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.
When I first played TNA Impact at E3, 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'. I had given TNA the benefit of the doubt, but it looks like I made the wrong call here.
Upon firing up Impact, 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. On that note, 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 the mode...here is where you'll create a custom character out of a variety of pre-made body parts, and take him through the ranks, starting at the very bottom and climbing your way to the top. But you don't start with TNA, but rather small circuit backyard-ish type events held where instead of thousands of spectators, a few dozen show up. Progression through the career mode is about as you'd expect, so don't expect any surprises here, and don't expect it last very long, either. Also, the Story Mode has an actual story, complete with cut-scenes, voice acting, and the whole nine yards - it's all done very well, in fact.
But here comes the bad stuff. When I played my first standard match, I also 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. Collision detection issues I witnessed at E3, the dumbest, most obvious things that I swore they'd never let through into a final product...are in the final product. 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. Instead of getting up, the wrestler just rolls around, creating a lot of frustration when you end up rolling right into your opponent's repeated stomps. The online gameplay fairs no better, as every issue that plagues the offline matches makes the online experience that much worse. On top of that, online matches are limited to a mere two players, as opposed to at least four, which is solely offline only.
Then there's the Ultimate X mode, which has a mechanic so utterly dumb and frustrating that you're better off just never touching the mode. In Ultimate X, in order to unlatch the suspended X, a gauge appears where you have to center moving slider by hitting X, and then do it again two more times. The problem with this mechanic is that the slider moves way too fast, so centering it three times is a bit tough and annoying. This, in turn, makes 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. 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.
TNA Impact also doesn't offer enough match types and wrestlers. There are only six match types, 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. Still, despite that, there's still a ton of potential with TNA, but all of the game's glitches and oddities mentioned above really put a damper on things.
Visually, TNA Impact loses a lot of points for the aforementioned collision detection glitches, and it also loses points for poor presentation, as the wrestler intros are way too short. Where it does gain points is the detail put into the wrestlers. Each wrestler sports a nicely done skin of texture work, creating virtual counterparts that are some of the closest in detail we've seen thus far. Animation is also rather decent, not spectacular, but acceptable. The framerate is spot-on, as slowdown is not something I can say I witnessed. Additionally, the image quality is super clean, showing practically no signs of aliasing. Overall, TNA Impact is a pretty good looking game.
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.
TNA Impact is neither a bad game, nor is it a good game. It's not even an average game. It's hard to define TNA Impact, as there are a lot of redeemable aspects to the game, and at the same time, a lot of aspects that really hurt the game. The title is severely devoid of polish, as its horde of glitches is some of the worst I've seen this generation. There is a solid formula here, as well as a nice story mode, good controls, good visuals, and decent audio, but the end result is obviously lacking polish. Rent the game first and see if you like what you see.
9/20/2008 Arnold Katayev