TNA Impact Review
As of late, TNA's popularity is quickly rising, thanks to a roster of AAA wrestlers many of which are easily recognizable. With that, it's no surprise that we have our first TNA videogame, as it was only a matter of time until the wrestling license was slapped on a virtual simulation, if you will. Competing directly with THQ's mega SmackDown series, Midway is behind this license, and while we reported good things at E3, the end result is a product that has a ton of potential, but falls short of it thanks to a horde of minute issues.
What's unusual about the PlayStation 2 version is how it actually feels more polished than the PS3 version. When I first played TNA Impact at E3 for the PS3, I actually thought it was a rather solid game based on the time spent with it, and based on the fact that what I was playing was also an incomplete build. I saw issues with clipping, such as wrestlers falling through the mat and freezing, but I thought to myself that 'it's just symptoms of an incomplete build, nothing uncommon'. Well it wasn't, because those problems made it to the final game. But they didn't make it into the PS2 version.
Upon firing up Impact for the PS3, I had to perform a rather tedious mandatory install. What does it do? Don't ask, because the game still loads longer than it should, loading even between each wrestler's intro, which I found very unusual and annoying. The PlayStation 2 version, obviously doesn't require any installs, and yet, runs and loads faster than the PS3 game. It's absurd, I know. Since the first thing I saw as the match began were the wrestler's intros, I suppose I should start off my complaints with how extremely short they are. You never see the wrestler walk down to the ring, the intros last a total of 10-15 seconds. The first thing I thought about was the 10 year old WWF Raw game for the PSOne/N64, very generic. The intros are only a small sign of what's to come.
I began a match, my first impression was 'hey, this actually plays well'. I liked the button matching mechanic that is triggered in order to break free from a hold of some sort. I also quite like the reversal system, which requires you to tap R1 at the appropriate time in order to succeed. The controls are also pretty straightforward, allowing you to get used to the game almost immediately. There are three action buttons, a modifier button, and the circle button for pinning, climbing, picking up, and etc. For the most part, the control scheme is pretty simple, but at the same time, it does allow for decent variation as far as moves go.
I'm also fairly fond of the story mode. I won't go into details, so as not to spoil what you witness the first few moments. But I will detail what's featured and not featured...unfortunately, there is no create-a-Wrestler here, so instead of being able to reconstruct the Story's main character, you have to settle for him in his original look and suit. Not having a CAW is pretty amateurish and unusual, and the game gets docked serious spots for it. Starting at the very bottom and climbing your way to the top, you'll take this wrestler through a variety of matches.
But you don't start with TNA, but rather small circuit backyard-ish type events where instead of thousands of spectators, a few dozen show up. Progression through the career mode is about as you'd expect, linear, so don't expect any surprises here, and don't expect it last very long, either. Also, the Story Mode has an actual story to it, too, complete with cut-scenes, voice acting, and the whole nine yards - minus the lack of a custom wrestler, it's all done very well, in fact.
When I played my first standard match on the PS3, I never finished that match. My opponent's feet fell through the mat and he began to walk and run while standing still. This became a very, very frequent issue, forcing me to pummel him for minutes until the game's collision detection corrected itself. I haven't seen that in the PlayStation 2 game, thankfully, as odd as it sounds. But, other collision issues do exist, as you'll often fly through your opponent without so much as nudging him. Dropping down from the turnbuckle? Well, make sure your opponent is perfectly flat, because if he just begins to get up, your hit won't count; even if you land on top of him, you'll smack the mat. When the detection actually works, it's rather precise. But when it doesn't, you just want to tear your hair out.
Speaking of being on the mat, rolling around when you're down is absolutely stupid. You'll often find yourself rolling too much, and instead of getting up you often end up rolling right into your opponent's repeated stomps. The PlayStation 2 version of Impact doesn't have any online gameplay, and offline matches are limited to a mere two players, as opposed to at least four.
Now, where as the Ultimate X mode in the PS3 version is so utterly frustrating that it made playing the mode pointless, the same can't be said for the PS2 version. In the PS3 version, the mechanic to unlatch the suspended X triggers a gauge to appear where you have to center a moving slider by hitting X, and then do it again a few more times. The problem with the PS3's mechanic is that the slider moves way too fast, so centering it more than once is a bit tough and annoying. This, in turn, makes PS3 Ultimate X matches extremely long, as every time you mess up, your wrestler's legs drop and your opponent can jump up and slam you down.
The PlayStation 2 version does this very same mechanic much better, as the slider starts out moving at a standard pace, and marginally increases speed with every centered match. The system actually works fairly well, as I was able to win an Ultimate X match in less than five minutes, as opposed to over a half-hour on the PS3. Still, a simple remedy to the Ultimate X mechanic would've been making it momentum based, have the slider move fast when both players are healthy, and slow it down when you've inflicted a lot of damage to your fallen opponent.
One concern with TNA Impact is that it doesn't offer enough match types and wrestlers. There are only seven unique match types (not counting variations), with just over 25 wrestlers to choose from. That is a stark contrast compared to the horde of match types and packed roster of the WWE games. But despite that, TNA Impact still makes for a decent experience, and what's most surprising is just how well this port was done. Everything about the port's presentation is virtually identical to the next-gen games, including the menus, controls, mechanics, and other features.
EVen visually, the PS2 version of TNA Impact looks pretty good. Unlike the PS3 version, it doesn't lose as many points for severe collision detection issues. While the presentation is somewhat weak, as the wrestler intros are way too short, the PS2 game actually uses the cut-scenes from the next-gen versions. Where it does gain points is the detail put into the wrestlers. You'd think that being a PS2 port, the visuals would look terrible, but they actually don't. Each wrestler sports a nicely done skin of texture work, creating virtual counterparts that are arguably better than what we saw out of WWE games. Animation is also rather decent, not spectacular, but acceptable. The framerate is pretty good during standard matches, but when there's more than two wrestlers, it can take hits here and there. Additionally, playing via PS3, the image quality is pretty good for a PS2 game. This PS2 port of TNA is a pretty good looking game. Kudos to developer Point of View.
Lastly, the audio consists of some background commentary, most of which is very general and never refers to the wrestlers in the ring. Commentary is a loose mixture of play-by-play and some color, but it's nothing you'd call deep or engrossing; it adds little to the overall experience. What I do like is how loud the intros are, even if they do last for just 15 seconds, and how rowdy the crowd gets during exciting moments in a match. Each and every impact sounds as powerful as it should, creating a pretty satisfying feel and helping gameplay a bit, too. Additionally, as mentioned earlier on, the voice acting during the cut-scenes is well done. So while the commentary isn't superb, the rest of the audio's presentation is quite good.
On the PlayStation 2, TNA Impact is actually a decent game. For $60, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 games are questionable purchases, and I suggest renting first. But for $40, the PlayStation 2 version has enough redeemable aspects that warrant the price-tag. Where as the next-gen game is severely devoid of polish, with its horde of glitches, the PS2 port is surprisingly good looking, plays well, and may actually be the better game, despite not having online or create-a-wrestler modes. There is a solid formula here, with a nice story mode, good controls, good visuals, and decent audio.
9/20/2008 Arnold Katayev