TNA iMPACT! Xbox 360 Review

May 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

It has to be said that in recent years the WWE SmackDown! series has been losing its way, following the strong entry in the franchise that was Here Comes the Pain, it has sadly been mostly downhill since then. Finally, after years alone, THQ’s wrestling series has some competition in the form of TNA iMPACT!.

I’ll say this right now; don’t expect to find the vast amount of features that you would in a SmackDown! game, it’s lacking match types, moves and even some of the most basic of wrestling rules. Midway have concentrated on the area where it matters most (and I‘m not talking about something like Booker T‘s dreadlocks or Scott Steiner‘s Popeye muscles), although I still can’t understand why all matches are played out under no disqualification rules, as this means that you are able to wrap a chair (the only weapon in the game) around your opponents skull whenever you feel the need to, you never need to worry about rope breaks when you are applying submissions and attempting to pin your opponent, nor are count outs a concern when you leave the six-sided ring by your very own will or are evicted from it by the wrath of your opponent.

The game has gone with the basic weak and strong attack system (the amount of grapples is sadly rather limited), one reversal button, an interesting submission button pressing game and a pin system which involves wiggling the stick to kick out of pins, as well as a finisher and stun meter. The controls for all these actions are generally as smooth as the animations that happen in the ring, and viewing the silly but entertaining tutorial videos, with voiceovers from actual TNA wrestlers (some of which have had creative input during the development of the game), should be the first stop for those new to the six-sided ring who want to know it all straight from the off, but just can‘t be bothered to read the instruction manual.

Whether you are punching or kicking, grappling, or leaping on an opponent, holding down a strong modifier button will give your opponent a good thumping (the sports entertainment kind of course), which obviously wears them down quicker. Don‘t even think of attempting to throw a long sequence of the same move at your opponent though, varying your attacks is what the game expects of you, and doing so will fill up your iMPACT! meter at a more rapid pace.

When the iMPACT! meter peaks you are then able to pull off your finishing move all of which are performed from a standing strong grapple and a button press. As for the stun meter, this is one bar that you don’t want to see maxed out (unless it’s your opponents of course) as being hit with move after move will raise it, eventually rendering you dazed and confused. For those unfortunate to be in this groggy state all you can do is madly shake the stick as all moves, performed by the more healthy and aware opponent, are irreversible until the meter is once again depleted. An empty stun meter will then allow you to get back on the offence, or at least attempt to (god loves a tryer apparently).

Another point of interest of wrestling game fans is the reversal system, and when I heard that there was only one counter button I expected the game to play out similar to the early SmackDown! games with reversal after reversal, but such button mashing won’t do you much good here. Countering an opponents attack is very much skill based and different moves can be reversed at different moments, whilst reversals themselves can even be, um, reversed, leading to some great sequences of moves. If you find your opponent constantly reversing some of the your offensive actions, stunning them will at least give you the opportunity to use them without the fear of you being slammed to the mat. During one of the tutorial videos The Black Machismo tells us that every move in the game can be reversed, and whilst many of them can there’s others that are seemingly irreversible, sorry Black Machismo but I think you’re wrong about this.

The TNA is less about limb holds than the WWE, although the game boasts quite a good submission system. When limbs are being bent in directions that they were never meant to go, the one using the hold (which would be painful if it wasn’t fake) and the one locked in it are forced into a button pressing mini game. It’s as basic as pressing the buttons that appear under the name of your chosen wrestler, with the fastest to input the button command, being the winner. If the submission user wins, the limb bending will continue until his opponent inputs their buttons faster or until the game tells him to stop the wrenching, although it has to be said that whilst the whole system is a good idea, it can be a little unfair at times. If one player is given an AAA command to input and another is given AYB, it’s likely that the AAA is going to be input faster, therefore wouldn’t it have made more sense for both players to have been given the same command for each struggle?

Moving forward and onto options, the game has a decent amount of matches which includes everything from singles matches, falls count anywhere, submission, tag, free for all, handicap and Ultimate X. Tag matches work as tag matches should, thus tagging out will see the wrestler on the apron recuperating, meaning you can actually make use of real (in the sports entertainment sense) tag team strategies to keep your team fresh, shame about the complete absence of double-team moves though, and not having the option to bring in an AI controlled partner to make the save is an oversight, particularly as the AI can be very poor at times. Ultimate X is one of TNA’s exclusive spectacles and involves wrestlers climbing along ropes in a bid to untie a red X, here it has been recreated very well indeed with all the climbing, falls and bumps that you would expect. Untying the X is a simple case of filling a progress bar up by stopping a moving icon in the centre of a meter, although it’s less simple when your opponent/s are attempting to do the same thing and they obviously won’t just sit back to watch your hands get busy with untying the X. Any match with the potential for more than one opponent (free for all, tag, handicap and Ultimate X) is always good fun , but noteworthy is the fact that there’s no automatic target swapping, which makes for some awkward stick flicking in the direction of your desired target.

There’s also a story mode which is unfashionably linear for a wrestling game. The story sees you taking control of the masked Suicide (voiced by ex-TNA wrestler, Senshi, in the most cheesy manner imaginable) who is left with amnesia after being battered and bruised by LAX. Following reconstructive surgery you are then tasked with creating Suicide’s new look through a rather basic create a wrestler option, basically after this, you have to start your career from scratch once again, beginning in Mexico and then being given the opportunity for some try out matches in TNA, ultimately and rightfully getting back your spot on TNA’s weekly iMPACT!. The mode is short, frustrating and oddly has you playing certain matches over and over again, so this isn’t where the most fun is to be had.

The online mode is where the least fun is to be had though, as it is it’s plagued by connection issues, glitches and players who just want to win. These people will cheat to do so, and they’ll also quit matches if they find themselves close to being pinned without any penalty whatsoever. I certainly won’t be going back to the online mode until this mess has been patched. If you can’t do it right just don’t do it at all.

The visuals certainly fair better, with amazing wrestler models and slick motion captured animations, only let down by the collision detection which can be comically off at times. The commentary from the real life TNA iMPACT! duo of Mike Tenay and Don West is decent enough and makes the game feel like a TNA show, although it’s far too repetitive. I played a submission match and Tenay said over and over again that “I can’t believe he got out of that” when holds were escaped from, in fact those words have been buzzing around my head for days now, almost like a catchy tune that can’t easily be forgotten, but much more annoying.

TNA Impact! Is a good initial attempt at a wrestling game, that even manages to do a lot of things better than SmackDown!. It’s certainly a more smooth and fluid game than THQ’s series has ever been and is also a lot of fun, although, it’s not all praise, I can put up with the lack of some things, but there’s no excuse for the lack of moves and the poor online mode. Nevetheless, I certainly look forward to seeing where Midway goes next from this very good starting point.