Wednesday, September 24, 2008

TNA iMPACT! Game Review

If there's anything I love more than sports, it's my brand spanking new PlayStation3. And since it's so new, the only game I have for it as of now is Madden 09 (Hey, no snickering!). And as most of you know, I'm a huge pro wrestling fan (and if you have not checked, please head over to the BWE site to see what we're up to! No, not now! Wait until I'm finished here!)

So when I heard the only direct competition to Vince McMahon's wrestling dynasty was coming out with a game, I was intruigued. I have played every game in WWE's SmackDown! series, and it has gotten stale over the past two or three years. So TNA's game is a refreshing addition to a very limited genre. I went to pick up a copy of the game at the local Family Video store (because I just can't stand LackLuster Video's selection anymore). After about a week after the game's release, I rented the brand new TNA game from Midway.

Get used to seeing this, often.

First off, if you're a PS3 owner, get the game and let it install immediately, because it takes at least 20 minutes. Yeah, I thought that was crazy myself. The game opens with a really cool video highlighting TNA Wrestling and is well worth a watch. Then, you get to the main menu. All the obvious options are there, and I would strongly recommend you go to the Options menu and watch the training videos, especially if you're a WWE gamer such as myself. These controls take some time getting used to! There's a button for kicks, a button for punches, a "strong modifer," and of course a counter button. The problem is, the basic buttons are easy to use, but if you want to use more than 4 moves in your very limited moveset, you have to look at the instruction manual and figure out which buttons to press and which direction to move the left stick in. The ease of execution for finishers saves the control scheme (simply lock up and hit the O button).

Who reads a newspaper these days?

With any wrestling game, there are only two modes that anyone cares about: Story Mode & Create-A-Wrestler. And TNA iMPACT! melds the two together. (SPOILER ALERT!!! Story details are about to be revealed!) You start Story mode with a nice introduction of how your character, named Suicide, has been tearing it up in TNA, basically dominating all your opponents. Unfortunately, someone is unhappy with you, and demands that you take a dive in the next match for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Obviously you don't and you meet the tag team LAX (Latin American Xchange). And by meet, I mean get beaten to within an inch of your life and left for dead in Mexico. No, I didn't just make that up.

Not another The Mummy movie!

You wake up in a run-down hospital room in Tijuana with no idea who you are, your face heavily bandaged and doctors telling you they can help fix you up (you know, because all the top plastic surgeons practice in the middle of nowhere). This is when you enter Create-A-Wrestler. You get to use the limited options available to sculpt your character. While the choices are limited, they are options that make sense like jeans, shorts, tights, shirts, etc. Once you are finished, you are thrust into one of the most mind-numbingly crazy stories ever devised. I have wondered if TNA's head writer Vince Russo had a hand in writing this, because it has so many annoying Russo-esq moments.

Big Kev will watch your back in TNA. Sorta.

The story puts you in a very cool looking "arena" in the middle of a Mexican nighborhood where you have to fight in a three matches to win a chance to fly to the States and compete for an indy promotion. When you win a match at the Armory, you will be challenged by a TNA star for a chance to fly to the Impact Zone in Orlando to ply your craft in TNA Wrestling. Are you following so far? Good, because that was just the beginning. Once you make it to TNA, you will meet Kevin Nash, and he decides to take you under his wing. And in his "brillance" he decides to team you with Eric Young, a TNA star who is basically afraid of everything. Tag matches in this game suck, plain and simple. The A.I. does not understand when to come in and help you, but the CPU's team blatantly attacks you whenever they feel like it. During this time, you will notice something about the game that may annoy you. More on this later. After more tag matches than there are teams in the game, you will get a shot at the TNA Tag Team Champions, and guess who that is. If you guessed LAX, congratulations! After winning the titles, you and Eric are attacked after the match and Eric disappears.

Just 3 TNA Stars Hanging Out.

This thrusts you into the signature of TNA Wrestling, the X-Division. The X-Division consists of some of the high-flying mid-card stars of TNA, and early in TNA's history was considered the highlight of the company. This is when you will notice the difficulty of the game rise, quickly. Moves that were winning matches previously will be less effective now. Of course, you don't have to worry too much about that, since you will have only one or two new moves unlocked by this point anyway. The signature match of the X-Division is the Ultimate X. For this match, two cables are crossed in the form of an X and hung over the ring attached to steel beams on either side of the ring. An object, in this case an X, is hung in the middle of the X of the cables and the only way to win the match is to grab the X. The controls for the match and general execution is surprisingly good. Climbing and hanging on the cables is intuitive and looks very good. And the mini-game for grabbing the X, while annoying at first, is one of the few ways the match could have been executed. What happens is, when your wrestler gets to the X, you press a button to reach for the X and then a meter appears above the X with a green area in the middle and a moving target which you have to stop in the green area to advance your progress. Sounds easy, but each time you do it right, the speed of the target increases. It takes about 3 or 4 times of this to win. This is by far one of my favorite matches in the game, but after the third or fourth match in story mode, it becomes much less fun.

Holy crap! The stage exploded!

Eventually you will get a shot at the TNA X-Division Championship, but this is where the convuluted mess of the story starts to take shape as you accidentally run into Jeff Jarrett, the man who has dominated TNA since its inception (and for the wrestling smarks out there, the co-founder of the company). He tries to recruit you, but you want nothing to do with him and his group of followers, including LAX, who have caused you trouble throughout your X-Division battles. Then it is revealed that one of his followers was actually an insider your buddy Kevin Nash planted to get information about Jarrett's plans. Jarrett gets pissed and takes it out on you by black mailing you into doing his bidding. Once you win the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, Suicide regains his memory and comes to a not so surprising realization, Jeff Jarrett was behind the attack that nearly cost him his life! The final battle is against Jarrett, and good luck with that one! It took me a dozen tries to beat that lousy, well, you know!

Damn you, Sting!

And while I'm by no means the ultimate gamer, I can hold my own in the ring, but as you progress through story mode you will notice how cheap the A.I. is. I have no problem with a game being tough, but when the game counters every freaking move you throw at it, there's something wrong! I can honestly remember a match when Sting punched me in the mouth, clotheslined me, and pinned me. My other PO moment came when I had hit my finisher (the insanely awesome Cradle Shock!) on Kurt Angle, who promptly got up, walked out of the ring, grabbed a chair and smacked me with it until it disappeared! By that time, my whole body was red and the SOB pinned me for the win! That my friends is a WTH? moment.

Sting just had a stunning realization.

The biggest complaint I have with the game is the stun meter. Each time you get hit, your stun meter fills. When it fills completely, your character is stunned and is defenseless until the meter slowly empties. The only thing you can do in the mean time is risk breaking your controller by wiggling the right stick back and forth to help speed up the meter. This is the same way you kick out of pins, and it is a giant pain in the ass! I have no interest in plunking down another $50 on a new controller! I was reading on a message board about the game one person actually snapped their right stick in half doing this! Someone in the testing department did not do their job!
Overall, this game is a major disappointment. There was so much that could have been done to put the pressure on THQ & Yukes for the SmackDown! series. Ultimately, the game feels like something that just isn't ready. I think Midway should have stuck this game back in the oven and let it cook a little longer, because after beating Story mode in two days I played one final Ultimate X match and put the game away. There is very little replay value in this game, which is a big problem. Ultimately, the game is well worth a $7 rental. But there is no reason whatsoever to buy this game until it's in a bargin bin $20 game.
Final Score: 6.1 out of 10
I will also be reviewing the new SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 game when it launches in early November. If you would like more info on either game, is the place to go. They are doing the traditional Smackdown Countdown right now for SvR 2009. Good stuff, highly recommended.
Photos courtesy:


Lester's Legends said...

I'm not a gamer, but those graphics look great.

David Funk said...

Great review Paul. I'm with Lester on the graphics.

Yeah, the AI is always important to me in terms of a quality game. I can understand the disappoint of the game on that alone.

Still, it was an honest and objective view that everyone should pay attention to if they're to check the game out in anyway.