Wednesday, September 24, 2008.
by Rick Wallace

TNA iMPACT! Box art TNA, which stands for Total Nonstop Action, has been around for 6+ years but has not quite gained the popularity of its rival, the WWE. As of late though, the brand seems to have taken up interest among more and more professional wrestling fans across the world. With the help of more air time on TV and now a new video game TNA could be on its way to actually being on a competing level with the WWE very soon. You'll recognize many of the faces of TNA of which most have made their way through the WWE at one point or another. The 2 brands seem to trade off superstars on a regular basis anymore.

So TNA finally has brought out its own video game to the next gen systems in the form of TNA Impact. And I honestly have to say that Midway has done a very good job in delivering the product and making a pretty good wrestling game that fans should enjoy. You'll find over 20 TNA superstars featured along with their signature moves, several venues and plenty of TNA match types. All of which should keep you busy for quite a while.

The game features an exhibition mode, a story mode, and online play as well as plenty of videos of real life matches from the TNA history books. Also included int the game is an extra DVD which features an inside look at the making of the game and a few big matches dating back to the early days of the TNA brand. Its definitely worth taking a look at if you are a fan of TNA in the least, or just a wrestling fan period.

There is a create a wrestler option as well which will allow you to deisgn your own personalized wrestler with a vast array of looks, clothing, moves and accessories. You can use this created character in the story mode or in any exhibition or online match as well. While creating the character is fairly basic, you can still come up with pretty lifelike and interesting characters.

In the sound category, the game once again is on par or better with a lot of their in game announcing and story mode voice over acting. Mike Tenay and Don West do an outstanding job with their voice over work for the in ring commentary and the commentary seems to be just as intense as the action on the screen. If you have watched TNA on Spike TV you will know that these guys put their heart and soul into their commentary and it seems the same has happened in the game as well. Jeremy Borash is also included in the mix of commentary and story mode action. The in ring sounds are authentic in nature and seems to have a high level of intensity which seems to be the sole purpose of this game. TNA is all about non stop action and the sound department has definitely carried that over into the game.

Graphically, Midway has done an outstanding job capturing every little detail of the wrestlers and their signature maneuvers. Each character is easily recognizable and fantastically reproduced on the screen in complete detail. The wrestler entrances start out pretty great but quickly fade away as the wrestler makes his way to the ring. I can understand that entrances could get repetitive after a while and this is probably most of the reason they were cut short, but I still would have loved seeing Sting make his way to the ring and raise the bat to the crowd, or Scott Steiner up on the turnbuckles kissing his fabricated biceps while taunting the masses.

The arenas and rings are pretty basic when it boils down to it, and I do wish you could take your fight into the crowd and steal people's chairs while beating the living heck out of your opponent. Nothing like grabbing weapons from the crowd, but alas thats only a dream. You'll find some chairs scattered outside the ring that you can pick up and smack your opponent with, but after about 4 hits with the chair it then disintegrates into mid air. They sure don't make chairs like they used to! Each ring is designed well, and seems to react well with collisions, rope maneuvers, etc. One of the stand out features in TNA is the Ultimate X division which features 2 wires hanging above the mat which intersect in the middle of the ring. Players will traverse these wires using them to pull off some pretty unbelievable wrestling maneuvers. Your goal is to unhook the intersection of the wires to win the match. And for the most part it works well in the game. There will be a few times when the rope starts bouncing that you'll take notice that your wrestler isn't holding onto anything yet remains suspended above the ring. The crowd is fairly basic as well, but all in all the each arena and it's features work well with the game and do not come across as being bland in anyway.

Now onto the gameplay. We have all grown accustomed to the WWE vs Smackdown series and already have some expectations for how a wrestling game should play. Well TNA doe a good job in the gameplay category. Collision detection seems to be spot on and you won't find yourself swing through opponents or drop kicking air even when you think you hit your opponent. The button controls are fairly straight forward with power coming from pulling the left trigger while hitting the same buttons for normal hits and kicks. You'll be able to grapple and pull off simple grapple style maneuvers. You can even pick up the chairs outside the ring and wail away on your opponent as I mentioned earlier. Each and every character has a finishing maneuver which can be triggered by filling your Impact meter. The Impact meter will fill as you wreak havoc on your opponent with various combos and moves. When the meter fills completely and flashes, you will hear a sound informing you that the meter is full and you'll then have to grapple your opponent into a head hold. Once you have your opponent you can then hit B and pull off the finisher. Now just because its a finisher does not mean your opponent cannot kick out of the final pin.

When you are pinned or stunned in the game you'll be prompted to quickly jiggle the thumbstick quickly in order to regain composure or to kick out of the pin. Kicking out of the pin successfully all depends on how much damage your body has taken. So you will not always be able to kick out, so just keep that in mind. When jiggly the stick a meter will appear and it will fill up as you quickly move the stick. If you are able to fill the meter and it turns to green then you'll kick out of the pin. Again, its fairly difficult, but kicking out of anyone's finishing move should be difficult. Thats why its called a g the ropes and pulling off high flying maneuvers also seems to work fairly well. At times the AI will just stand their and take the punishment you deal out from the top of the ropes, but a human opponent can dodge the attacks or even counter them if they are on their feet and moving around. Getting onto the ropes is simple and pulling off the high risk maneuvers is once again simple as well with the press of a button.

As I stated earlier the game ships with a story mode which is in fact a pretty good and compelling story. Even for wrestling! The story starts out with an up and coming wrestler name Suicide who rises to the top of the ladder and obtains the championship belt. Other folks had different plans and wanted Suicide to take a dive in the match, but he refused to do so. Once the match is over, he pays the price and is beaten to a pulp outside the arena and left for dead. He then awakes in Mexico with very little recollection of his past or his name and recovers after extensive plastic surgery and operations to save his life. Of course, being in Mexico, he makes his way back into professional wrestling unaware of who he is. This is where you character comes into play. Since there was plenty of extensive plastic surgery, there is no problem bringing in your character to play the part of the main character that used to be Suicide. A very believable scenario, again I know. Pretty crazy when we're talking professional wrestling.

You traverse through many matches making your way back to TNA and working your way up the ladder again. You'll make friends and enemies along the way, and who knows, maybe you'll get your shot at the title once again. But you can best bet there will be some folks standing in your way on the way to the top. Perhaps even the folks that took you out once before. This all makes for a compelling story and drives you to continue winning matches and moving further in the story mode. I'd have to say this is one of the best story modes that I have played in a wrestling game in quite some time. While its pretty linear in design, its got depth and keeps up your interest which is pretty important to me.

Xbox Live play seemed fairly lag free, smooth and responsive to controls from what I played. Now of course a lot of lag is based on your opponents connection to you so not everyone will always experience smooth online play of course. There are online leaderboards based no your wins and losses and you'll gain rank titles as you pile up the online wins. All the match types that are available offline are available online as well including tag team, ultimate x and others.

Overall, Midway has put out a solid wrestling product that should compete with its rival very well. Even if you are a fan of the rival faction, you should definitely give TNA Impact a run through. I think you'll find that its a very well made game and I look forward to the future of this franchise. While there is room for improvement in all the aspects of the game, it does not mean that the game is less than par. Its right where it should be for the first of the series, and I would be willing to say its a little better than I was first expecting.

In the create a wrestler mode please allow us to import our own music tracks into the game for entrances. Broaden the list of wrestler's included in the game. Allow us to create our own Pay Per View cards and play through them, almost like a GM mode if you will.

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.2 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.8 / 10


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