Review: TNA iMPACT!: Cross the Line (PSP)

Publisher: SouthPeak Games
Developer: Point of View
Genre: Professional Wrestling
Release Date: 06/29/10

After nearly two years of teetering on uncertainty, the future of the TNA Wrestling license became a little more clear when SouthPeak picked up the publishing duties from the now-defunct Midway LA effort. Well, moving into the future might not be necessarily true as Cross the Line for the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS are actually portable ports of the wrestling label’s freshman appearance. TNA iMPACT! came and went with a whimper as reviewers were pretty lukewarm on the title, so it was a bit of a risk for SouthPeak to come in and scoop up an effort that, due to still Midway logos in the game upon booting it up, was obviously a port-over in progress. For hopefuls of the game, the changeups thrown to the title do help iMPACT! climb a couple of rungs on the ladder, but, still overall, this effort would struggle to compete even in the mid-card.

Right out of the gate – if you’re looking for TNA iMPACT!: Cross the Line to be a fresh sequel, you need to know this $30 PSP version is almost a 100 percent duplication of the efforts seen on home consoles back in 2008. The story is exactly the same, the mechanics are nearly identical to the former title, the roster is pretty much spot-on – really, I would say 95 percent of what Mark B. stated in his Xbox 360 review of iMPACT! still rings true. With my time spent on the Xbox 360 version of the title, I will say my opinion is the title isn’t as bad as most people make it out to be, but it certainly isn’t a contender for a title. Since Vince McMahon has had a near death grip on everything professional wrestling in the United States for the better part of a decade, it is refreshing to see new entries pop up without the WWE branding, but TNA really needed a sequel to stand out in this very uncrowded genre.

This is most evident in the content provided for the PSP version of the title. Unlike the Nintendo DS version, which gets branded with Hulk Hogan and other updated references, Cross the Line for the PSP is host to wrestlers that haven’t been seen on TNA programming since 2008. The roster copy-over means any notable additions since then, such as, let’s say, “The Pope,” are left out of the spotlight of relevance. Furthermore, we’re still competing in the AAA-style six-sided ring, which hasn’t been featured since around January and the commentary booth still features shill-master Don West. The story mode will make numerous references to stables, gimmicks and more that haven’t appeared in at least a year (the reference to Cornette gave me a giggle), which further makes the Suicide arc more ridiculous. But, hey – this all speaks to those following TNA programming and the game’s appeal. Let’s move on to the items that gamers will be focusing on.

Again, given the port-over, much of the title’s content is largely unchanged. The game still operates on a punch and kick set with buttons also reserved for grappling and miscellaneous actions, coupled with a trigger button that modifies said actions into “strong” variations. Players can compete in a variety of different match types that include standard matches, weapons matches, the Ultimate X, handicap matches, tag matches and more that include an X Cup themed tournament mode, an unlockable gauntlet and variations that change how many wrestlers can partake in each event. There’s a lot to do, but we’ve seen it all before and any wrestling gamer now expects all of these types of features, but with the crazy match customizations found in later WWE games, most wrestling buffs will probably expect more. The story mode still follows Suicide, a masked TNA Superstar that wins the title, but gets jumped and left for dead in Mexico for “not taking a dive.” I’m still not sure why Suicide never spent every second of the day trying to whoop LAX’s ass on TV, but, hey, I won’t judge anyone for their “forgive and forget” beliefs.

For the PSP version, items are slightly switched up to make the story even more straightforward than before. The “pro bono” doctors that patch Suicide up in Mexico merely give him a new Lucha-inspired getup to wear – yes, this means all of the bare-bones, borderline pathetic excuse for a create-a-character options have been removed from this entry. While this means there is no customization in the title, there was so little to begin with in TNA iMPACT!, I can’t say I really missed it. All of the unlocks are now story based, which, thankfully, removes the painful grind players needed to see everything there is to see in the game. This means the Style Points are kind of, just there, but this ups the accessibility and ease of access in the title considerably. With the creation aspects removed, the story mode does allow players to unlock and control the extremely random and goofy “fictional” characters they encounter. I’m sure, deep down, no one cares about the ICP wannabes you face off against in the Mexico armory, but it’s a trade-off that makes up for the pulled feature and fleshes out the character roster, nonetheless. The story itself is a bit of campy pleasure – it’s goofy, but it has its humorous points and if WWE can have wrestlers “Do Magic!” or throw security guards off elevated cages to their doom, then I can buy into an amnesia bit.

From a gameplay standpoint, Cross the Line’s greatest success is removing the painfully ineffective analog waggling to initiate pin escapes and just allowing players to mash the action button. I can’t even explain how much more affective this change is and it makes escaping from a jam so much more easy. Perhaps the trade-off on this, though, is the fact the PSP only features one set of triggers, creating an awkward positioning of blocking and countering functions to the D-pad. I was baffled by this at first, but after a few minutes in the ring, I realized I was overexaggerating the matter. In most of the instances you’re put on the defensive, you won’t be moving your character, so while it appears inconvenient on the surface, most players should adjust to it rather quickly.

Still, these changes merely make the game more bearable to play. You still have the inanely repetitive commentary, the bare-bones move sets that repeat from character to character and make no sense for certain wrestlers and the problem of using the action button near the ropes – will he climb the turnbuckle, leave the ring or pin the opponent? To quote the great Lex Luger, “I DON’T KNOW!” There is no real mat-based mechanics in place with hardly any focus on submissions or working body parts and what should be a progressive battle of stamina is instead swapped with a “dizzy bar,” straight out of the Acclaim Playstation era. The ring is deprived of a ref and even staple pro wrestling rules such as out-of-ring countouts and rope breaks are missing from the game. Seriously, I’m not really even a fan of the annual THQ WWE updates, but TNA iMPACT!’s lack of attention to the source material takes the series a step back from even those entries.

Looking at the title as a fan of pro wrestling, though, I can still have fun with it. It’s the only game TNA has going for it and, on the PSP, you don’t get a lot of choices with pro wrestling games – it’s WWE or you can take a hike to another system. Even though current fans will be scratching their head wondering why anyone hired from late ’09 to 2010 isn’t in the game, the star power of Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles and like will be enough to draw dedicated fans of the license. I would say if it weren’t for all of the bugs and glitches in the title, I could even rate it a notch or two higher, but, man, do the random snags really detract from gameplay. Not only is the AI as dumb as a rock, especially when you have to rely on one as a tag team partner for about half the story mode, but you get instances where your character will go through a move animation and your opponent will stand in a spazzed-out state until you get back up and hit them out of it. Perhaps the most frustrating instances were the three times where I pinned an opponent in a tag match and the screen flashed a three count, but, yet, the match didn’t trigger as being finished. Two of those occasions even had Mike Tenay gushing about my victory, but, no, the match, for whatever reason continued. These are certainly game breakers and will no doubt detract people from playing if they see such instances and, unfortunately, given the portable nature, we’ll probably never see a patch to squash these nasty occurrences.

Even though the title has “downgraded” to the PSP from my time spent on the Xbox 360, I have to admit, Cross the Line looks really nice. The character models are well done, especially in the entrance and story cinematics (as generic as the entrances are) and they all animate quite fluidly. The menus are given static portraits of TNA stars and the environments look nice and lively, making the title a nice one to look at and it shows the original developer made full usage of the license they were given. While you’ll get a few details such as a weak-looking crowd and some clipping issues, the visuals are the high point of the entire package. The title also makes nice usage of the wrestlers’ entrance themes (as outdated as some are) and most of the voice work is pretty spot on, but the sound suffers with generic grunts and thuds and Mike Tenay and Don West’s commentary is about as repetitive as it gets. I’ll still take that repetition over Taz’s current commentary on TNA programming, but that’s just me.

At the end of the day, though, TNA iMPACT!: Cross the Line is a title a wrestling fan can pick up on the go and enjoy a quick match or two. This installment is hardly a horrible game and in quick bursts, it’s not so bad – just very mediocre. Fans of pro wrestling are no doubt waiting for a true sequel to really pick up where the first entry left off, but Cross the Line doesn’t give us that. It’s quite outdated in its content, mechanics and presentation, but, still, given the slim pickings pro wrestling fans have on the PSP, Cross the Line might be a decent diversion for enthusiasts of the sport or TNA license once the price comes down a little.

The Scores
Story/Modes: DECENT
Graphics: GREAT
Gameplay/Control: DECENT
Replayability: MEDIOCRE
Originality: BAD
Addictiveness: POOR
Appeal Factor: ABOVE AVERAGE
Miscellaneous: MEDIOCRE

Short Attention Span Summary
Cross the Line, while not a sequel, provides a solid TNA iMPACT! experience on the go. The biggest setback for the title is the fact it is an almost identical port to the first TNA title released almost two years ago. The roster is grossly outdated and everything you didn’t like about the first release is most likely included in this package. Looking at the title on its own, Cross the Line is a decent action-oriented wrestling title that requires little investment to learn, but its bugs, glitches and generic, repetitive gameplay really hold it back. The title will certainly hold over TNA or pro wrestling fans that want a few quick bouts on the road, but this title has little in the terms of depth or longevity.



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