Wrestling Zone's Mike Campbell hits the ring with the PS2 version of TNA iMPACT!
Title: TNA iMPACT!
Screenshots are from the PS3 version Possible spoilers
Since 1999 or so there has been a virtual lock on the wrestling video game market by the WWF/WWE. Sure there has been the occasional wrestling game like the two ECW games, the Legends of Wrestling series, the Backyard Wrestling games, and a few attempts from WCW, by but and large when you think wrestling game, you tend to think of the WWE games. The latest attempt to knock WWE off of their video game pedestal is from Total Nonstop Action wrestling with their first release, TNA Impact! I picked up the Playstation 2 version, it's definitely not a bad game, and it's a valiant attempt by TNA, but it's not good enough to beat WWE for the title just yet.
The most important part of any wrestling game is the roster. TNA Impact appears to pack a decent sized roster by looking at sheer numbers, after unlocking everyone there are 45 selectable wrestlers to choose from. However out of those 45, 13 of them are generic jobbers, 2 of them are just alternate versions of AJ Styles and Chris Sabin, and 2 more account for Suicide (more on him later) and the other version of Suicide. That's 15 slots of non TNA wrestlers. I can understand how it might be fun and challenging to play the game as one of the generic jobbers, but they could have easily left in 5 of them, and added some more TNA wrestlers. Plus, instead of taking up slots for the alternate Styles, Sabin, and Suicide wrestlers, they could have taken a page from RAW vs. Smackdown and when the character is selected, give the player the option of which outfit to use. If that's done for Suicide, Styles, and Sabin, that would free up three slots for TNA wrestlers. Petey Williams, Johnny Devine, and Consequences Creed could be added in their place. Plus, Kevin Nash doesn't even have wrestling gear, just jeans and a shirt, why not scrap Lenny or Benny (nearly identical jobbers) and use that for another look for Nash in wrestling gear?
The controls seem awfully hard at first, but once you've had a few matches to practice and/or checked out the training videos, they're a piece of cake. I can understand the control scheme being the way it is to a certain extent, after playing so many Raw vs. Smackdown games that all use the same control scheme, you can pretty much pick the game up and master it quickly, and TNA wanted to get away from that. The way it's been described as easy to learn difficult to master, which is a very accurate description. The moves aren't hard to do, just not as easy as in most games. If you want to charge the ropes and do a springboard kick, you'll hold R2 to run, when you read the ropes you'll press L1 and the square (kick) buttons at the same time. Whereas most games you'll probably push a single button to run and then another to do the move. Not everything is overly complicated though. If you want to do a finisher just grapple and press the circle button. To reverse simply press R1 at the right time, and you can reverse every move except for a finisher. The only thing that I found to really be a pain was that you can't use the D Pad to move your wrestler, you have to use the left analog stick.
For a game with so many wrestlers, there aren't a whole lot of moves, and a lot of wrestlers share moves. It makes the game feel a bit like the old WWF Royal Rumble or WWF Raw is War games on Sega Genesis and Super NES, where everyone does the same moves the same ways, except for their finisher. They're not identical obviously, guys like AJ Styles and Chris Sabin do a lot of areial stuff, Abyss, Scott Steiner, and Tomko do a more power based offense. There's also a couple of weird quirks, Scott Steiner's finisher is the Steiner Recliner, which is a camel clutch. I used Scott Steiner and did my finisher, he locked in the recliner and the 'ref' gave me a three count IN A SUBMISSION HOLD. Maybe the three count was supposed to represent the number of times my opponent tapped his hand to give up.
The game is also light on match options. Every match is no disqualification and no count out, you can do a singles match, a tag team match, a three way match, a handicap match, a submission match, a falls count anywhere match, a falls count anywhere tag team match, an Ultimate X match, and an Ultimate X three way match. Considering that TNA is the home to all sorts of specialty matches, this seems a bit empty. No Monsters Ball? No King of the Mountain? No Six Sides of Steel? The Ultimate X match is a nice addition but you'd expect to see more of the TNA staples. When doing matches, you'll want to avoid the tag team matches, they really bog the game down and make it run much much slower. Plus the AI varies. You'll go for a cover and your partner will be right there to prevent the opposing partner from saving, and other times he'll sit there two feet away and watch you get pinned. Most of the matches are pretty self explanatory, the idea is to either make your opponent submit, or pin him.
The Ultimate X match is the best match of the game, and the one that gives it the most replay value. There are two intersecting wires hanging over the ring, the object is to climb the turnbuckle, navigate the wire and grab the X hanging in the middle of it. You can do all kinds of cool stuff if you and your opponent are both trying to get to the X, you can kick him down, if he tries to kick you, you can dodge him. If he's up there and you're not, you can pull him down. If he's still close to the corner, you can jump off the top rope to knock him down. If you're up there and he's headed your way you can drop onto him, or drop down yourself so he doesn't yank you down and cause more damage to you. If you're hanging out with a friend or two and need a way to kill an hour or so, this is the best way to do it.
The game has an original story mode to it, but it's got zero replay value to it. You're an aspiring wrestler named Suicide who had been moving up the ranks of TNA. LAX had ordered you to throw a match and you decided not to, and they attack you in the parking lot, and you wake up with amnesia in Mexico with an odd urge to slam people on a wrestling ring. You wrestle in Mexico, make your way to the U.S. and eventually get a TNA tryout. You get hired by TNA, become buddies with Kevin Nash, Samoa Joe, and Eric Young, you climb the tag team ranks with Eric Young, then conquer the X Division, and then the TNA World Title. But there's a few bumps along the road. It turns out that Jeff Jarrett and LAX aren't happy about your progress. After winning the TNA Tag Team Titles, they kidnap Eric Young and hold him hostage, you're ordered to conquer the X Division, win the TNA World Title from Kurt Angle, and then throw a match to Jeff Jarrett so he can be champion. During the course of the story you slowly remember who you are and when you win the title Suicide gets his memory back and the game ends with you beating Jeff Jarrett and celebrating with Eric Young, Kevin Nash, and Samoa Joe. And by the way, the ending reveals a Vince Russo style swerve, as it turns out that you knew you could beat Jarrett because Nash and Joe had already rescued Eric Young from LAX. As you go through story mode, you'll unlock everything in the game. You unlock arenas as you win matches in them and unlock hidden wrestlers and jobbers as you defeat them.
The game play itself is fine, but very shallow. There's a color coded damage meter similar to the Raw vs. Smackdown games, but the wrestlers don't favor their injured body parts. The only weapon available to use is chairs, despite Jeff Jarrett holding his trademark guitar during his entrance and Sting holding his baseball bat. The wrestlers very rarely stay down for very long, no matter how hurt they or what's all been done to them. You win TNA Titles in the story mode, but can't defend or win them in exhibition mode. There are several meters to keep track of. The stun meter tells you how long your wrestler will be stunned for, the impact meter allows you to do your finisher, and there's an Ultimate X meter that tells you progress in retrieving the X. The really cool thing about the Impact meter is that it fills based on how much different and difficult to do stuff you pull off. If you grab a chair and start swinging you're never going to fill it up, you need to do a variety of stuff. There are also a few mini games, when you lock in a submission, you're presented with a three button sequence to press, if you press yours first then you apply pressure, but if your opponent does his first, he escapes. When trying to win an Ultimate X match, you've got a cursor going back and fourth across the screen, you've got to press the button when it's in the right spot so many times before you can take it down.
The same way that I'd advised anyone to avoid doing tag matches, I'd advise you to go right to the options menu and turn the commentary volume all the way down. They've got nothing to say but stupid one liners and metaphors over and over again. You can only hear Mike Tenay yell out "What's he going to do with that?" whenever you grab a chair and hear Don West scream "His eyes are glazed over like a couple of donuts!" so many times. It's also just the same phrases over and over, there's nothing distinguishing about the wrestlers. Tag Teams also don't come out together, which is odd, because Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley are both introduced as being 'One half of the Motor City Machine Guns.'
All in all, TNA Impact is a fun and challenging game, and it's a breath of fresh air from the RAW vs. Smackdown games which are nearly interchangeable. But it's got more than it's share of faults and drawbacks. Midway is already working on a sequel where they'll hopefully clean up those aspects. It's not too bad of a start, but it's really only worth a rental.
The wrestlers look very much like their real life counterparts, and the arenas also look great. The only problems are that the ropes look jagged in places, and the crowd looks goofy.
The new control system is fun and as you play you'll gradually learn new things, even by accident. I just learned that you can Border Toss people out to the floor. But the game is too bare bones as far as match options go.
The commentary is awful, but the music and sound effects are fine.
When you've completed story mode, there's no reason to continue playing other than the multiplayer, especially with no CAW, very limited match options, and no extras like defending titles in exhibition mode.
This is where you mileage may vary. The Ultimate X matches are lots of fun, but the tag matches are godawful, so they cancel each other out in my book. Beyond those all you really have left are regular matches, submission matches, or falls count anywhere