For the uninitiated, the world of professional wrestling has changed quite dramatically over the last decade. Of the big three pro wrestling promotions, the "extreme" ECW came to an unfortunate end, as did WCW, leaving only the WWE (originally named the WWF) standing proud.
That is until TNA came along. Promising a more action-based, wrestling-focused, experience than the soap opera-like WWE, TNA has made huge strides in the last 2 years. Not only do they pack one of wrestling’s biggest stars of all time in the guise of Sting, they also lay claim to the likes of Kurt Angle, Booker T, Christian Cage, and Samoa Joe.
So it’s little shock that TNA is looking to go toe to toe with WWE on the consoles with TNA Impact! And with the latest in the Smackdown vs. RAW series hugely criticised by both gamers and critics, it seems like there’s a spot in the market to exploit.
And to an extent, TNA Impact makes an incredibly good go of things. Graphically things here are a huge leap over Smackdown, with some incredibly detailed wrestlers, all of which move and grapple with almost unnerving accuracy.
In fact, if there’s one major plus for TNA Impact over Smackdown, it’s the fact that the impressive aesthetics and animation help make all the included moves appear incredibly hard hitting. Most helpful when this is a sport much criticised for not being "real".
But, things take a little drop in quality once you really start to dig under the game’s initially impressive skin. The number of match types is much fewer than in the Smackdown series, as are the number of moves available for the wrestlers to utilise.
The big problem is that there simply isn’t enough to differentiate one wrestler from another. Since a number share very similar move sets, it’s only when you unleash a finisher that you actually get to see what they’re all about. It’s a real shame as there are some fantastic characters within TNA just waiting to be exploited.
Even the fantastic animation has its minus points, with glitches being even more obvious than a poor looking title. Characters can clash awkwardly when the animation system has one of its infrequent stumbles, and grapples near the ropes will only force you to witness legs and arms drifting through ropes as if they weren’t there.
The create a wrestler system for the story mode – where you play a character called Suicide – simply isn’t enough. You unlock extra options as time goes on, but when the majority will be eager to jump right into a career, having such a pitifully poor choice at the opening is a total disaster.
And then there’s the AI. Coming across one of the generic wrestlers during the early stages of the career mode can be pretty awkward considering they have exactly the same moves as yourself, but once you come across TNA’s real stars, you’ll be cursing like a trucker. They’ll happily take a huge beating, only to reverse a handful of your moves and obtain a cheap victory. Yes, it might be what happens in real life, but it’s truly blooming annoying.
It’s a shame that TNA Impact hasn’t worked out as we’d all hoped. The graphics and animation are much better than Smackdown, though similar clipping with scenery remains. And although the story mode is dull as dishwater, the hard hitting moves will keep you coming back for a while if you get a few friends round.
Fingers crossed this gives the Smackdown series a real kick up the backside and next year we’ll have two fantastic wrestling games to choose from. For now, we’re stuck with two quite average titles.