TNA iMPACT – The Video Game Review
Since 2001, THQ and WWE have held a monopoly on the mainstream wrestling gaming market, well, TNA iMPACT has arrived, and that has all changed. When it was announced 3 years ago, many were wondering if the game would ever see the light of day, and if TNA would even be around when the game was due to be released. Then there was the number of delays before which made people question if the game would be made. Well, it happened, and courtesy of Midway, TotalWrestling.net has had a chance to get to grips with the game.
People will no doubt compare iMPACT to the SmackDown! series (an unfair advantage being that 2009 will be an 8th generation of the game), sure SmackDown! vs RAW 2009 boasts a features list on press release longer than your arm, but what difference will it really make? Every year, THQ offer new features, improved AI (which never seems to be included) and a number of nice shiny features. But, compare it to a car. WWE games are a fancy sports car, but you’ll only get 50,000 miles out of it. TNA iMPACT on the other hand is your Ford Escort, its not as flashy, doesn’t have all the added extras that the sports car does, but you’ll get 300,000 miles out of it. Many people consider the pinnacle of wrestling games to be No Mercy, but that didn’t have a long list of fancy features, so here I will look at the game for exactly what it is. This will be based on Gameplay, Graphics, Audio and Playability.
TNA iMPACT prides itself on being easy to play, hard to master, and the game delivers on this promise. As mentioned, it may not have the flashy features of its rival, but if your looking for a game which takes more than a single analogue stick to win a match (and I speak from experience), then I recommend iMPACT.
One thing I’ve heard people complaining about is the controls. Personally, I find them a lot more simple to use. Based on the Xbox 360, LS (left analogue stick) is to move your wrestler around, A is the kick button, X is the punch button, Y is to grapple and B is the action button (used to slide in/out of the ring, pick up weapons, climb onto the Ultimate X cables etc). The LB (left bumper) is your Strong button, RB (right bumper) is the reversal button and RT (right trigger) is to run. That is pretty much it
17 TNA superstars are playable out of the box, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Christian Cage, Kurt Angle, Sting, Booker T, Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin, Homicide, Hernandez, Scott Steiner, Brother Devon, Christopher Daniels, Shark Boy, James Storm and Robert Roode are all playable with Brother Ray, Jeff Jarrett, Abyss, Tomko, Kevin Nash, Eric Young, Sonjay Dutt and Suicide all unlockable by playing through season. Don West, Senshi, Benny and Lenny (the clowns you face in story mode). Also, Mike Tenay was offered as a pre-order incentive on Amazon.com (but could possibly be released at a later date). One thing Midway has done great with this release is the announcement of downloadable roster updates, making TNA iMPACT the first wrestling game on the market to feature that, so far, Petey Williams and Curry Man are confirmed, and Kaz is also rumoured as being available too.
Match types included are Singles, Tag Team, Free For All (1v1v1v1), Handicap, Submission, Falls Count Anywhere, Tag Falls Count Anywhere, Ultimate X (1v1) and an Ultimate X Free For All (1v1v1). While there are not too many options here, the selection is pretty good, Ultimate X especially.
Matches themselves are incredibly fast paced. The unique reversal system that Midway have implemented into the game is impressive as it is an interactive reversal system. That means unlike some games where you need to time the button as they attempt to grapple with you, on iMPACT, you can reverse mid-move (as you would see on TV). Instead of just ducking out of the way of a move, you actually reverse it. A running dropkick is turned into a powerbomb, for a top rope dive, if you are reversed, you will be caught and slammed. One of the most impressive I’ve seen so far is a springboard moonsault reversed into a shoulderbreaker in one solid, fluid movement. You can also reverse a reversal. An example I will use is one I have encountered myself when playing an AJ Styles vs Jay Lethal match. AJ whipped into the corner and Lethal looks to charge into the corner, I reverse at the right time and get behind him looking for a German Suplex, as I lift Lethal up, he turns into an attempted high angle DDT which I then reverse into a Death Valley Driver to end the sequence.
Story mode is something that is completely unique to this game. You begin with a video explaining who Suicide is and what he has done in TNA, he is then confronted by LAX in the locker room and they tell you to
throw the match, you agree, but then decide not to and win the match and the TNA World Title. You celebrate then head to your car. As you exit the building, the welcoming party of LAX is there to destroy you. Next thing you know, you’re in TJ with 2 doctors saying you’re lucky to be alive, this then explains that you’ve lost your memory as well. By now, you will have already made your CAW (something there could have been more options for, but then again, its not something I would consider an essential feature).
The variety on story mode first time around is pretty limited. As you are just starting out, unless you have play exhibition a fair bit beforehand you will only have the default moveset available. While this can get a bit annoying, it also gives you something to work towards, the better your matches, the better moves you can obtain, and since you can edit your CAW between matches, you don’t have to leave story mode to change things.
As for the story mode itself, you start in the slums of mexico, head onto the indies competing at the Armories before getting your shot in a dark match at TNA, orchastrated by Kevin Nash, from there, you are seen going through jobbers on iMPACT before moving on to the tag team division, X Division and finally the heavyweight division. One thing that needs to be fixed soon is the tag team AI for your partner. There were a number of occasions I’d worn out both opposition members, got caught by one of them with their finisher, they started the pin and unless I was over by my corner, my partner wouldn’t get in and break it up. Speaking if pinfalls, the stick system, while good in theory doesn’t quite work as well as it could have (although Jay Lethal screaming “Move The Stick” on the trailer video was funny stuff). Besides those minor issues, story mode is fine.
The exhibition matches, while there is not as much variety as the competition, work extremely well. I have played each type of match numerous times and still find them as enjoyable as the first time I played them. Being able to climb along the cables before hitting an SSP off the cables onto your opponent or a diving crossbody taking them out is fun, it also helps you get the style points needed to unlock new characters/moves as well. Singles and Tag matches are your standard match, handicap matches are incredibly hard as the realism has been added (so in mid-move, you can be stopped by your opponents partner like you could in a televised match). It is something rare, if I was playing the competition and went for a powerbomb as a finisher, nothing would be able to hit you, in iMPACT, a kick from their partner and you’ll hit the mat just as you’d see on TV, you don’t become invincible. Falls Count Anywhere matches are similar to the singles/tag matches you play except you can pin them outside the ring as well. Ultimate X (especially as a high flying superstar) is incredible. Having your opponent climbing the cable and flying in off the apron hitting a springboard dropkick sending them flying is great fun.
One of the things I will call Midway on here is the rules. Every single match is No-DQ and has a number of steel chairs just randomly laid at ringside, besides the ommision of the DQ ruling, there is no countout system either, I assume these will be added into the sequel, but I don’t see why it was left out of this one.
One other minor gripe (and this is very minor). With most finishing moves, they are animated to roll into a pinfall attempt automatically. Moves like the Styles Clash, the Cradle Shock and the PayOff all lead directly into pinfalls in reality, so it makes sense for those to end as pinfalls. Moves like the Gringo Cutter or the Angels Wings or the Unprettier usually lead to a pinfall, but I wish I was given the chance to pin them myself. An example is during an Ultimate X match, obviously the gimmick is to lay out your opponent, climb the cables and retrieve the X, well, I hit my finisher to lay out my opponent, a pinfall is automatically included, because there are no pinfalls, the opponent is back on their feet within a second. My finisher was basically no sold.
While previous games have had a couple of issues with cutting. An example being a big man going for a chokeslam on a smaller opponent, his hand would go through the guys head, this game doesn’t have that issue. There are a few minor issues with cutting, but its barely noticable (I only recall it happening when hitting the Border Toss and the opponent is over the shoulder ready to be thrown). Besides that, I think the graphics on this game are incredible. I would love to add more to this section, but there isn’t really a lot that needs adding, and I think pictures speak louder than words in this instance.
The audio is great. The commentary is somewhat repetitive, but it is bound to be. Unless they were to record hours worth of one-liners for commentary, you will always get repetitiveness. The wrestler entrances are all here, while there is only 10-15 second entrances, the music is still there and is fine for what it is (it also plays a longer version post-match while you celebrate).
The voice acting by the superstars is great. I can’t remember which SmackDown! game it was that featured voice acting for the first time and it sounded like each person recorded their voiceovers inside of a small steel box as the echoing was awful, this game got it right first time and that was something Midway deserve a lot of credit for.
While I was able to pick up and play, a few people I have spoken to didn’t like the game due to the controls. Well, as a way to combat that and get a fair opinion, I got 2 other people (my 15 year old brother) and a friend to pick up the control pad and play 3 games each. While both seemed to struggle on the first game, as they played it more and more, they became more comfortable with the controls and both admitted to liking the way the game played. I do know one of the guys who complained about the controls didn’t actually get past his first match, but he had his opinion. I mentioned the tag line earlier, easy to play, hard to master, well, that was the opinion I got from my own personal tests.
While the lack of variety mentioned earlier will ultimately affect the replayability of this title for now, the online mode is the best I’ve seen on a wrestling game (the last SmackDown! game, I never got a single game that didn’t lag heavily). While there is some minor lag on the game and the kickout system is somewhat glitchy when playing online, its not too bad that it really affects the gameplay too much. That being said, with the DLC coming sometime in the near future, it would be possible for Midway to add in new match types (much like other games have added in new modes to existing games), but even if you don’t keep it in your console for a long time, it’ll always be there for a blast when you’re looking for something to just pick up and play.
While TNA iMPACT doesn’t have your fancy features, that other games have, it is a great starting point. TNA and Midway have put a lot of effort into making this game and it has ultimately paid off. The game, while somewhat lacking on variety, is one of the most realistic, fun wrestling games of the last 5+ years. The roster features not just the big name stars on the roster (Kurt Angle, Sting, Christian Cage and Booker T) as well as the future of the wrestling business (AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe and Jay Lethal), and with the potential of adding new stars on a regular basis, the game will only continue to improve.
One person I spoke to refered to this game as a “paid for beta”, I look at it as a fresh start. Many games have suffered from having many features but an awful game engine beneath it (WWE RAW on the Xbox is a perfect example). This game however is the reverse, the game engine is impressive and gives me great hope that TNA iMPACT 2 (which is reportedly in production now), will blow away any competition. What needs adding are mainly small things such as tag team entrances, tag team moves, more match types for exhibition, longer entrances (not needed, but adds to the look and feel of the game), some slight tweaks to the rules (add DQ’s and countouts), more arenas (or backstage areas etc) and a bigger roster (which is being included).
Final Rating: 7.5 Out of 10