Review by horror_spooky

Reviewed: 04/28/10

Cross the line

TNA! TNA! TNA! If you watch Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, you’re probably familiar with this chant, as well as “This is awesome!”, “This is wrestling!”, and a whole slew of other things the crowd at the Impact! Zone like to scream during matches. TNA, as a company, has for the majority of its existence tried to be different than its main competitor, World Wrestling Entertainment. This is good news for fans of wrestling games that want something different than the annual SmackDown! vs. Raw outing, but did TNA and Midway deliver or are they jobbing to the flagship video game wrestling series?

The focus of TNA is on high-flying moves and insane action. This is reflected in the video game, with many of the moves being absolutely crazy. You can corkscrew yourself over the top ropes and to the outside, you can springboard and moonsault across the ring, and you can nearly break your opponent’s neck with a Death Valley Driver on the concrete. All of these moves are really cool and while the controls are a little clunky and hard to get used to, it’s really neat when you get the hang of it. Obviously, the focus isn’t on realism (this is a WRESTLING game, after all), and the game is better off for that.

Unfortunately, this is a case where quality doesn’t exactly trump quantity. Almost everyone does the same moves, and while it would be nice to have a strong alternative to the SmackDown! vs. Raw games, they really have mastered the controls of a wrestling game. Going from the SvR games to TNA is painful at first, and it wouldn’t be a big deal if TNA were to borrow the control scheme from those games. Many first-person shooters borrow the control schemes of Call of Duty and Halo for a reason, and hopefully if they make a sequel to this game, they realize this.

Another draw for this game is the different matches not available in the WWE titles. TNA’s flagship match, the Ultimate X, is available, and it’s pretty thrilling at first. The goal of this match is to shimmy across cables and pull down a red X via a mini-game where you have to stop a marker in a green highlighted field. While the match does grow old too quickly, it’s very exciting for the first few times around.

And once again, quantity should have been over quality. There aren’t very many match types to choose from, and a steel chair is basically your only weapon to use. Every match is no disqualification for some reason as well, which is weird, and hell, there aren’t even that many wrestlers to choose from. Most of the wrestlers are unlockable characters, which is annoying because this isn’t a fighting game, it’s a license-based wrestling game, and there is a big difference. Still, it’s cool to play as the TNA wrestlers like Alex Shelley, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Daniels, Abyss, and all those other badass stars that will probably never wrestle long-term for the WWE.

The create-a-wrestler mode in this game is more or less horrendous. There aren’t a whole lot of options, and it’s actually more bare-bones than the old wrestling games on the Nintendo 64.

Story Mode is the main mode of gameplay. You create a wrestler and then follow the fictional career of “Suicide”, a wrestler who was actually created in this video game and later played in real life by Daniels and Kazarian. You wrestle your way to the top of TNA from the bottom of the barrel in Mexico, and while the premise is interesting, the execution is terrible. The AI is either ridiculously smart and counters everything, or it’s ridiculously stupid and counters nothing. There doesn’t seem to be much balance, and you’ll have to force yourself through the game, to be quite honest.

Something that I really liked about this game is the extra content. There are little things to dink around with, and there are highlight matches from TNA that include a Knockouts Gauntlet and an X-Division showcase. These matches are fun to watch, especially for fans of the company or just wrestling fans in general.

The plot follows, like I said, a created wrestler. What happens in the early parts of the game is that he, Suicide, is attacked by LAX and disfigured. He then wakes up in a Mexican surgical hospital, is fixed up, and then starts wrestling professionally and works up the ranks. It’s ridiculous and the plot is almost as bad as something that Vince Russo would think up, but it still manages to be interesting and it’s actually a reason you might make yourself play through the entire story mode.

Another area where TNA excels is the graphics. Character models are perfect, the arenas are full of atmosphere, and the video quality of the in-game videos are perfect. Animation is great and while it’s not quite as good as the rest of the package, it’s actually better than the SmackDown! vs. Raw games. There are too many loading times though in unnecessary places in the game, and the game strays to the glitchy side every once in a while.

TNA is also excellent when it comes to the audio quality. The mat makes an awesome booming sound whenever someone is slammed onto it and the crowd cheers at the perfect time. The sound effects throughout the entire game are great, and the voice acting is even above the bar, featuring the voices of your favorite TNA superstars, and they perform brilliantly. There could have been more music and the announce table definitely needed more lines (there were moments of complete silence), but overall, the audio quality is actually quite acceptable.

Since the story mode is a rollercoaster of being difficult and being way too easy, it actually does take a little while to get through. There is four-player multiplayer available though that adds extra replay value, and the achievements are great and fun to unlock. There are a lot of unlockable arenas and while it’s annoying that a lot of TNA’s main wrestlers are hidden as unlockable characters, they do add extra incentive to keep playing the game. It’s annoying that a second player can’t unlock achievements along with the first player though, and that’s something worth noting. The videos here also will keep you coming back to enjoy.

TNA Impact! doesn’t come close to the quality of the SmackDown! vs. Raw games, but it’s still a passable title. It’s not worth even twenty bucks, but if you can find it super cheap or if you can pick it up as a rental, it’s worth some time to at least try. The controls need a major makeover, there needs to be a ton of content added for it to feasibly compete with the other higher-budget wrestling games, and the story mode needs some serious attention paid to. There’s a lot of potential here for a great sequel, and hopefully we see the TNA superstars put out another game and soon.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

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

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