Still a Long Way to the Top
I always felt that when ECW, WCW, and then-WWF merged in 2001, it was somewhat cool that you finally got to see stars from each league interact.
However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that with all three promotions under the control of Vince McMahon, the fun was short-lived. Gone were the different television programs, live events, and video games that gave wrestling some variety. The good news is though, while Vince has continued to run the wrestling show, over the past several years other leagues have slowly gained popularity on television in the shadow of the superpower. Thankfully, Total Nonstop Action, formed by Jeff Jarrett in 2002, has gained lots of support from true fans of wrestling seeking an alternative. Making its video game debut, this first and very welcomed edition of TNA iMPACT! features some of the biggest wrestling legends of all-time to thrash around in TNA’s hexagonal ring.
They’re all here: Sting, Booker T, Kevin Nash, Scott Steiner, Kurt Angle, Devon and Ray Dudley, Rhino, and 20 other contract athletes to take complete control over. Wrestling fans will love being able to take some of the biggest legends in the game such as Scott Steiner and pin them up against lesser known, yet equally cool, athletes like Homicide or Shark Boy. The absence of any TNA Knockouts is somewhat disappointing, though the ability to play as some of TNA’s most famous and bizarre characters is long overdue. TNA iMPACT! doesn’t offer many playable characters when first jumping in either, meaning players will have to fight their way through an entire career if they wish to unlock all the superstars and arenas the game has to offer.
For anyone familiar with wrestling games, the controls for TNA iMPACT! aren’t difficult to grasp at all, borrowing heavily from WWE’s blueprints. Simply enough, you have your punch, kick, grapple, and action face buttons; your reversal, run, strength, and taunt buttons on the left and right shoulders; and player movement is controlled with the Left Analog. Combining buttons pulls off all the really fun stuff such as picking up and swinging weapons, jumping off cables, performing Irish whips, and putting opponents to sleep using the game’s unique finishing system. Each player is given an iMPACT! meter located on the sides of the screen. Both meters fill up with flames as players act out successful moves on each other, but, if one meter fills completely, then that player can pull off his finisher before the flames extinguish. It’s a good system that adds a unique spin on the finishing scheme. However, it’s too bad that each athlete is only designated one finishing move, whereas SmackDown! vs. Raw offers multiple finishers per character. In addition to the iMPACT! meter, there is also a stun meter which fills up to show how dazed each player has become throughout the match. Also, there’s an image to show how much damage each character has received to various parts of the body, exactly like the type of damage meter found in WWE titles.
In a genre long dominated by one organization, it is inevitable that TNA iMPACT! is going to get compared to SmackDown! vs. Raw (SDvR). In this case, there are several lacking elements that I hope Midway and TNA will focus on in the future. The first is the lack of moves. Not only are players only capable of pulling off one finisher each, many players are designated the exact same moves, whether it’s a suplex, ground punch, or a simple taunt. The lack of any double-team moves is a noticeable blemish, which can definitely be improved to add more variety to the game. It is the lack of moves that makes it pretty easy to become bored with TNA iMPACT!, as too many players pull off the same motion captions. The inability to roam through arenas makes Falls Count Anywhere matches somewhat pointless, as you can’t throw opponents over guard rails, and invisible walls make it impossible to go up the entrance ramp. One of the most fun elements of SmackDown! vs. Raw is dragging an opponent room to room and through the crowd, picking up whatever weapons you can find, and using your environments to beat the living hell out of each other.
There is also a noticeable lack of match types. Aside from career mode, you have the standard one-on-one, Tag, Free For All four-way bouts, Submission, Falls Count Anywhere, and FCA Tag, Handicap, and TNA’s own Ultimate X and Ulitimate X Free For All. Ultimate X matches require you to be the first to climb along a rope that hangs above the ring and retrieve the hanging X. It is reminiscent of a WWE Ladder Match in which you have to retrieve a hanging belt from above the ring.
The create-a-player is also disappointing. When starting a career mode, you will have the opportunity to create your own player for the starring role. The protagonist in the story is a wrestler by the name of Suicide, who, in the opening stages, is beaten until unrecognizable by team LAX. With his face in bandages and no recollection of his past, you are then given the task of creating Suicide to look however you wish. Whereas one of the most fun elements of any SDvR was the ability to create in-depth character models and personalize everything from their ring entrance to a complete moves list, TNA’s create-a-player is extremely limited. Suicide will have to keep the same height and weight, though you can change his skin tone, hairstyles, clothing, masks, tattoos, and even choose the type of wrestler you want him to be. However, you can’t customize his moves at all, and you won’t be able to save more than five created characters at any given time from the main menu. This is definitely something developers will have to improve in the future.
The game also has framerate issues, especially with multiple people in and around the ring. It is especially frustrating when playing a tag team match, as four characters executing different moves causes some shuttering and players move in slow motion. In other exhibition matches, I noticed my opponent trying to climb the ropes then start floating in mid-air as he shutters and flickers about in moments of extreme glitchy-ness. Framerate issues are evident in almost any match-up, though the ones with the most onscreen activity tend to be the worst. You may notice players gliding through each other and your fists swinging directly through your opponent as he picks himself up off the canvas. Issues such as these should have been worked out before the game’s release.
TNA iMPACT! isn’t a bad game, but it does need a lot of work to reach the top in a gaming genre dominated by WWE for far too long. What it does is offer an alternative for wrestling fans who miss the variety that used to exist. It’s long overdue that another promotion has gained enough popularity to earn its own video game, and I hope enough people support this one to garner sequels in the years to come. TNA iMPACT! can only improve as it makes a decent outing that’s certainly not without its flaws.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.9 Graphics
Character models and stadium designs look slick, though shuttering and slowdown overshadow the otherwise decent look of this game. 2.8 Control
Easy-to-grasp control scheme makes for easy first-time use, though simplicity and lack of moves becomes tiresome quickly. 3.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great ring entrance music and stadium ambience. Career mode features excellent voiceover work from real TNA superstars! 3.0 Play Value
While wrestling fans will love the fact that TNA finally has a game, the lack of moves, in paltry create-a-player options, and bothersome framerate issues seriously hurt this debut. 3.1 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.