is such a fun and innovative match. First of all, there are two cables positioned above the ring that forms an “X” shape. At the point these two ropes intersect, there is an X that must be retrieved to win the match. You are able to pull opponents off that are scrambling across these elevated cables to inflict massive damage. You are also able to perform aerial moves off of the cables onto your helpless opponent(s) below. To obtain the X and victory, you must get the X and grab a hold of it. After this is accomplished, you must perform a certain amount of time based actions – land the moving cursor into the green area – until the meter above your name fills up. Once the meter fills up, your character will remove the X and win the match.

Also, during each match you receive style points for what moves you perform. If you continuously use the same move, the extent of style points received will reduce for that move until you don't receive any. If you display a variety of different moves, you will gain a significant mass of style points. These style points are not useless. They can be accumulated to unlock certain moves, arenas, and even characters.

Characters (5/10)
There are also only 31 characters – 26 of which are actually TNA wrestlers – that are in the game. Most of the popular wrestlers are present in the game, such as Christian Cage, Sting, AJ Styles, and Samoa Joe. Therefore, there is a relative amount of variety within selectable characters. Many of the characters must be unlocked by playing through Story Mode or by collecting enough Style Points.

The downfall with the characters is not the amount present, but with the amount of moves each character can perform. Each wrestler has a very limited move set. There are only 4-6 moves that can be performed by using the “grab” button and four strikes while an opponent is standing – and that includes while holding down the strong modifier. The same applies for when an opponent is laying on the mat. There are only a couple of moves that can be performed from the turnbuckles. However, you are able to do a springboard aerial move to your opponent, which looks absolutely awesome when executed!

Not only is the move set for each wrestler limited, but the move set in the entire game is rather limited. Most wrestlers with a similar style have many of the same moves. For instance, a significant amount of Christopher Daniel's moves can be performed by A.J. Styles and vice versa. This limits the feel of variety with the different selectable wrestlers. Sometimes it can feel like you are using the same wrestler, but with a different appearance because of how much a wrestler's move set can mimic another wrestler's move set.

Story Mode (7.5/10)
For the most part, I enjoyed story mode. To begin with, you start out as Suicide, who is a professional wrestler that is on top of the world until he is attacked. The next thing you know, you wake up in an alley in Mexico with no idea about what happened. From there, you begin to wrestle a few jobbers and get back to America. This is where the real story begins to take place, which I will not spoil anymore of it for you. The story is interesting enough, with a few clichés here and there. I did not expect an epic story to occur, so in that sense my expectations were meet.

As you proceed through story mode, the matches become more and more difficult. This is a great thing because this prevents you from breezing through the game and provides a nice little change – but it is not too difficult. However, one of the reasons the matches become more difficult is because the opponents' moves do more damage to you and their IMPACT meter fills faster. Though I believe this is a cheap way to increase difficulty, it makes the latter matches much more entertaining.

One major complaint I have about story mode is that you square off against way too many insignificant, nameless jobbers. Up until the last chapter of Story Mode, most of your matches will be against random characters that were created specifically for the Story Mode. These characters do not serve any purpose to the story that unfolds either. They are just there! For the most part, you only fight most of the TNA superstars only once throughout story mode. There may be an exception or two to this though. Also, there was a match in story mode that I felt could have been EPIC, but for some reason you are not allowed to play this match. Instead, after the confrontation and the belief that you are about to enter the match, a scene occurs where it shows the end of the match and your character is talking about it. I was severely disappointed with this.

Create-A-Wrestler (3/10)
The Create-A-Wrestler (CAW) in TNA Impact! is absolutely pathetic! There are only five slots for CAWs. However, that is not the worst of it. There are a restricted number of features you can tweak to your characters face. There are very few possible outfit ideas. There is basically a lack of everything in CAW mode. Not only do you not have much of a selection to create a wrestler, but there is no way to preview the entrance or the moves that you give him. There really is not much to say about the CAW because there was not much effort put into to creating the mode by the developers.

Audio and Graphics (9/10)
The entrance music sounds just like the real life counterparts, but that would be expected in this day and age. The sound effects produced by your character slamming his opponent to the mat sound nearly authentic. The developers at Midway done an exceptional job at recreating the noises produced by bodies flailing everywhere.

The graphics in Impact! are nearly realistic. Each game character looks almost like its real-life counterpart. Not only do the characters look well, but usually everything looks fluid and feels constant. When performing moves, everything – from the wrestler picking up his opponent to him being tossed on the mat – seems to happen in one fluid, near perfect motion, which causes most of the moves to be a great representation of actual professional wrestling.

Not only do the characters look fantastic, but the arenas do as well. The arenas are unique and creative. Whenever I wrestle at the Mexico arena, I get the feeling that I am outdoors entertaining a small crowd. The Armory causes me to believe that I am actually at a small independent promotion wrestling in a small town's armory.

Glitches
There are enough glitches in this game that I believe it warrants its own section. Some of the glitches that I have encountered can be quite frustrating. For instance, once I was attempting to escape the ring because my opponent had just filled up his IMPACT meter. Whenever I walked to the ropes and tried to get out, my character went through all of the motions, but remained in the same spot. This enabled my opponent to perform his finisher and win the match.

Many times I have performed a move to an invisible opponent. By this I mean that I had a hold of my opponent to begin with and started to execute a move. However, somehow the opponent miraculously escaped while I still went through the motions and slammed an invisible body to the mat. This gives your opponent a golden opportunity to inflict some damage to you.

I have also experienced invisible rails and turnbuckles. A few times I have Irish-whipped an opponent into a turnbuckle or the outside railing and attempted to do a move to him. Whenever I done this, I ended up moving my opponent a little bit away from the turnbuckle or railing, but he was still acting like he was knock against the turnbuckle or railing. I feel like these types of glitches should have been easily noticed during testing stages and could have been quickly fixed, but they were not.

Final Comments
Even though this game is very fun to pick up and play, there are many flaws to it that dull its glamour. The Ultimate X match was very innovative, and Midway done a great job at transferring the action from TNA into the video game. However, there is not an excuse for the lack of match types that are available. The lack of characters is not really a problem, but the lack of moves can be very discouraging to some. The CAW is severely broken and would have been better off being left out. Overall, the glitches can be a slight, insignificant distraction.

I would be weary of purchasing this game if you wanted a game that could compare to Smackdown vs. Raw or some of the great Japanese wrestling games. If you are expecting TNA Impact! to be similar to any of these games, then you will be disappointed. However, that does not mean that this game is not fun to play for a little bit with against a friend!

Final Score: 32/50 = 64%


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 11/10/08

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


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