The review below is brought to us by Dylan Standlea, a former newsboard reporter and writer at TBLWrestling.com. Below, Dylan reviews the latest TNA Wrestling video game – TNA Impact Wrestling by NAMCO Bandai. You can find more information about this video game by clicking here.
TNA Wrestling Impact on IPad from Namco Bandai, a review by Dylan Standlea
Pros: Good graphics, variety of gameplay modes, accessible but deep, online multiplayer
Cons: Slow paced, lack of voice acting, weak sound effects, few unique moves per character
The recent release of Namco Bandai’s new TNA wrestling game on a variety of mobile platforms may have introduced a good deal of casual and WWE wrestling fans to the world of TNA for the first time, and also TNA fans to wrestling games, so the question of this video game’s quality is, for this writer at least, more important than it might otherwise appear.
After all, non-TNA fans may recognize the household names of Ric Flair and Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan, and perhaps Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam, and Jeff Hardy, but if the game is subpar they may never care to inquire further about those stars who are not known for their career contributions in other companies, but none the less form the backbone of what TNA is today. I speak of guys like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Beer Money and the Motor City Machine Guns.
On the other hand, diehard WWE devotees and casual wrestling fans who find themselves having a good time with this title may begin to ask themselves, “when is this show on? What’s TNA all about?” And that could be a very good thing for TNA.
Well, I’m a loyal fan of TNA, and a hardcore gamer who happens to own an IPad, so I’m right smack dab in the middle of the demographic for Namco Bandai’s TNA Wrestling Impact, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it when it became available in the app store on May 19th, 2011.
TNA Wrestling Impact is a somewhat slow paced, strategic wrestling title whose mechanics may recall the good ol’ days of wrestling games you might remember from the N64, or even the SNES, except it’s been given a considerable facelift (at least on the iPad version), and some modern touches that wrestling game fans have come to expect from the genre, including a simple but adequate create a wrestler mode, and three separate story modes to play through.
Players can choose to play an exhibition match, either in solo play or through local multiplayer or online play utilizing Game Center, the iOS gaming service which allows players to hook up for a quick match, and view their stats on leader boards for bragging rights.
All the match types you experience in single player appear to be available online, and include your standard pin fall/submission/count out bouts, as well as submission only, no disqualification, falls count anywhere, cage match, and tag-team competitions. So far the online community seems large enough, and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding an opponent, although in my experience there is some slight slowdown playing online, and an occasional hiccup of lag, but nothing too detrimental to the experience.
Actual gameplay consists of moving your chosen wrestler around the ring with a virtual (and functionally responsive) thumbstick, and performing offensive maneuvers with a simple three button layout. There’s a fist to press for strikes, an open hand for grapples, and a running symbol to, well, run. At certain times during the match a fourth context sensitive button appears, for example to tag out, exit or enter the ring, climb the ropes, or apply a submission hold or pin on a downed opponent.
It works quite well and is pretty easy to pick up and play, but if you ever need some help or don’t understand some aspect of the controls, you can always press the pause button (located top center) and access detailed instructions about the controls and how it all works.
Of course, while you’re pressing strikes and grapples, your opponent will be trying to pull off the same thing, and this is really where the strategy comes into play. Mashing the strike button is only going to get you so far, as winning the match is really about timing. As your opponent winds up for a right hand or a boot to the abdomen, a strike symbol briefly appears beneath your wrestler’s health bar, and if you press your strike button at this time, you can counter. Grapple counters work much the same way.
Suplexes, dropkicks and a good face pounding all contribute toward the depletion of your character’s health bar. There’s no breakdown of this into subcategories, no separate status menu for your legs or arms, just one solid red bar that keeps matters simple and easily understandable at a glance.
There’s also a white Impact bar above your health which gradually fills up as you deal out damage. When it’s full it begins to flash, and this means, provided you’re in the ring and standing, you can pull off your finisher. This is done using the fourth context sensitive button I mentioned earlier.
Finishers deal a lot of damage, and if your opponent has low health, theres a good chance a subsequent pin or submission will spell victory.
There are three different classes in the game, three different wrestler types, each with strengths and weaknesses. The High Flyers like RVD and AJ Styles deal more damage with running attacks, and possess a through the ropes aerial move other classes do not.
There are also Brawlers like Mr Anderson and The Pope, whose strikes pack more power, and possess an extended punch-him-in-the-face move on the ground others can’t do, and lastly Power Houses like Rob Terry and Kevin Nash who do more damage with grapple moves and have an extra fireman’s carry grapple that other wrestlers don’t get.
In addition to this, each individual wrestler has varying values in four stats which further differentiates them from each other. There’s Strength, which determines how much raw damage you inflict, Toughness, which determines the length of your health bar essentially, and Speed, which determines how fast your character moves. There’s also Charisma, which is important because a higher Charisma will enable your Impact bar to fill up faster, thus letting you pull off a finisher sooner.
These values really make sure that the roster is balanced, which many gamers will appreciate. This isn’t Smackdown vs Raw where wrestlers have Overall ratings which simply make them more effective. You can pit Desmond Wolfe against Hulk Hogan and not worry about The Immortal One having an unfair advantage just because he is Hulk Hogan.
All this is at your fingertips when you create a wrestler, but compared to other wrestling titles out there, the create a wrestler mode still seems limited. You’ll name your wrestler, determine his class, spend some points on your stats (and keep spending after each match in story mode), and choose some basic appearance options.
There’s several hairs, a dozen skin colors, some skin textures depending on your class (you can be big and fat as a power house, or small and skinny as a high flyer), and a few shirt/pants/elbow and kneepad choices with about a dozen colors to choose from, but no special patterns to speak of. There’s also a dozen or so body tattoos and three or four face options which enable you to wear a mask or have face paint.
Its serviceable to be sure, and you can create a wrestler who looks distinct, but not, I think, as exceptional as the pre made roster itself. There are no decals, no cool patterns to sport on your ring attire. And if you wanted to recreate any real life wrestlers, which many like to do in this sort of mode, you may be largely out of luck, as far as I can tell.
You also, of course, choose a move set, options which reveal the simplicity of the game. Different wrestlers may play differently, but there aren’t actually a large number of moves unique to each. There’s a lot of general moves and animations every wrestler has, some that are shared among classes, and then there’s just about 3 signature moves per character. What this means is that when you create a character you choose their finisher, and the two different grapple moves they can perform. Everything else is given to you.
Another odd design choice, in spite of the availability of the pause menu which offers help, is that the tutorial is buried within a given career mode. In order to properly learn how to play, you need to boot up a Heavyweight, X Division or Tag Team Career mode, and click yes when The Hulkster asks you if you want some pointers. This should have been available even as an exhibition, or as it’s own destination in the main menu.
The career modes themselves are quite entertaining for what they are. In the Heavyweight division you’ll trade words with Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff and decide whether you ultimately play the baby face hero or heel villain. Since the game was developed before the Immortal faction came to power, being a face means siding with Hulk Hogan, and being a heel may mean beating the crap out of him and taking advice from AJ Styles instead.
There’s no voice acting in the game, which is unfortunate because the dialogue feels mostly true to what these personalities would actually say, right down to the banter between Mike Tenay and Taz before a match. Theres also beautifully drawn portraits which appear on screen to compliment the in game character models, most of which don’t move their lips when they talk (an exception being Christy Hemme who also sports other moving parts).
Another downside to the sound design in this game is the arena audience and some of the sound effects of the action itself, which at times feel a bit muted or bland. That said the entrance music feels authentic and sounds good, and the visuals themselves, while perhaps lacking a certain fluidity, are undeniably beautiful, crisp and clean. These are stylized graphics but not cartoony, with recognizable counterparts to the real life superstars, but not by any means photorealistic.
The roster does not disappoint, with nearly 30 wrestlers available from the get-go and Hulk Hogan featured as an unlockable. I will say however that I was saddened to quickly notice the lack of Knockouts in this game. The women of TNA are not only beautiful but are damn talented individuals, and for me a big part of what makes the company so special. Hopefully they are included in any sequel which may happen down the line.
All in all Namco Bandai’s TNA Wrestling Impact on the iPad is an entertaining title that will please fans who are looking for a solid gameplay experience that requires a bit of strategy, but not too much, and can be forgiving if this particular offering doesn’t stand up to it’s next gen console equivalents.
I don’t believe in putting a subjective number on a piece of art, so I’ll finish this review a little differently …
Who this game is for: TNA fans or wrestling game fans looking to get their mobile wrestling fix, who don’t mind playing at a bit of a slower, “retro” pace.
Who this game is not for: Anyone expecting an arcade action style fighter with endless customization options.