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Video game review
Produced by
Midway Games
System reviewed: Xbox 360

As a person who grew up playing wrestling videogames, and would do anything for a WrestleFest arcade game in my house, I’ve been looking forward to Midway’s TNA iMPACT release ever since I first got a chance to play it back during a media event during WrestleMania weekend in Orlando. Like most games, iMPACT has its plusses and minuses, but one major positive is the simple fact that it’s one of those games you can take out of the box and just play. The graphics are so good that even non-wrestling fans will be interested and that, combined with the gameplay, will lead to a lot of fun when friends or family are over.

How good are the graphics? As far as I’m concerned, in this particular area TNA iMPACT is the new benchmark by which wrestling games will be judged. The characters and venues perfectly blend the line of photorealism and arcade animation. Being able to perform Homicide’s Gringo Killer, Hernandez’s Border Toss, and Joe’s Muscle Buster was a blast, as the extensive motion capture work made every wrestler pop. The various arenas the matches are held in, including the Impact Zone in Orlando, Florida, are absolutely gorgeous. There are various collision bugs here and there, mostly during matches in which you’re hitting a series of crazy moves, causing your guy to go right through your opponent, but its effect on gameplay is minimal. Stunning is the only word to describe the visual experience of TNA iMPACT, and the Smackdown vs. Raw franchise has some work to do in order to catch up.

The Roster. There has been some complaints about the size of the roster, and TNA iMPACT certainly can’t compete with the Lord of the Rings-like amount of characters in Raw vs. SmackDown, but when actually playing the game I never found myself wondering where a character was. I got to play every single person that I wanted to. Samoa Joe. Alex Shelley. Chris Sabin. Homicide. Jay Lethal. Sting. Kurt Angle. Christian Cage. Tomko. I can’t imagine even the most hardcore TNA fan being disappointed with the playable roster. Team 3D, Scott Steiner, Kevin Nash, Abyss, Jeff Jarrett… they are all there. I guess I can shed a tear for all the Lance Hoyt fans of the world, but I don’t think anyone can seriously say the roster depth is small once the game starts. In fact, at times I found myself realizing this was the Ring of Honor game that will never be as I had Samoa Joe facing off against Homicide in one match and Homicide/Joe vs. the Motor City Machineguns in another.

The game engine itself is one of the most elegantly designed on the marketplace. TNA iMPACT is seriously fast and is the first wrestling game that I’ve ever played which truly duplicates what we are seeing in the ring in TNA, ROH, and Dragon Gate. Playing iMPACT makes other pro wrestling games look like they are in slow motion.

CAW. Probably one of the more controversial elements of iMPACT is the Create A Wrestler feature. For those living under a rock for the last few months, the storyline mode in iMPACT revolves around the wrestler Suicide. Once one of TNA’s biggest stars, Suicide is beaten by LAX and left for dead in Tijuana after refusing to be jobbed out. The Mexican doctors agree to perform radical plastic surgery on Suicide, and this is where the CAW comes into play. For those used to the CAW in SmackDown vs. Raw, you’re going to be in for a big surprise, as iMPACT seems to be designed to encourage the player to create original characters rather than just trying to mix and match parts to create a wrestler from another brand. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s going to be hard just to create Triple H. You will however get a ton of options to create a unique character with the assortment of body sizes, tattoos, clothes, and such. After that, you head back into the ring in Tijuana to begin your road back into TNA to gain some measure of revenge. The storyline has some interesting twists, and the AI makes it hard to accomplish your mission. The non-TNA guys (as in, the game's own CAWs) you battle, not so hard. The TNA guys? As hard to beat as Jeff Jarrett is in the real TNA, so maybe that adds realism points to the game…

Throughout the story mode you earn style points, which unlock moves you can give to your wrestler, along with unlocking playable wrestlers. Unlocking Senshi and Don West made me totally mark out. You’ll start off small, earning moves like a full nelson suplex, working your way up to all the big guns like the Unprettier and Angle Slam. In future editions I would have to think that the CAW will be amped up with more choices in the various categories, along with a more branched out storyline allowing for more varied play over the long term. At times the storyline mode can be frustrating, especially when you are involved in tag team matches with Eric Young, but overall I was satisfied with how everything worked out as I was terrified going in, thinking this had disaster written all over it.

THE MATCHES: If there is one thing Vince Russo and the rest of the TNA brain trust have given Midway to work with its varied amount of gimmick matches to work with. TNA iMPACT contains one-on-one matches, tag team battles, Fatal Four Way, and the coup de grace, Ultimate X. I honestly didn’t think Midway would be able to come through with a playable Ultimate X match, but I found that to be one of the more enjoyable playing experiences in the game, especially in multi-player action.

OVERALL THOUGHTS: In a word, TNA iMPACT for the Xbox 360 is fun. The graphics: outstanding. The detail in the wrestlers, the arenas, all the way to the fans in the audience, are top notch. Even the Impact Zone venue is covered in TNA PPV posters, just like the real thing. The gameplay: easy enough that a person like me who has never used an Xbox 360 until this game, could pick it up and perform well. This is a great sell for when I have my friends and family over, none of which are heavy gamers, as it will be one of the few games I can tear them away from the Wii for. After playing the game I think that even the most cynical gamer will see that the sky is the limit for future iMPACT sequels. The first wrestling game with downloadable content allows TNA the ability to add in extra characters, such as Petey Williams, and possibly guys that TNA signs like Mick Foley. It brings me back to my days of collecting baseball cards where I would buy the whole Topps set, and then the midseason update that included all the hot rookies. Future editions of iMPACT can include other TNA staples, including the Six Sides of Steel and the King of the Mountain match, as well as the TNA Knockouts division. Who isn’t going to buy a game with Velvet Sky on the cover?! That’s just a no-brainer.

Before I give my final “score,” I ask everyone to read Roger Ebert’s little essay on star ratings, as it sums up exactly how I feel about all my reviews. When I watch a shoot interview, read a wrestling related book (or comic book), or play a wrestling video game, I’m thinking, “would I tell my friends to watch/read/play this?” I’ll be reviewing Ring of Honor’s “New Horizons” PPV this weekend and it drives me crazy that people look for star ratings in the matches. I don’t know, or care, how many stars the Nigel McGuinness vs. Claudio Castagnoli was. All I know is that, as a wrestling fan, I was absolutely pumped to be a fan after that match ended. I loved it. I loved it despite the fact that I don’t even like Claudio Castagnoli all that much. I loved it so much that I wanted to tell my friends, you have to watch this PPV, as soon as the show ended. How am I supposed to sum that feeling up in a 1-10 score? Or even harder, 1-5?

TNA iMPACT is a game that I think your casual wrestling fan will love. I think TNA fans will go crazy for it. Hell, I think that it’s the first game ROH fans can get excited about, and it reminded me of the days when I didn’t need to invest 75 hours into playing a game in order to experience what it had to offer. It has the across the board playability factor that has helped the Wii kick everyone’s ass. I found myself moving away from video games over the past few years because it became impossible to enjoy them outside of my three friends who live and die by playing them. Midway’s TNA iMPACT is part of the growing trend of games that are bringing me back again. Score: 3.5/5 And for those of you who only want “whole numbers,” I think the game is much closer to a 4/5 than a 3/5 so take that how you will.

CROSS THE LINE contest winners:
Third Prize: Daniel Teets, Haddock, GA
Joe Gagne, Worcester, MA
Daniel W Beling, Baltimore, MD
Second Prize: Rich Burns, Cudahy, WI
Grand Prize: Jason Germain, Winston Salem, NC

Special thanks go out to C&R’s Mike Roe for his assistance in this review. Mike does a weekly podcast covering TNA Impact and WWE SmackDown that is well worth a listen, so check it out!

Derek Burgan has been reviewing wrestling DVDs, comics, books, and other miscellaneous crap for the Observer/F4Wonline Empire since October 2005. He also writes the world famous Wrestling Enjoyment Index, the Gimmick Table, Drawing Heat and is a contributing writer for Number1Contender.net. He even has a MySpace page! He can be reached at: Derek@gumgod.com

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November 2006


by Sean Carless

With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).