In the late 90s, Midway was king of the ring when it released WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game platforms. It featured cooperative play and eight of the famous wrestlers to graze the front cover. With names like Yokozuna, Razor Ramon and Bret “The Hitman” Hart, who could forget Wrestlemania? Though the game lacked balance in the gameplay department and technical options, it was still the best wrestling experience of its time! Since then, Midway stayed out of the spotlight, working behind the scenes on what would be their next big come back title. After a decade in silence, Midway howls back with a brand new wrestling rip that has created a lot of WWE buzz, going up against THQ for a piece of wrestling action. This time, you have an entire league of prominent wrestlers, ranging from Sting and “Big Poppa Pump” Scott Steiner to Gold Medalist Olympian Kurt Angle and “The Samoan Submission Machine” Samoa Joe. And they all can be found exclusively in TNA iMPACT!
Though the pace of the game might seem a bit arcadish for some, deep down you’ll find the competition is quite fierce! The controls are simple and you should be able to dunk your opponent onto the mat in no time. TNA iMPACT has plenty of single-player action to brag about, but two of the most exciting modes being offered in the game are Story Mode and Ultimate X. The Story Mode provides some interesting twists. It features great dramatic cutscenes with the right blend of soap opera. As you unravel the story, you unlock most of the game’s hidden stages that serve as new wrestling arenas. In Ultimate X, the goal is similar to WWE’s ladder match. The only difference is that instead of climbing up a ladder to get the briefcase, you’ll be climbing up a pole, then monkey your way onto a long stretch of cable where the red X is hung in the center. It’s a strategy of tag of war, where it challenges you to a mini-game that involves nailing down the sliding cursor to the center of the meter. Do this a certain number of times and you’ll grab the X prize and win the match! But be careful though; your opponent can try to latch on to your dangling legs and powerbomb you into the mat.
TNA iMPACT gives players the power to level up on wrestling moves. Improving your character’s potentials is pretty straightforward. When you win a match, you pick up cumulative style points. Depending on the degree of difficulty of techniques used, you get more style points for reversing your opponent’s attacks and performing stronger grappling maneuvers. The points you’ve earned are always carried over to the next match. So if you reach a certain milestone, say 400,000 style points, you get access to better and more advanced moves like fancier choke slams and a plethora of crazy body slams. Not only that but also, you also get access to great-looking finishers! The finishing moves are fun as they are incredibly easy to execute; but the downside is that each character can only be equipped with one at a time. TNA iMPACT has thrown in the ability to create your own wrestler but the list of customizable options is somewhat limited. You have the usual adjustments of physical attributes and body-hugging outfits, complete with tattoos and hip accessories.
Sadly, you can’t define your character’s height, enter any specific skill ratings such as strength or stamina, and not even have room for customizing his intro sequence. In the gameplay department, the animation is incredibly smooth! The game runs at an excellent frame rate with good physics and realistic character movements. Strikes and grappling maneuvers are relatively easy to pull off. The controls have good response time and so you’d be able to deliver the kind of torture to wear down your opponent. Running attacks, on the other hand, can be a little tricky. You need a certain amount of space to try to connect those quick clotheslines and cheap dropkicks. Otherwise you’ll completely run pass the target. Recovery is slow in this game. So, if you’re getting pounded on the mat, try rolling to the side to buy time in getting up. This type of situation does not apply against your opponent; the computer recovers very quickly, and makes it tough to pin him down for a count out.
Picking up your opponent on the ground takes some work. Instead of being able to pull him back up, you end up performing various arm submissions or ground chokes. The game is very particular when it comes to ground maneuvers; so if you just want to pull your opponent up, make sure you’re symmetrically aligned to his head. In the graphics department, the game looks very impressive! It’s obvious that Midway has plugged in tremendous amount of visual touches to enhance the way characters move their lips and express their emotions. It is too bad though there is no blood in this game, but still you get great fireworks and lighting effects when your character enters the wrestling arena. If only there was a way to bypass these entrance cutscenes so that players can immediately get right into the action. Needless to say, Midway did a fine job of making the environment feel like you’re in the “front-row” seat. The crowd goes wild in the stands and reacts like it’s Wrestlemania all over again! Thanks to the great sound effects, punches and kicks connect with convincing blows, while the heavy-duty grapplers such as suplex and sidewalk slam provide an immersive bone-crushing impression.
The music is a mixture of punk rock and grunge acoustics, the right theme for the right instance. However, the announcers can be a bit annoying at times with their repetitive commentaries, but this aspect can be easily overlooked. Midway’s wrestling come back title is a great one! It’s long overdue but worth the wait. TNA iMPACT has gone a long way toward making the “sports entertainment” as unique as possible in the ring, and Midway captures most of the experience at the palm of your hand. The game’s Story Mode is quite a spectacle with its never-ending twist to the plot that has you constantly switching allies. The gameplay should please a lot of arcade fans as pulling off monstrous slams are such an adrenaline charge. However, character customization is somewhat average due to limited components to design a completely outrageous wrestler. Needless to say, Midway is off to a good start with their first wrestling title since the “Wrestlemania” heydays. We are expecting a whole new TNA next year, if there is such a sequel. We are looking forward to more match types and additional moves that differentiate superstars from each other. If there is one crowd that could truly appreciate what TNA iMPACT has to offer, it’s definitely the group of casual gamers. Given the game’s amazing first impression, it’s a sign of better things to come.