TNA iMPACT! came running out of the gate swinging in early February of this year when Kurt Angle, who happens to be one of TNA’s biggest superstars, was quoted saying, “It’s a no brainer. We’re going to win the war definitely (against THQ’s upcoming title).” It’s been seven months since the claim was made and with the release of iMPACT!, it’s time to see whether or not Angle’s predictions ring true.
First and foremost, the game comes with a mandatory install of around the 17-minute mark. However, unlike Devil May Cry 4, which is more than worth the wait, TNA ultimately leaves a lot to be desired in almost every conceivable aspect. Kicking things off, wrestling enthusiasts are given the opportunity to take part in exhibition play with nine different modes that include: singles, tag team, Free for All (4-way), submission, Falls Count Anywhere, Falls Count Anywhere tag team and two-on-one handicap matches. Fortunately, outside of the standardized wrestling format, Midway has also included one of TNAs most unique match types — Ultimate X.
Ultimate X can be played in two varieties, either one-on-one or a deadly 3-way battle for victory. For those of you who are unfamiliar with TNA wrestling, the ring is six-sided and contains six turnbuckles. This match-type involves placing four beams behind the turnbuckles in order to line a rope between each creating an X symbol. There is then a large red X hung from the very middle of this rope that must be untied by either wrestler in order to win the match. Once you’ve made your way to the X hanging above, you’re able to start a mini-game process in which you are required to match up a horizontally moving line to the middle of the meter to make progress. If you make a mistake, your wrestler will lose his grip and have to retry. Unfortunately, this is where TNA iMPACT! both excels and ultimately declines, as the title struggles to offer much in the way of entertainment value beyond this point.
Credit where it’s due, Midway has done an admirable job in implementing pick up and play-style controls in a new-age wrestling title. However, this approach also has its disadvantages. While a game like Smackdown features a robust moves list and a strong lineup of modes to play, TNA is limited to the same repetitive maneuvers due to a decidedly simple control scheme. This leads to a major problem as it causes every wrestler within the game to feel the same. As such, the game’s lack of diversity when it comes to moves combined with the inability to differentiate one combatant from the other leaves this wrestling romp feeling somewhat stale after just four of five bouts.
To further push the envelope of issues, Midway’s Create-A-Wrestler only makes matters worse. While the idea and logic behind creating your own wrestler to progress through a career mode is always a fun and unique way to play, Midway has ultimately gone and botched this component beyond recognition. While users will be given an adequate amount of customisable options to choose from, your wrestler’s repertoire of moves is somewhat limited. Despite the fact you can unlock better moves as you progress through career mode, chances are you’ll have given up on the game by the time you get the chance to do so. Although this doesn’t become an issue at the very start of your career when you’re pitted against other created wrestlers with the same dull moves as your own, once you get into the upper echelon of fighters within the TNA industry, your superstar is going to stand absolutely no chance.
One the few standout moments you’re going to experience when playing iMPACT! is the game’s stunning visual quality, providing fans of the show with authentic digital counterparts of their favorite superstars. On top of this, each superstar has his own entrance style, which is almost ruined completely due to the loading screens you have to endure before the match even begins. Once a match begins, though, you’ll bare witness to the game’s crowning achievement in the form of some meticulously crafted animation work. You’re able to seamlessly transition from one move to another without waiting for animations to finish up as they all branch together beautifully – highly impressive to watch to say the least.
Midway has also included a cool reversal system that proves entertaining enough at first, but is in fact more superficial than it seems. The main problem I have with this scheme is that almost every move can be countered and then re-countered. This can line up 5+ reversals in a row before a final action is even taken to inflict any damage. If you’re good enough at timing the reversal buttons, you can win matches without pressing any other button, which is quite frankly, ludicrous.
Once you’re done playing against your friends or the AI (the latter of which is highly incompetent to say the least), you can jump into the game’s standard multiplayer component and enjoy a pretty robust online experience virtually devoid of any lag. Although this does inject some much-needed longevity into the title, it hardly makes up for the rest of the game’s shortcomings.
Kurt Angle and Midway displayed so much potential for TNA iMPACT! that I almost bought into the pre-release hype. However, after finally getting the chance to sit down and play the retail release, I can conclude that Angle’s bite isn’t even close to as ferocious as his backpedalling, which he’s preparing to do a lot of. Wrestling aficionados and casual fans alike would do best to simply wait for Smackdown vs. Raw.