TNA iMPACT Reader Review
Ah, TNA Wrestling. That's Total Non-stop Action rather than Tits 'N' Ass. They're a small fish in a small pond dominated by the huge WWE. In an effort to distinguish themselves they have tried to innovate away from WWE's standards, first thing you will notice is TNA's 6-sided ring, not sure how that's innovating but one thing for sure, TNA's in-ring input is a great deal better than WWE. Even if TNA's product seems like a poor man's WWE in terms of production and story telling. Everything seems so much cheaper, but it's improving and beginning to pay off. Bigger names are moving over, viewing figures are up, they're now actually making a profit and they're beginning to churn out the merchandise beyond t-shirts and DVDs with this game front and centre.
Let me get one thing straight about this review before I go any further. I'm a wrestling fan so I'm avoiding the normal "wrestlinglol" stereotypes that you see in reviews of wresting games. Yes it's full of muscular men grappling and fighting with one another, but then so is Gears Of War - the Top Gun of video games.
"This is awesome"?
The good news is TNA Impact also has something else in common with Gears of War, in that it is running on the Unreal Tournament 3 engine. Because of this Impact looks very nice, with well detailed wrestlers, appropriate visual effects (depth of field looks a little strange in such small environments) and decent textures. In fact one of the benefits of a wrestling game running on the UT3 engine over other games is that there's no texture pop in because you only fight in one area at a time. The presentation is perfectly fine too, with brief match introductions and wrestler themes playing over the menus. Although the sound is functional rather than being anything special. During the match there's nothing beyond the simple grunts, slap, hits and slams. From a technical perspective the in-match commentary is better than the WWE Smackdown series as the commentators actually call moves, pin falls and other events as they happen whereas in Smackdown the commentary tends to go on about nothing in particular. Shame I've never really liked TNA's commentary team, Don West and Mike Tenay quickly begin to grate and there's about as much variety in the commentary as there is in the Smackdown games - in other words not much.
And it's this lack of variety that permeate the entire game as it continues through to the gameplay and features. The gameplay itself is fast, responsive and exciting, but after promising a game crammed full of different moves it appears they have all been cut with most of the characters sharing the same moves apart from their finishers. But then each character only has one finisher, so most of them don't have any of their signature moves. For instance, ex-WWE madman Kurt Angle only does his Angle Slam, there's no sign of his ankle lock or his top rope suplexes. In fact where are the turnbuckle moves? There are only two, a flurry of six punches or bashing your opponent's head into the turnbuckles. That's it. There also appears to be no back grapples, so for the likes of back suplexes, sleeper holds or german suplexes are triggered from the front.
Also, they've tried to shake things up with submissions. When you go for the submission both players have to input a sequence of 3 buttons. Whomever inputs the buttons first wins, so the aggressor does damage (or causes his opponent to submit if limb damage is high enough) or the victim escapes. But again the lack of variety raises it's ugly head as every character has the same submission moves. So a headlock, an armbar and a leglock. Oh and a sleeper hold. If that wrestler has a signature submission move in real life, it's not in the game, so no Scorpion Deathlock for Sting, no ankle lock for Kurt Angle and no Kokina clutch for Samoa Joe. It just seems really strange as they do make a big deal of the new submission feature but then fail to provide any depth or variety.
There's lack of variety in the match types too, which is incredibly lacking compared to Smackdown. There really is only a handful - standard, standard tag, Falls count anywhere (and FCA tag), submission, a three-way free for all and Ultimate X. That's it. No ladder match, no cage match and no TNA specialities - King of the Mountain or Monster's Ball matches. For a company that's known for it's gimmick matches it's inexcusable. Tag matches are also boring and pointless due to the fact there are no double team moves, and tag teams do not even enter the ring together, and instead have separate entrances. On the plus side the Ultimate X match is actually the most fun with wrestlers fighting while hanging from the ropes above the ring.
To go along with the lack of match types there's also a bizarre lack of rules. There's no rope break or DQ in matches and no way to edit the rules and turn them back on. It gives the game a very arcade feel and I'm not sure if it's a good or a bad thing. The only weapon in the game is a steel chair, and the only thing you can do with that is swing it so it seems the lack of DQ is pretty pointless anything.
One of the positive things about the game is the character roster with most of the TNA wrestlers present and correct. The only wrestlers obviously missing are Petey Williams and Curry Man but it has been confirmed they will be available as downloadable content "shortly". But once again there's a strange omission to the game as the Knockouts (TNA women's division) do not make an appearance at all. Again TNA is known for it's excellent women's division, so to be without even a few of the Knockouts is disappointing. Perhaps they too will be available as DLC, but I won't hold my breath.
Another plus point for the game is the story mode, they seem to have really tried to bring something more compelling than Smackdown's random story lines. Although the story is actually quite a bland "wrestler beaten and dumped in Mexico with amnesia must get revenge" it's made entertaining by some decent voice-over work by some of the TNA stars. Especially Eric Young who brings the laughs with some frankly bizarre lines ("You smell like bananas" being his very first line). However the voice of the main character, Suicide, is low, gritty and frankly rubbish mind you. Also the story mode sags in the middle as the lack of match types means you fight in roughly ten thousand tag matches in a row. Well, maybe not that many... But it feels like it sometimes.
"It's all over!"
To me TNA Impact actually feels like another famous Midway game - Mortal Kombat. It's more shallow than other games, but still a lot of fun for those that can deal with it's faults. The main thought I have about this game is that while the TV product is known for it's superior in-ring product making up for it's inferior production values and story lines, the wrestling game will be known for it's superior graphics and story and it's inferior game play.
So unless Midway take on board and improve on Impact's faults for the inevitable sequel then the WWE Smackdown Vs Raw games are still the games to buy for your wrestling kicks.
6 / 10