Review: TNA Impact! (Sony PS3)

TNA IMPACT
Developer: Midway Studios – LA
Publisher: Midway
Genre: Wrestling
Release Date: 09/10/2008


I really haven’t been a wrestling fan in years. I stopped watching after Wrestlemania X8 when Vince managed to blow the NWO angle. Of course I was primarily an AWA, UWF and AJ/NJPW fan, so it’s no surprise the WWE being a monopoly eventually wore me out.

That isn’t to say I stopped watching wrestling all together. I own 26 wrestling dvd’s, which include the big ass Summerslam and Royal Rumble anthologies. So it just means occasionally I get to see something new. Sometimes it’s great (Royal Rumble 2007) and sometimes it’s well…not.

A few years ago, friends of mine raved about this new company called TNA. It was supposedly a mix of Smokey Mountain, ECW, and Mid-South in feel. It had Ken Shamrock, Jeff Hardy, Raven and a bunch of new guys. So when Don West had one of his crazy DVD deals I picked up four TNA dvd’s to see if it would interest me. They were: Best of Raven, Best of AJ Styles, Best of Jeff Hardy, and the Most Violent Matches, or something like that. Out of all four, the only one that really interested me was the Jeff Hardy disk. The others were okay, but I’ve seen Raven/Sandman zillions of times live at the ECW arena and AJ Styles was the most over-rated wrestler I’d seen in a long time. So I traded them all in and never really gave TNA much thought after that.

Then I was called on to review this game by Jon Widro and some friends of mine over at Pulse Wrestling. See, even though I’ve been out of the loop with WRESTLING (I will not call it Sports Entertainment), I know my stuff. That and everyone loved my Macho Man Diaries for the virtually unplayable Wrestlemania XXI for the Xbox. However when I mentioned to the Pulse’s resident wrestling guru Pulse Glazer that I was playing this game his words were a foreboding, “Oh Christ.” I was surprised. I mean this game has Angle, STING(!), Booker T, Scott Steiner, Kevin Nash, Jeff Jarrett, and wait…is this TNA or legends of WCW? Thankfully the game came with a bonus disc of five matches and there were yet another five matches on the game itself as bonus material. Before playing the game I watched all ten matches…and was actually pretty bored with the content, seeing as they were all 95% punches and kicks, then trading finishers. Even a Sandman/New Jack brawl had more wrestling moves then these matches. But don’t think that means I’m anti-wrestling. I just finished the Mr. Perfect DVD that came out on 9/9 and I loved it. They might not have been the best matches to represent Curt, but I’ll take 2 Bret/Hennig matches, and any Kerry Von Erich/Perfect match anyday.

So the question that remains is, was TNA IMPACT as boring a game as I found their matches, do we finally have a wrestling game that can break the stranglehold Yukes/THQ has on the North American market with its below average games (Although Sd Vs. Raw 2k6 was the best I’ve seen by them in half a decade), or maybe, just maybe, we have a game that has pushed Wrestlemania XXI to the silver and WCW Thunder to the bronze in the “Worst Wrestling Game Ever” competition.

1. Story/Modes

I’ll say this right out: This game is bare bones. You have about as many options as you did in WWF War Zone for the PSX. There are no steel cage matches, no six man tag matches, no battle royals, no anything. Your options are limited to:

One-on-One
Tag Match
Submission (which as you will see later on, is pretty much every match)
Handicapped
Falls Count Anywhere
Falls Count Anywhere Tag
Ultimate X
Ultimate X tag

Wow. That’s….really shallow. Even my WWF game for the Sega CD has a Steel Cage match. Sadly it just gets worse from there.

The CAW (Create-a-Wrestler) mode is the worst I have ever seen. You have approximately half a dozen CAW slots to fill out your roster of a whopping THIRTY-ONE actual wrestlers. Ouch. This mode is exceptionally limited and shallow, where you can’t edit anything. Instead you just mix and match from a very limited selection of pre-rendered bits with an even more limited colour scheme. As always I tried to make “Macho Man” Randy Savage as my first CAW. Alas, TNA IMPACT‘s CAW did not allow me the most basic of pieces like a proper orange set of trunks or WHITE BOOTS. What the hell people? I can’t have WHITE as a color option?

It gets worse from there, as the game originally touted over 2,000 moves. In fact, the number is closer to a whopping 100. EVERY CAW is stuck with the same moveset once you make them and you have to get new moves by unlocking them and THEN spending style points on them. I sure love seeing everyone’s finisher being an F-U. Or the fact that if I want a chop (the first move you unlock), it costs 3,000 style points and you earn about 1-1,500 points per match. It’s a bloody chop! Wait until you see the cost of things like a headbutt or an actual grapple. This is honestly the worst CAW mode I’ve ever seen, and there have pretty some doozies out there.

Then we have story mode. Oh god do we have story mode. You are Suicide. You are a big purple version of La Parka. You are basically Goldberg in a super villain costume. Then you are told to throw the world title match and refuse. However you don’t and then LAX brutally attack you, break all your bones, give you amnesia and leave you for dead in Tijuana where two Mexican plastic surgeons find you and remake your flesh to look however you want. I kid you not. That is the story. From there you wrestle against some generic CAWS that include a D-Lo Brown wanna-be and a juggalo before joining TNA and being managed by Kevin Nash. From there you go through the roster and blah blah blah, I think the rest of the story is pretty obvious.

Story mode is pretty awful, save for the occasional comic bit by Kevin Nash who god help me, saves this thing. As you will learn below PLAYING TNA Impact is one of the worst gaming experiences I have ever had, with story mode being the absolute worst due to how it’s all crap thrown at the wall to see what sticks.

Bottom line is that TNA Impact is a shallow title with so little options, you might think the game is from two or even three console generations ago. Story Mode is so bad it has MST3K potential and it boasts the worst CAW system I have ever seen. If this was a budget game, I’d be more inclined to be nice, but at $60? This is a kick to the nuts and a slap in the face of wrestling fans everywhere.

Modes Rating: Dreadful

2. Graphics

I’m torn here. The backgrounds, fans, rings, and everything else in TNA Impact are quite good. Even some of the wrestlers, like Shark Boy look amazing. Most of the wrestlers however, again look like an early PS2/late PS1 product.

Then there is CAW mode which is a mess. Parts don’t seamlessly blend into each other. No siree. You can SEE the seams of where parts connect, leaving your wrestler a jaggie odd mess. With a LOT of time and patience you can make something that say, resembles a wrestler. Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, Dan Severn and the like are all possible. But your options for real wrestlers are pretty limited and regardless of what you make, it won’t be at the same quality of the guys that are pre-made. This really sucks because most people play to make CAWS, and battle with CAW’s. But with TNA Impact, you can’t even do that because you a) have less CAW slots then in any wrestling game since the concept was invented and b) you can’t play online with them anyway, ho ho ho.

When most of your wrestlers look at least a generation behind what is possible for a console, why would you play this when the WWE product looks superior and offers more modes and more CAW slots? It’s not like you can’t make Captain Charisma or Chris Sabin in those. God help me, I just endorsed the Smackdown Vs. Raw series. I feel so dirty.

Excellent background visuals, but pretty poor wrestler models. Thumbs in the middle over all.

Graphics Rating: Mediocre

3. Sound

Wow, TNA has some pretty bad theme music. It also doesn’t help that my particular game seems to want to only ever play AJ Styles theme music in the menu screens. Ugh.

What’s nice is that the game has all the wrestlers doing their own voice work, with some more motivated then others. What I loved most about the audio is the enthusiasm of the announcers. This is the ONE area where TNA Impact is superior to WWE games. Mike Tenay really makes the matches feel real and it was great to hear him again as he has that old school Gordon Solie style announcer that I enjoy.

The problem is that the game basically treats TNA wrestling as a joke. When you’re in the ring you will hear a generic voice making odd, nearly erotic style grunting when you pick people up or the occasional “Oh no oh no oh no.” What the hell? This utterly destroys the suspension of disbelief and I can’t imagine why anyone would throw this in!

It gets worse with a certain guitar riff you will here at least half a dozen times a match, regardless of your difficulty setting. That’s the reversal music. You will hear this a lot and you will grow to hate it. It is one of the most annoying sounds I have heard in a game and it’s the most common sound IN this particular game. Awful awful awful.

So what do we have? Bad music, a wide array of voice acting, some excellent commentary and some of the worst in ring sound effects I have ever heard. I can’t condemn the game fully as the guys are generally more motivated here then the WWE roster for their acting bits in the game, but for all the aural aspects put in by Midway themselves, oh yeah, it’s not good.

Sound Rating: Mediocre

4. Control and Gameplay

Hands down, this is the worst wrestling game I have ever played. WMXXI may have been a buggy mess, but I could have MATCHES that resembled actual wrestling. In WCW Thunder, wrestlers at least had different movesets and the controls were intuitive. TNA Impact? A complete crap dump in every way possible. Please bear with me as I now go into an exceptionally long rant about everything that is wrong with this game.

A. Running. In order to run, you have to hold the run button down. You can’t press once to start and again to stop. No, you hold it down constantly. This is awful

B. When you fall to the mat you have to press the four face buttons rapidly to get up. However while doing this you are utterly prone to stomps and ground moves. You can however choose to jab away at the R1 button which is your reversal button, but if you are hitting the get up buttons it will ignore the reversal attempt. So you can either try to get up and be pummeled, or you can try to reverse and just not get up. Amazingly stupid.

C. The game claims that every move is reversible, and for the most part that is true. Except for stomps and fistdrops. See problem B.

D. The computer reverses. A lot. Regardless of difficulty. In fact most of the moves the game will ever do to you are reversals. Your reversal attempts work only a fraction of the time, while you will be able to predict when and how the computer will reverse you

E. 95% of the game is kicks and punches. There is little to no grappling, unless you initiate it, and half of those grapples are reversed on you anyway. What I have learned is the best way to win a match is to use your running kick (always a dropkick) and then climb the ropes and do top rope moves to wear them down. Yes, it is easier to do top rope moves than anything else in the game. How screwed up is that?

F. Have fun trying to pin your opponent. They will kick out of 95% of what you do, including your finishers. However, when you are so much as stomped or elbowed, you will be pinned 75% of the time. From a SINGLE MOVE. In order to kick out you need to wiggle the analog sticks to fill your kick out meter. When it is full, you kick out. Two problems. The first is that your meter is insanely slow, hence the being pinned by just about anything. The computer’s? INSANELY FAST. As in a lot of 1-2 counts, even when they are highly damaged. Frustrating and poorly designed. It doesn’t matter who you play as or what difficulty, this still happens.

G. Much like the Touken Restuden or Aki WWF games, your health is shown by a body outline by your name. Your body, head and limbs will go from Green (Yay!) to Red (Ow!) through the course of the match. The redder you are, the easier you are to pin. Not the computer, just you. There is no rhyme or reason to pinning the computer. Ten chair shots by me followed by a finisher? 2 count. Reverse a hip toss by him after doing no other moves in the match? THREE! Oh lordy.

H. There is no ref.

I. There are no countouts.

J. There are no DQ’s.

K. The computer’s AI is non-existent. One of my favorite things to do was go outside the ring and run around the ring until I came to the ring steps. EVERY TIME, regardless of my opponent, the computer would not run around the stairs, but into them, taking damage. Then I would stand on the other side of the stairs from him and when he got up, start running again. BAM! More stair damage. If I had a video camera I would tape this and put it on Youtube for you all. It is hilarious and sad.

L. When you are wiggling your analog sticks, you will inevitably hit the PS button in the middle of your joystick. Usually this acts as a pause button or time out for the game. Not with TNA Impact as the game keeps playing! Oy.

M. The same button for pinning is the same button for getting out of the ring and for climbing the top rope. As you might imagine, you generally do one thing instead of the one you actually wanted.

N. There are no double team moves and the computer controlled partner is more of a hindrance then a help. Just take handicap mode. You’ll feel better.

O. There are no moves in this game. EVERY wrestler seems to have the same basic moveset with only a few differences. I hope you like samoan drops, belly to belly suplexes, hip tosses and vertical suplexes, and that pretty much the only moves you will see throughout most of your play time aside from submissions and finishers.

P. Speaking of finishers, there are only 30 possible in the game. Have fun with that.

Q. There are only 17 wrestlers in the game to start with and you have to unlock the other 14. Hilariously D-Von Dudley is not locked, but Bubba Ray is. Because I sure know I love D-Von as a singles competitor.

R. You only get one finisher per wrestler. It must be a front grapple. There are no top rope finishers. There are no submission finishers. That’s right. Kurt Angle doing the anklelock? Nope. Sorry. Sting doing the freakin’ SCORPION DEATH LOCK? Nope. Sorry. Jay Lethal doing an Exploder Dragon Suplex instead of the Macho Man elbow? What the heck? The Macho Man elbow ISN’T EVEN IN THE GAME as an option for me after having beaten story mode.

S. Matches are exceptionally short. I have never had a match go longer then 10 minutes.

T. At the end of the match you are given a stat count showing how many moves you did and of what kind compared to the computer. You will laugh with tears in your eyes at times when you see you did ten times the moves the computer did, but it had 12 reversals, nothing else, and you still lost. Ho ho ho.

U. Taunting recovers health. All taunts are generic and go on forever.

V. There is a lot of bad animation in the game. Take this example of the computer reversing my armbar. The computer is on the mat. I press for a submission. I get the reversal noise and then see an animation of my guy going for an armbar, then standing up, and picking up the opponent, who gives me a Muta leg lariat. What. The. Heck? If you are going to reverse everything Midway, make it a FLUID reversal.

W. The Stun meter. The stun meter is similar to a guard crush in a fighting game. As the game goes on, your stun meter fills. It never goes down. It just fills. Once it is full, you are dizzy and can do nothing. Here you are supposed to wiggle the analog stick to make your time go down faster. This is a lie. I timed it on multiple occasions and wiggling the sticks does nothing. Even if you are cranking on that thing with lightning speed, it goes down as slowly as if you never touched it. Not so for the computer though. Of course.

X. There are some definite detection issues with the game. For example, I was Booker T and the computer was My Olympic Hero. I did a Booker T body slam and Kurt rolled around on the ring and then phased through the ring post to the outside. No, he didn’t go under the ropes. He rolled through the pole of the ring like he was a ghost. You’ll also see weirdness like this any time you are near the ropes. Nice to know TNA is populated by grappling specters.

Y. Your camera is a static one. What this means is that the camera never moves. NEVER. So if you are say, in a single match on the far side of the ring and one wrestler is on the ground, you can’t see them. Good luck pressing buttons in a vain attempt to find them. Oh wait. REVERSAL!

Z. Ah submissions. This is generally the easiest aspect of the game and once you figure out how to pull this pattern I am about to explain off, you will only lose if you get into a reversal situation. Here’s the thing, the computer taps out exceptionally easy. Just pull of 4-5 submission moves in the course of a match to the same body part and you win! You see, when you do a submission move you enter a mini game where you press a series of three specified buttons. If you do it first, you do damage. If the computer hits it first or you do it incorrectly, the hold is broken. If you do this pattern three times in a row, the hold is broken, but they have taken limb damage. On the fourth or fifth time of doing this sequence correctly your opponent’s limbs will be in the red and they will without hesitation, tap out. Getting a submission win is a million times easier then getting a pin. So do a dropkick, then a submission. Then go up top and while the computer character looks at you like an idiot, jump off, knock him down, and do a submission. Occasionally do a grapple and then a submission. Repeat and in five minutes or less, you have a submission win. THIS. IS. INSANE. It’s nice to know that I can hit three finishers in a match and only get two counts, but if I do this weird leg submission that looks like I am trying to do a single leg crab but can’t quite get him over, then I can make the dude tap out.

AA. I hope you like load times. TNA Impact takes 17 minutes to load onto your PS3 and takes up 3.5 gigs of space. Even after all that there are load times for everything. Loads to go into the match. Loads to go back to the main menu. Jesus, there is even loading time after the match and you have to wait for the “Rematch/Main menu Option.” Then you have to wait for the choices to appear. What the heck?

BB. You can not skip things. This means you have to watch the full ending celebration every time. Why?

CC. Online play is available but you can only use premade wrestlers and from the six matches I played, everyone is so freaking paranoid thanks to the high level of reversals in this game, that your matches are mostly punches, kicks, and running moves. LAME.

DD. At no time are you told what moves your character does. ANY character. You are told what each button does, but you have no idea what direction + the triangle button does one move and so on. It really doesn’t matter as the game seems to randomly pick for you rather then have an assigned function. I tried triangle plus each of the four directions and each time it was this damned weird variation of the samoan drop.

Okay, I’ve now hit three and a half pages of what is wrong with the control and gameplay with TNA Impact Thirty different quibbles ranging from unintentionally funny to outright “Should not have been released.” This just isn’t a quality game in any respect and I can honestly, at this moment, not think of a single kind word to say about this aspect of the game. It truly is the worst wrestling game I’ve ever played. And this is coming from a guy who thought it was fitting that EB and Gamestop refused to take back copies of WMXXI or even trade them in for store credit. This my friends, is a bad game whether you compare it to the worst game in the genre or let it stand “proudly” on its own.

Control and Gameplay Section: Worthless

5. Replayability

Well, if you want to unlock all the wrestlers, there’s always the 6-10 hours story mode, depending on how good you are at the game. After that, there’s nothing. You have no season mode, you can’t use CAW’s online, playing against the computer is frustrating or very easy, depending on how cheap you want to be. The game plays and feels nothing like an actual wrestling match. The only real reason to play the game is if you are a big TNA mark and you want authentic Samoa Joes or Shark Boys instead of CAW ones. You know what though? My Shark Boy in SD vs Raw 2k6 for the PS2 looks better and has a more accurate move set for the poor guy and it lacks the annoying Steve Austin ripoff gimmick he’s been using as of late.

Honestly, once you are done the very linear and annoying Story mode, there is no reason to ever play this game again. It’s like an Adventure game with button mashing bits. And worse gameplay and graphics and everything else.

Replayability Rating: Dreadful

6. Balance

I think I overlapped my issues and severe disdain for the balance in this game with my Control and Gameplay section. Needless to say, the game lacks any and all semblance of balance. I noticed no differences at all between the difficulty settings. The computer is exceptionally cheap with the reversals. Its stun meter will always go down much faster than yours, it will kick out of pretty much everything, it does more damage, recovers faster, and generally is superior to you in every way, save for being unable to take a submission move. This is even worse with your CAWS as they NEVER GET BETTER. You never do more damage or gain better stats. You have no idea how much damage the unlocked moves do and thus, you are unsure if they are worth the exorbitant point amounts they require. It’s a blind crap shoot and Midway should have either done the experience point thing and had every move available from the start or nixed the XP aspect and just unlocked the moves.

This game does nothing right in regards to balance, AI issues, or making the game competitive and/or fun. You’re either in for reversal-o-rama, or a cheap unrealistic match involving lots of submissions aerial assaults and running moves. Either way, the game is a mess. Not an unplayable mess mind you, but a mess nonetheless.

Bottom line, it’s utterly unbalanced, especially in story mode, which is the only real mode worth playing since there’s actual content there.

Balance rating: Worthless

7. Originality

It’s a wrestling game. A bare bones wrestling game that is about three or four steps behind what has been shown to be possible.

I will however give the game credit for the sheer weirdness of the story mode, the six sided ring (which is in every match, even indie feds in story mode before you hit TNA) and the Ultimate X match which plays like a cross between a Ladder Match and the dreaded “15 Foot High Steel Cage.” Really though, TNA Impact is the exact opposite of innovation because it’s so shallow. It’s nice to see a new type of match out there for wrestling gamers, but honestly, I’d have rather had a Terrordome or Six Sides of Steel Match.

Weak title, weak options, and overall the game feels thrown together to make a quick buck then really stand out as an alternative to the WWE games.

Originality Rating: Dreadful

8. Addictiveness

I don’t know. Maybe I’m a masochist or a sore loser, but when I dominate an entire match, and then get hit by two moves and am pinned, I want a bloody rematch so that I can stomp the computer in. I can’t really accuse the computer of cheating in these instances, because it’s not. It’s just that badly designed. Still, there was a perverse need to continue as I watched my Randy Savage, who wrestled with sunglasses and could not take them off, get battered and beaten and pinned for the first half of story mode until I figured out the submission cheese and somehow because a submission machine that would make Bret Hart shake his head in sadness. OOOOOOH YEAH BROTHER!

The game was also hilarious to me when I wasn’t swearing at the sheer stupidity of it. Macho Man not being able to do an elbow drop, but defeating Sting with a sleeper hold? The sheer insanity of the story mode plot line where random TNA wrestlers show up at Air Force Bases to hand out contacts to indie guys? Matches where you can do damage to your opponent by rolling out of the ring onto them? Matches where wrestlers constantly trip over stairs or have no concept of tag teamwork or where you do the same 3 moves over and over again like HHH/Big Poppa Pump at a certain Royal Rumble? I hated this game, but at the same time I continued playing just to add to my litany of insane happenings I encountered. I’m not sure if spite is a good example of what makes one continue to play a game, but that’s the case here!

Addictiveness Rating: Poor

9. Appeal Factor

Wrestling fans are a funny thing. Especially wrestling video game fans. Let’s go back to WMXXI. Even after every website on the planet it bashed it to high hell before the patch (which only partially helped) you could see apologists on message boards saying, “Well, I’m still going to buy it even though it sucks.” That my friends, is an audience everyone on Madison Avenue would kill for. Sure this crazy zealous group of people who will buy anything WWE related for their console were had their caps lock stuck on and used a lot of swear words as their reasoning behind why the game “wasn’t that bad,” but they were still there. Thankfully it’s a teeny weeny part of the population, as from my experience, the IWC is actually a jaded lot.

TNA has a MUCH smaller audience and thus a much smaller potential buyer base. A lot of wrestling fans will hate the game because of how it plays, because of the six sided ring, because of the poor match quality and so on. But there will be some desperate for a non-WWE controlled wrestling game in English. There will also be the hardcore TNA marks, of which there surely must be a few. I mean, I own an original signed La Parka mask for god’s sake. I understand an insane loyalty to something/someone . Still, TNA Impact is going to test that TNA loyalty and also other people’s loathing for Vinnie Mac.

Every game is someone’s favorite and even the best games have their detractors. So far though, I’ve yet to hear ANYONE be positive about this game who has played it, and that includes the guys over at GameFAQS, who usually love everything. Ouch.

Appeal Factor: Bad

10. Miscellaneous

As mentioned at the beginning of this review, this game comes with five free matches, and another five on a separate DVD if you preordered the game. That’s a pretty sweet deal, even if I wasn’t terribly impressed by any of the matches save the Knockouts Gauntlet. Gail Kim and Awesome Kong are quite excellent workers from that exposure. And it’s these free matches that give TNA Impact just enough of an edge to get a higher score then I gave WMXXI all those years ago (Three dot five to be exact). Other than that your extras are trailers for other games, so wrestlers guiding you through a tutorial where you can’t press any buttons while watching it or they will end (which is a bit odd, don’t you think) and some behind the scenes video packages. It’s sad that I enjoyed the extras in the game more than the game itself, but it is also telling. Of course I didn’t even really enjoy the extras all that much, so there you go.

Look. I appreciate the attempt at a new game. I applaud it in fact. Anything to give some variety between WWE games and the occasional Fire Pro Wrestling titles, which I love, but really haven’t changed that much since the series began. However, this is a heavily flawed game and will no doubt highlight in many people’s minds that TNA is second rate compared to Titan Sports. Whether that is true or not is both conjecture and opinion, but game wise, I need to urge everyone to stay the hell away from this game.

Miscellaneous Rating: Poor

The Scores
Modes: Worthless
Graphics: Mediocre
Sound: Mediocre
Control and Gameplay: Worthless
Replayability: Dreadful
Balance: Worthless
Originality: Dreadful
Addictiveness: Poor
Appeal Factor: Bad
Miscellaneous: Poor
FINAL SCORE: BAD GAME

Short Attention Span Summary

TNA Impact is pretty much tied with WMXXI as the worst wrestling game I have ever played. It does nothing right save for working when you put it in. At sixty dollars this game is a massive rip-off to wrestling fans and TNA fans in general. It’s a bare bones game lacking features and abilities put in at least two generations ago. If this had been a budget title at $20 or even $30, I’d have been a lot kinder, but when a game is this poorly slapped together it’s a disgrace to the genre. If this game is any indication of how the actual TNA show on Spike compares to RAW or Smackdown, then man, I can’t imagine why there aren’t rats fleeing it like a sinking ship.

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