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I’m a wrestling fan. I admit it without hesitation. ‘Hip Attack’, after all, is a slightly more pleasant name for the move otherwise known as the Flying Ass Attack or, more crudely, the Butt Butt. I don’t think you can pull off a Butt Butt in Midway’s hotly anticipated TNA Impact! The Video Game. In fact I’m suprised, given the finished product, that such obscure moves as ‘Suplex’ or ‘Punch’ made their way in.

What Midway has done with TNA Impact is what Midway generally does best — it’s made an arcade game. Not a video game for home consoles; there’s nary a tacked-on RPG element or undisguised time-sink tacked on. This is a pure arcade game, one which would undoubtedly feel a lot better if it had that a limit enforced on it by the scant number of pounds in my pocket. If all I’d had to endure was those first couple of hours of action, I might feel differently about TNA Impact. I’d probably love its ultra-slick animation and fluid graphics. I’d like its tendency towards the slightly cartoonish; the over-exaggerated selling of moves, the dropkicking flying opponents right out of the sky, the leaping seemingly a hundred feet for no reason other than the desire to pull off some spectacular attack. In fact I do love those things. I just might have been distracted from the universe-long string of awful mistakes had the initial graphical appeal not had chance to wear off.

Impact’s story mode, for example, is fantastic fun — if a little easy — up until about two hours in, where a seemingly endless string of Tag Team matches exposes the clearly broken AI. Eric Young, I have determined, can — and should — suck a gigantic cock. If he’s going to stand there and watch me get pinned by Generic Wrestler #1 for the sixth rematch in a row, he’s clearly no friend of mine. Fuck you, Eric Young. And fuck Midway — the stick-waggling minigame involved in kicking out of a pinfall might as well have been been replaced with a digitised picture of whichever ass-backwards programmer created it holding a sign saying ‘YOU LOSE BITCH’. Unlike certain other wrestling games, TNA’s wrestlers are unable to remove a man lying on top of them after mere seconds of action. Broken. Broken, broken, broken.

And the devs know it. Look, here’s what they said:

As the first iteration of this title, the core focuses of TNA: iMPACT! was to be realistic, responsive, faster paced, hard-hitting, high flying, action-packed and easy to pick up and play. “Controls and responsiveness” is the key and TNA: iMPACT! is exactly this. The gameplay is geared towards quick-thinking with entertaining animations and situations. We’ve focused on the highlights of what makes wrestling great and provides a great video game experience.

So I assume Midway’s goal all along was to spend three years and ludicrous amounts of money on little more than a broken game engine, in the hope that it would drive the legion of now-despondent fanboys toward next year’s Impact, rather than sending them straight back to the Smackdown series where they belong. What’s more, this statement was made before the game came out, and linked to an IGN article featuring a number of questions from wrestling game fans. To Midway’s credit, it wasn’t shy about confirming the fact that these kids would be disappointed. That’s seven pages of “No, that didn’t make it in,” suggesting that spending a bit of time with a focus group perhaps a year ago might have clued Midway into what wrestling fans, that peculiar breed, really want from a game.

It’s questionable what value having another weapon (on top of the single chair included) or a few more flippy-do moves (given the extremely limited selection on offer) would actually have added, though. Core things like AI should come higher on the list and have obviously been slotted in as an afterthought. If some cunning coder, eager to make the next game look better, had gone into some otherwise functioning AI code and removed flags like $IS_ANGRY, $SAVE_PARTNER, and $DO_NOT_BEHAVE_LIKE_A_DUMB_SHIT, maybe I’d be happy, but I really doubt that happened. But hey, I wasn’t there. Who am I to judge Midway’s management techniques. They probably spent those three years doing really important and difficult things, without which TNA Impact would have been rubbish.

No, wait.

5/10

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