Saturday, January 10, 2009

TNA iMPACT!, by Greg Miller - 16th September 2008

Rating 3.5 stars

Price $109.95


TNA iMPACT! had a lot of potential, but it didn't follow through on most of it. Beyond the limited/repetitive moves, lackluster CAW, and scaled back online, my main problem is that iMPACT! doesn't feel like real wrestling. The opponents never stay down long enough, there's an announce table and announcer voices, but no announcer bodies, there are no championship belts to wear or defend, chairs are just sitting around the outside of the ring, there is no rope break, and every match is no count out/no DQ.

IF you wanted to bring the pageantry and bone-crushing moves of professional wrestling to your console of choice, there's pretty much been just one game in town for the last several years. However, that's all about to change. TNA iMPACT! is here to officially end the monopoly on licensed professional wrestling videogames.
If you need a quick primer, Total Nonstop Action was founded in 2002 by former WWE and WCW star Jeff Jarrett along with his father. Since then, the organization has moved to a six-sided ring, landed a Thursday night spot on SpikeTV, and picked up a number of big time professional wrestling stars such as Kurt Angle, Sting, and Kevin Nash. Now, Midway is bringing the high flying moves of the federation to videogame fans across the world.

The first time I got the chance to sit down with the developers behind iMPACT!, they admitted that they couldn't match the competition's feature set their first time out of the gate but were focusing on bringing a brand-new, fun gameplay experience to the market.

In more than a few ways, Midway succeeded.

iMPACT! utilizes a simplified control scheme in an attempt to nail that "pick up and play" experience. The face buttons govern punches, kicks, grabs, and actions, while the shoulder buttons reverse, run, taunt, and modify moves to be stronger. The left stick moves your guy (sorry, gals and guys starved for female contact, there are no lady competitors), and in multi-man battles, the right stick changes targets. When you're pinned, you'll need to rock your joystick side to side to fill a kickout meter.

You take these easy to use/difficult to master controls into seven arenas and nine match types that are all no count out/no DQ as one of about 25 TNA wrestlers in front of several crowds. The results will be impressive at first.

Right off the bat, iMPACT! looks good. The character models are detailed with the shine you'd expect from their real life, sweaty counterparts but more impressive is the animation system iMPACT! deploys. In the game, moves and grapples blend together so you can go from a suplex to an arm bar submission to a couple of stomps without having to stand there for a second while a reaction animation plays out. Anytime you're playing, you can break up a move or deal out an attack.

Now, when you're playing you'll have a three part heads-up display on the screen – a silhouette to manage limb damage, an iMPACT! meter above your name, and a stun meter behind your name. As the match wears on, all the parts will change – the silhouette parts will change from green to red as you take attacks, iMPACT! will slowly fill with yellow as you pull off moves, and the stun meter will slowly fill with red as you get tossed around by your opponent.

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