A decent start, but only for TNA and wrestling fans.
Back when I actually gave any attention to wrestling, the games market for sports entertainment was one of variety in terms of quality and the developers making them. There was also the fact that WWE hadn’t bought WCW and ECW either, and so each had their own titles. Since that fateful transition however, the sports entertainment corner of the video game market has suffered in terms of delivering varied experiences. In fact for the past five years, the standard has been pretty much set and raised by the sole product in the genre; WWE’s Smackdown! Vs. Raw Brand.
So it is with the debut game of new up and coming franchise TNA that eyes glance at for some hope of a wrestling game just a little bit different. Hopes, they say, can be diminished in a second, but this isn’t the case with TNA iMPACT! No, such hopes takes hours to diminish; iMPACT! Is a refreshing break from the norm for sure, but taking time to play the game end to end only unravels any major flaws present in the gameplay… and there are many. From the ridiculously imbalanced difficulty during the game’s centrepiece story-mode, to the clunky control system and downright uninspired enemy A.I. TNA does well to distance itself from its competitors, but not always in the most flattering ways.
Definitely one of the game’s stand-out features is its visual realism presented through nice character animations that flow in and out of moves with a lot less of the awkwardness associated with Smackdown! Yet despite the nice look and feel to the game, you can’t help but feel that all of this is possible due to distinct lack of depth present. For example, the roster, although featuring a lot of the organisation’s biggest names, only gives you a selection of around 40 wrestlers. Furthermore, the moveset is even more limited, usually resulting in different stars feeling oddly similar in the way that they fight each other. Sure enough there’s sets for lightweights, x-division and heavyweights, but outside of the show’s starpower, most of the characters usually fall into just one of these categories with little to no variation on the moves within them. One positive aspect to this is that the counter system, which is played heavily here, works reasonably well, and flows a lot easier because of the lack of moves that need to be reversed.
As stated above however, things can get quite frustrating here, and the counter system is one of the main components that makes it so. The game’s story-mode which has you battling through the ranks of the TNA and a mediocre amnesia plotline, often puts you in matches that vary greatly in difficulty; resorting to merely upping the counter rate of your opponent and increasing the damage that he does. So rather than feel like your being challenged by a worthy adversary, you instead feel like you’re being raped by a lazy programmer. Indeed, if TNA’s sole reason to get out there and make a video game was to get me to watch their show and get into their characters, then they have failed. Thanks to iMPACT! I now hate most of the organisation’s stars; not because of their real life personalities or abilities, but because they were so frustrating to wrestle with.
The create a wrestler feature follows the rest of the game’s mantra with a ‘less is more’ mentality that just doesn’t convince. Sure there’s some decent creativity to be had here, but in comparison to you-know-who, it feels lacking and unoriginal. I’d also like to say that game’s audio is the sole flawless component, and although it comes close by perhaps topping WWE’s sound effects department, the voice acting and commentary is less than enlightening. Overall, it’s not a bad start to what could be an interesting franchise to come, yet for now, this is pure rental material that can easily be ran through in two or three days with decent gamerpoint loot at that.
Story & Game Modes… 6
Gameplay & Control… 5
Graphics & Design… 7