REVIEW: TNA – Impact! (2008)

A Multiplatform game for DS, PS3, 360, PS2 and Wii – I reviewed the Wii version

With the upcoming AEW Dynamite game being produced by Yukes, WWE is about to have it’s first legitimate competition in the videogame sphere since 2008. That year was marked by the release of TNA Impact!, a game created to attempt to capitalize on the wave of popularity the company had at that time. Unfortunately, the game got decent reviews, but didn’t exactly blow the game industry away, and was the only game from the company. These happened for a number of reasons – Midway completely shut down soon after publication, and TNA, as a company, blew tons of money on hiring guys like Hulk Hogan and almost put themselves out of business. Even now, with the company renamed Impact Wrestling, there has not been any videogame since. I think the biggest issue I have with this game were the inferior ports to Nintendo Wii, PS2 and Nintendo DS, the former being my preferred console at the time.

At the time of release, TNA or Total Non-stop Action was a 7 year old wrestling company that more or less rose from the ashes of the now defunct WCW federation. As a HUGE fan of the federation and wrestling in general, I knew that TNA would eventually get a video game deal, especially with big names like Sting, Booker T, and Kurt Angle in their ranks. Once they announced that Midway had pulled down the license, and showed the first gameplay footage I was stoked; the game looked beautiful, and looked like it was going to play very well.

I have been playing wrestling games since the SNES days, and was salivating for a game that was easier to pick up and play than the THQ WWE Smackdown vs. Raw games. At the time, I always felt that those games had turned into wrestling simulators with insane controls for the most part and are becoming increasingly hard to play and enjoy for me. I got excited, then slowly got worried. There was one problem, they didn’t announce a TNA game for the Wii until much later, and when they did things were bad. The Wii game was announced with no create-a-wrestler, a staple of the genre for nearly a decade, or many of the other features many are accustomed to.

“TNA Wrestling is the exclusive Total Nonstop Action wrestling game based on the top-rated weekly television show, TNA Impact! Choose the wrestling style, custom move set and clothing to construct the ultimate champion. TNA drenches the player in moves and match types that allow amazing acrobatic and aerial feats along with the bone-jarring crush of hard-hitting impacts. The game also features top wrestling talent such as Kurt Angle, Jeff Jarrett, Rhino, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Sting, Christian Cage, Abyss and more to deliver all of the excitement and action of the television show!”

Is the Wii Version of TNA Impact! as bad as I had thought it would be? Unfortunately the answer is yes. Midway obviously decided to put out a Wii version of the game at the last minute, and put the sheer minimum of features into the game that would still enable it to sell. The problem is that while things were taken out, other linking pieces were left in. For example, when you start a career mode you are given a refreshing storyline where you are a masked wrestler called Suicide. Suicide is a world champion of some sort (it never says which belt) and is brushing people the wrong way backstage, so a group of assailants try to kill him and dump his body in Tijuana. Suicide is still alive and ends up in a hospital, where he has to get plastic surgery.

In the other versions of the game this is where you create your new wrestler, making him look however you want. Since the Wii version of this game is lacking this feature, all logic is tossed into the toilet, and the wrestler formerly known as Suicide returns (still wearing his old costume), but people pretend he is some other mysterious guy. Logic would say that a high profile world champion, such as Suicide, would be instantly recognizable, and it even says “Suicide” on his costume.

You even get told to customize your wrestler with new clothes at one point, a feature not in the Wii Version. I looked around the sparse menu for a while because Kevin Nash had told me to “spend my points on some new digs”, alas no “new digs”, or points for that matter. The style points you get show up after every match, but disappear after the initial revelation that you obtained them. These points, I later found out, are used to strengthen your characters in the 360 and Ps3 versions, so why they were even left in the Wii version is a mystery, and a ridiculous oversight.

I can understand why these mistakes were left in, because Midway were caught with their pants down in regards to the success of the Wii, but leaving a bunch of sloppiness in the game is almost a game-breaker for me. I wish they had simplified the story mode completely, or written a new storyline, or even not released the Wii game at all in its current state. This series of oversights literally ruins the entire presentation of the game, and unless you only do exhibition matches it kind of kills the fun.

On the graphical front, TNA Impact! isn’t bad looking, but neither is it all that great. Even though it looks better than the PS2 version of the game, it doesn’t look like anything the PS2 couldn’t handle. The animations run pretty smoothly for the most part, but there are glitches from time to time that make it look rough. That said, game seemed to run at a steady 60 fps, and I didn’t notice any sort of slowdown at all. The characters occasionally look rough around the edges, but they are fairly detailed, so much so that you can even see the fine mesh-like stitch work on Suicide’s bodysuit.

This extra detail is what makes it stand out from the PS2 version of the game. The audience looks fairly good, and even though you can see multiples of the same people running around, each person is well rendered and not just an old school cardboard stand-up. Sadly the audience doesn’t really react to the action in the ring, but that’s fine, as the action is limited to not spill into the realm of the fans.

The music is standard wrestling fare, with the theme music of all of the wrestlers and music related to each level’s location. For instance, while you are in Tijuana at the beginning of the game, music with a distinct Latin flavor is playing in the background. This music is pretty good, and for a fan of the TV program itself, I was pleased. There seems to be a trend with all sports games now to have the menus and other non-game specific sections of a game blasting tons of licensed music, usually of the nu-metal or rap variety. As a fan of neither genre, I was glad that TNA Impact! did not do this. I remember many times while playing WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2008, becoming infuriated by a certain Lil Jon song and having to mute the volume in the game while I was creating a character. I can handle wrestler theme songs, and that’s what this game has.

The other sound effects, while good, get annoying really fast. This is especially prevalent in the case of match commentary, where it seems like they only recorded 10 phrases for Mike Tenay and Don West, and just repeated them constantly. It kind of reminded me of the old NBA Jam games, except hearing the occasional “boom shaka laka” is a lot less annoying than hearing Don West say “he’s on fire” 600 times a match.

Now for the real meat and potatoes of the game: the gameplay. One of the strengths TNA Impact! has going for it is that it’s easy to pick up and play, which means that without looking at the booklet too much I was able to play the game fairly well. I found both the classic controller and Wiimote & nunchuck set-ups easy to use, and opted for the latter. The controls are fairly straight forward, A to punch, B to kick, hold C plus A or B for the strong versions etc. The only few instances of “Waggle” occur when you need to shake the Wiimote to get out of a hold or Irish whip someone into the ropes, but all you do is grapple then move the nunchuck in the direction you would like to throw them. I felt that TNA Impact! was far more streamlined and responsive than any wrestling game that came out with in about five years of it’s release, with the exception of the later AAA Lucha Libre game that was ostensibly a sequel of sorts (used the same engine). If I wanted to do a certain move it happened, and not a bunch of other stuff that usually happens in wrestling games, like unintentionally jumping out of the ring.

One thing that TNA Impact! has going for it that literally no other wrestling game will get is the signature match types specific to the federation itself. This game includes one called “Ultimate X”, where a large red X is suspended from a set of criss-crossed ring ropes above the ring. You have to beat down your opponents, and shimmy your way across the ropes for the X, hoping nobody yanks you down. These new match types are fun, but lack the variety that other wrestling games may have. The game includes a story mode involving Suicide, exhibition singles matches, exhibition tag team (with no tag team moves), submission (winner makes the opponent tap out), Falls Count Anywhere, Free For All (3 or 4 people in the ring, first pinfall or submission wins), Falls Count Anywhere tag, and a two-on-one handicap match.

I was really sad to see that there were no cage matches whatsoever, as TNA loved cage matches so much that they had a yearly Pay Per View called Lockdown that was entirely cage matches, and even had Terrordome that is a dome shaped cage. A special note to hardcore wrestling fans is that there is no blood, or variety of weapons for that matter. The only ringside weapons are a few steel chairs outside the ring. With guys like Abyss and the Dudley Boys on the roster, you’d think that some hardcore stuff would be put in.

The A.I. isn’t too bad once you get out of the easiest modes, because in those modes you can basically button mash without any strategy whatsoever. In the harder modes however, an issue that used to plague old wrestling and MMA games resurfaces. You could be literally beating the crap out of your opponent, but in the blink of an eye he could come back and pin you for a three count. This is especially bad if you have essentially injured them into a state of bed-ridden injuries, and they beat you randomly in a fluke. This is very realistic in the terms of how a wrestling match could turn out on the TV, but ungodly frustrating when you are playing a game with this. It reminds me of the rubber band A.I. found in many racing games, where you could be really destroying the competition, then get beaten towards the end of the race by a series of dumb circumstances. This is by no ways a game-breaker, but had a sequel happened I would have wished they’d have acknowledged this problem and tweaked it slightly by making the injuries bar mean more.

The roster of characters is fairly deep, including all the major mainstays of the brand. The roster includes Abyss, AJ Styles, Alex Shelley, Booker T, Chris Sabin, Christian Cage, Homicide, Rhino, Sting, Shark Boy, Sonjay Dutt, Brother Devon, Robert Roode, Eric Young, Hernandez, Jay Lethal, Kurt Angle, Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, Jeff Jarrett, Scott Steiner, Tomko, Kevin Nash, Brother Ray, and James Storm. This roster is pretty good, but as with any wrestling game, it is already way out of date by the time the game comes out. A few talents had left the federation before the making of the game, and others had changed character so much that the game immediately dated itself once you tossed the disk in. One weird thing the developers did was place a ton of unnecessary “jobber” characters from the story mode into the roster as fill-ins. Many of these generic guys seem like an attempt to pad out the roster, and make the character selection screen more impressive than it actually is.

This large roster comes with faults, however, as although Midway apparently motion captured loads of moves (according to the special features on the game), many of those moves were left out. Your characters still retain their signature moves from the real world, but this is limited, rather than a fully fleshed-out experience. What you are left with are many of the same moves recycled for every wrestler. There really is no strategy to picking a light heavyweight guy versus someone that stands 7 feet tall, because both characters more-or-less have identical moves. If you pick a smaller guy, you can jump out of the ring and do a move called a suicide dive, but one move isn’t really all that impressive.

The main draw for me that kept me loving the way that the game played despite the small list of moves, was that it had a great counter system, and played similarly to older wrestling games, especially WWF Wrestlemania 2000 and No Mercy for the Nintendo 64. This definitely makes this game an ‘easy to play, hard to master’ type of game. You could get away with just kicking, but the A.I. will quickly learn to counter that, and you’d be better off learning the counter system and other fine points. If you are looking for a more retro feel to your wrestling game then this may be the one for you as it seems to look back to what made those games fun, rather than making the game exactly like the show.

The overall value of the game can be skewed by the laundry list of faults that I have pointed out, but there are two reasons to check it out. Either you are a HUGE TNA fan and the Wii is the only current system you have, or because you can find it insanely cheap in a bargain bin like I did. The game can still be easily found on Amazon HERE or eBay HERE. Although the storyline is a new take on wrestling game storylines, and Ultimate X was fun, there really wasn’t a whole lot to keep me playing. I will admit that in other wrestling games I spend loads of time making created wrestlers, which can sometimes take hours to make, so Without this ability my playtime was cut to a fraction of what it could have been.

TNA Impact! for the Nintendo Wii is an unfortunate mess that could have been avoided. Without the bugs that come from having huge chunks of coding ripped from the game and the exclusion of key features, this game could have been really fun. No matter how much I loved the gameplay, I still couldn’t get over how sloppy this made the game feel. If I had my choice now, I would have purchased this game on another system, one where it had online play, create a wrestler mode, and downloadable content, otherwise be disappointed. While it was fun to play for a little while, this lack of features means you will bored of it within a few hours. As I mentioned before the later AAA Lucha Libre: Heroes Del Ring game was basically a spiritual successor, as it was made by the same developers, but played better.


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