TNA iMPACT! Review

Jeff Jarrett and his father formed TNA (Total Nonstop Action) in 2002 which quickly grabbed a spot on SpikeTV, whilst luring in a few professional wrestlers and has been going strong ever since. Now, years later, Midway is bringing the experience to videogame consoles with TNA iMPACT!. The question remains; is it worth your time?

From the moment you boot the game up you'll notice crisp and relatively realistic graphics and character representations. The character models are wonderfully detailed and the environment itself isn't anything to shun visually. Animation flows so smoothly, that transitions between various moves are seamless unlike many of the older wrestling games. Overall, there's isn't really a bad word to say about the visuals at all, whereas they are solid, they won't be winning any awards for best on console. Unfortunately, the same can't be said about the audio which is severely let down by its excessively annoying announcers and repetitive character dialogue.

The graphics are crisp and realistic.

Not being much of a fan of wrestling, I assumed TNA iMPACT would be a difficult game to pick up and play, but I was honestly proved wrong right off the bat. A simple control scheme gives the game an extremely nice learning curve that will let you pick up the game and enjoy it casually or try to master the underlying complexity on offer. You move your character with the left stick, and when engaged in multi-opponent battles you can use the right stick to switch targets easily. The A, B, X, and Y buttons allow for grabs, punches, kicks, and other various actions, whereas the shoulder buttons will let you run, taunt, and make modifications to some of the available moves. Getting an opponent into a submission hold gives you a combination underneath each of your HUDs. Pull these off and you get a good chance for a tap out. However, if you're the one being held down, pulling the combo off quickly will let you break it. Reversals work similarly, allowing you to quickly hit a single button and reverse most any move. Overall, the controls are responsive and easy to understand for anyone at least moderately aware of how wrestling should work.

However, as easy and fun as the controls can be, you'll soon realize there's honestly just not many moves to use. What makes this far more noticeable is the lack of a dedicated move set for each wrestler. Most moves are shared among all 25 of them, as well as taunts. So, don't expect much individuality among the different wrestlers, as you'll be hard-pressed to find any. This hurts the game pretty badly considering how impressive the control system actually is (it's rare to find a wrestling game with good controls). What a bummer.

Unfortunately, creating a character doesn't exactly fix the aforementioned moves list issue much either. You choose between making your character a brawler, high flyer, or grappler. Afterwards, you'll choose skin colors, clothes, hair, and all the other expected features. It's not a very deep system, but it gets the job done. However, without being able to create or learn character-specific moves, it really distracts from making your character feel like he's anything different than anyone else's. You start with nothing but a bunch of boring default moves and you unlock more as you progress, but they still never feel original or worth the work.

Hugs. We all love hugs.

The HUD is relatively easy to understand. You have three parts of it to keep an eye on. Firstly, you have a limb damage silhouette which does exactly as you'd expect - lets you keep an eye on limb damage during the fight. Secondly, you have an iMPACT! meter that fills with yellow as you fight, allowing you to eventually pull off a strong grapple and and let loose with a finisher. Lastly, you have the stun meter, which when filled will leave your defenseless against your opponent until the meter goes down.

There are nine different matches available in iMPACT!. These include single match, free for all, tag team, falls count anywhere, falls count anywhere tag, submission, two-on-one handicapped, and a TNA-exclusive match style called Ultimate X. In Ultimate X, a gigantic red X hovers above the ring by two ropes. The first person to get to the top and untie the rope will win the match. To do this, players must climb the turnbuckles and grab onto the robe, untying it in mid-air. It's interesting, albeit less fun than actual wrestling matches.

Something highly disappointing and worth noting, is the laughable AI in the game. Whether it be your idiotic tag-team partner who wants to hop in and break up a good move you've got going on, or the way that the opponent's AI tends to sit back and watch you pummel his friend; it's just plain stupid. To add insult to injury, the developers chose to make the difficulty cheap instead of upping the actual AI of the characters as you progress through the game. As you go through the story mode, you'll notice your moves do very low damage and your nemesis will simply beat the hell out of you with pure cheapness. I call that lazy programming, because a better implemented move-aquiring system and a better AI system could have saved this game from turning into a lesson in frustration.

The online mode is a bit of a bore as well. It offers only one-on-one match styles and does not support the ability to use custom players (what!?). Also, some noticeable lag showed up during my time with the online component, often causing button presses to seem out of sync with the action on screen. If you're really digging the game overall, you'll probably derive some fun against other real people, but don't expect the online component to sell you.

A game of grab-ass?

As for the achievements, they're very unoriginal, and ultimately pretty easy. A little bit of everything is included, including your basic "defeat x opponent in story mode", all the way to the expected online achievement of playing 25 matches on Xbox Live. One of them stood out as an absolutely pointless and degrading achievement, and that would be the "lose 5 matches on Xbox Live in one sitting" achievement. What's funny about this achievement is that it gives no gamerscore points whatsoever, so it's more like a big slap to the face than anything. I'd say that if you're looking to get some easy points and don't suck at the game, you'll have very little trouble maxing it out with a little time. However, don't expect to particularly enjoy the bland selection.

In the end, there's a lot of good that could be said about TNA iMPACT, but a very unimpressive move set and lack of overall originality in the game really hurts what initially feels like a very solid foundation. The game is far from bad, but perhaps if the franchise remains active, it can pick up some momentum in future installments and some of the glaring issues can be worked out. If you're a wrestling fan you'll probably enjoy the game for what it is, but for casual gamers of any other ilk, I'd recommend you find a fix elsewhere.

Annoying announcers and repetitive character dialogue during fights brings the score down considerably.

Great graphics and seamless animation. There's really nothing bad to say here.

Granted, the controls are spectacularly implemented and easy to use, but the idiotic AI and lack of a fun moveset knock it down a few notches.

The game is technically flawed in some ways, but Midway did a good job with their first title in the franchise. Here's to hoping for a better future.

Bland and uninspired, the achievement list will make for easy gamerscore points, but it won't be very inspiring in the process.

Overall, TNA iMPACT! does what it set out to do, but some glaring problems keep the game from achieving anything beyond mediocre once you stop and take it all in. Future installments will likely fix some of the issues that plague this release, but there's not much to worry about, because TNA iMPACT! doesn't just doesn't hit the bar it seemed to be aiming for.

Game navigation