Nearly a year ago I attended an event put on by Midway here in Atlanta to introduce the press to their new wrestling title, TNA Impact!, based on the Total Nonstop Action Wrestling promotion founded back in 2002 by wrestling father and son Jerry and Jeff Jarett. After a lengthy hands-on with the game I made the following proclamation: "Once all the moves are finished and the stadiums are complete, it truly has a chance at being one of the best wrestling video games of all time." Well now the game has been released and I've spent a large chunk of time getting pounded into the canvas by the likes of AJ Styles and Samoa Joe to see if Midway grabbed at that chance or got knocked out of the ring by their own ambition.
The Story: An amnesiac ex-wrestling champion who undergoes facial reconstruction and then wrestles his way from a backwater in Mexico all the way to the very top? It's the stuff RPG plots are made of, and it's rather funny at times to boot. "You smell like bananas" is one of my new favourite phrases.
The Graphics: With a few notable exceptions due to hairstyle issues, the wrestlers in TNA Impact! look absolutely amazing. Having met some of the talent up close, I can almost smell them while playing.
The Animation: TNA has some of the smoothest animations I've ever seen in a wrestling game. There's the odd glitch now and then, but for the most part the wrestler's movements are extremely fluid and realistic.
Limited Movements: The animations do look amazing, but there really aren't that many of them. Midway originally boasted more than 2,000 moves, but wound up scrapping a large chunk of them. As a result, outside of signature moves everyone pretty much has the same limited move set.
Cheap Enemies: The reversal system in TNA Impact! works very well in multiplayer, but is an exercise in frustration when facing off against the computer at even the lowest difficulty level. You will learn to both love and hate the reversal sound effect.
Create A Gimped Wrestler: The Create A Player mode in the game is extremely limited. You have a set height and three body types to choose from instead of varying weights and heights to truly customise your look. Once you create your look you start off the game with extremely limited moves, having to play matches to gain style points in order to beef up your creation. You can't even take them online. Boo.
Online Play: Strictly one on one (or Ultimate X) matches using the premade characters included with the game. No tournament options or ability to play with your created wrestler. Online matches run really well, but I wanted much more.
TNA Impact! is a game that showed a great deal of potential during the early stages of development but didn't quite manage to reach the level of greatness it once hinted at. From a technical standpoint it has everything it needs to be an amazing wrestling game - silky smooth animations, a combat system that's simple to grasp, and some of the biggest wrestling talent around - it just needed more time. If they had put more work into the Create A Player mode, beefed up the online options and somehow managed to cram in a larger portion of the promised move set, TNA Impact would have been the best thing to happen to wrestling fans since they opened the new Walmart down the street (I kid!). Perhaps it's best to look at the game as a hint of things to come should the partnership between Midway and TNA continue.
TNA Impact! is a beautifully rendered, technically proficient yet ultimately average wrestling game that might have achieved greatness with a bit more work.
TNA Impact! Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, developed by Midway Studios and published by Midway Games was released on Sept. 9th for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation2, Sept. 11th on the Wii. Played Xbox 360 version. Retails for $59.99 (PS3, 360), $49.99 (Wii), and $39.99 (PS2). Played through story mode at Backyard Difficulty, played at least one exhibition match with each character, played multiple online matches.
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