Midway’s TNA Impact is the first video game based on the Total Nonstop Action pro-wrestling promotion. And just like it had a tough act to follow when it debut on TV in 2002 with the well established WWE juggernaut dominating the scene, TNA Impact the video game too will have to match up to THQ’s long-running WWE franchise, now called Smackdown! vs RAW (SvR). Being such similar games. comparisons between TNA Impact and SvR are inevitable, but for the sake of this review, I will leave the head-to-heads aside and try to focus on TNA Impact as it stands by itself.
Considering that TNA Impact is Midway’s first wrestling game in a really long time, the controls are surprisingly tight and responsive. The developers have been stressing the importance of having the game running at 60 fps in order to ensure that button presses are registered instantly. And they do, giving you gameplay that, although simple, is fast, competitive, and quite fun.
On the control side, you have kicks and punches with the ability to inflict a more powerful variant of each by holding a shoulder button. You also have your grapple moves, and this is where the controls are found a little lacking. There is no way of knowing which moves can be performed via grapple maneuvers. Once the grapple is initiated by pressing Y on the Xbox 360 controller, you are required to press it again to perform one of four maneuvers, depending on which direction you push your left stick. There is no way for you to select your four grapple attacks, and the only way you can know which direction corresponds to which attack is trial and error.
You also have the standard wrestling moves such as the Irish whip, which may take a bit of getting used to for wrestling game regulars owing to TNA’s hexagonal ring design. You can also perform high-risk attacks off the top of the turnbuckle and they work reasonably well as long as you pick the right time to use them. There are no match rules so you are free to use weapons in every match you play. Unfortunately, the only weapon in the game is a steel chair, which is only good for four strikes; no tables, no ladders, no sledgehammers and no two-by-fours wrapped in barbwire. You can’t even remove the padding off the turnbuckle. And no matter how much damage you inflict on your opponent from numerous chair shots to the head, they just won’t bleed; that bummed me out a bit.
The focus of the game is its story mode. You start as an up-and-coming wrestler – Suicide – who is asked to throw a match, his heavyweight title shot no less, and he is threatened with dire consequences if he doesn’t comply. He goes on to win the match and the title, after which he is attacked backstage and beaten to a pulp. He then finds himself in Mexico, not knowing who he is, where he was, or how he got there, and his face is damaged beyond recognition.
This is where character customisation comes in. You can customise everything from your wrestler’s wrestling style, looks, clothing, and entrance, but it’s all very basic. You then proceed to fight a few matches in Mexico, earning a ticket back to the land of opportunity. The story is very straightforward; you have a good guy, who watches your back and moulds you into the next big thing, and you have a bad guy, who uses you for his own personal gain. While it isn’t the most original or deep story, it holds the story mode together just fine. I, however, did get the feeling that the number of TNA stars who were actually involved in the story mode was fairly small. While you will fight the likes of Kurt Angle and Sting, they’re not part of the story, which was a little disappointing.
The biggest drawback of the game, however, is the severe lack of match types, and this is something that becomes quite prominent towards the latter stages of the story mode. The only match variations are the one-on-ones, regular tag-team matches, and TNA’s unique Ultimate X match. Ultimate X is similar to traditional ladder matches, but instead of ladders, you have two ropes that stretch diagonally over the ring, with an X hanging over the centre of the ring, where the two ropes intersect. Wrestlers must traverse the ropes from the turnbuckle to get to the X. This match, while a welcome change from the vanilla one-on-one encounters, isn’t enough to make up for the lack of match types.
After the story mode, which will last you a good eight to ten hours, all you have is exhibition matches and online. Offline multiplayer can be quite fun, and the responsive controls mean no player has an unfair advantage. I wasn’t able to find a single player online for ranked or unranked matches, which should give you an idea about the game’s popularity on Xbox LIVE.
Visually, TNA Impact is quite stunning. Not only does it run at 60 fps, but everything from the character models and lighting, to the animations and arenas look stunning. The attention to detail on the wrestlers is remarkable. Not only do they look just like their real-life counterparts, but the skin textures and the way the lighting engine shows off sweat and reflections is quite stunning. Sound is a bit of a mixed bag. While in-ring effects and crowd sounds are what you would expect, voice acting in the story mode and match commentary leave a lot to be desired. Commentary is way too abrupt and random, and just seems forced.
To Midway’s credit, TNA Impact plays very well and is a solid foundation should they choose to turn it into an annual franchise. The story mode has enough for fans of wrestling games to remain engaged till the credits roll. Offline multiplayer can be fun as well, but beyond that, there isn’t much to this game. And for a brand that lacks the charisma, fan following and big name superstars of its rival, the severe lack of match types really hurts the game. But for wrestling fans who have grown tired of the stagnating Smackdown! vs Raw franchise, TNA Impact is a breath of fresh air. Keep your expectations low; you may just be pleasantly surprised.
(+) Tight, responsive controls
(+) Good story mode, fun offline multiplayer
(-) Not enough match types
(-) Lacks depth, star power
IndianVideoGamer Verdict: 6/10 (Worth a try)
TNA Impact is in stores on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3