Just as World Wrestling Entertainment is finally getting a Monday Night challenge from Total Nonstop Action in the ring, the company got a challenge in the video game realm last year in the form of Midway’s TNA Impact! WWE’s Smackdown (vs Raw) series has long been the staple of wrestling video games, but many newcomers find its ever-complicated control scheme to be difficult to pick up and play. Enter Midway, with a title that was wrestling simplified, with both good and bad results.
Released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 2 and 3, and Nintendo Wii, TNA Impact’s graphics were solid enough, and its story was a different take on the usual wrestling arc – with a famed superstar getting mangled beyond belief, then working his way up through the ranks once again. Using the wrestling game classic No Mercy as a model (to a degree) TNA Impact! simplified controls for a more streamlined approach to in-ring competition. TNA Impact! even had a few lessons to teach the Smackdown series. But the commentary was terrible, and the real killer was the move set, in which many wrestlers shared a limited collection of moves, making them all feel the same, and matches unfolded nearly the same way every time. A few out of the ring cheap shots, roll back in for the pin, and it guaranteed victory over everyone but Jeff Jarrett, who fought like some kind of superhero.
Despite its flaws, competition is always a good thing, and TNA Impact! delivered some new ideas that would hopefully be expanded on it future iterations. Midway was working on a PSP port of the game, but that seemingly disappeared in the wake of Midway’s financial collapse.
Enter SouthPeak Games. The publisher acquired the rights to the franchise, and it setting out to published the PSP version of the game, titled TNA Impact! Cross the Line, this spring. Apparently the game was finished by Midway when it was acquired by SouthPeak, though, so fans can expect almost an identical game to its original iteration – the good and the bad – though it all seems more impressive as a handheld title.
SouthPeak sponsored a trip for us to come out to Orlando, Florida on Jan. 4 (also the day TNA Impact! went live on Spike TV) to check out TNA Impact! Cross the Line. From our hands-on time with the game, the menu screens, moves, character models and even the story mode are all nearly identical to the original release. I started story mode to find that, yes, once again I had been disfigured and was going to have to relaunch my career by fighting in some dirty ring against no-name combatants down in Mexico. SouthPeak VP of marketing Richard Iggo insists the AI of the chickens in Mexico have been improved, but this claim has not been verified.
What we can verify is that the game plays just like the console version. This is impressive in the fact that it looks good as a PlayStation Portable game, so anyone who liked the original will be able to pick up what seems to be a faithful adaptation of the game and play it on the go. The in-ring motions are fluid, though still just as redundant, and the game looks almost as good as it did on console. Players will find no character creation mode in this iteration, though, but they do bring that awesome commentary to the portable world – if by awesome I mean bad. Still, there’s a lot packed into this for a handheld release, and though it’s more of the same it’s likely to impress a bit more on handheld than it did on Xbox.
The combat is carried out identically to the original, with the face buttons initiating grapples and strikes, the analog controlling the characters’ movement, with the shoulders taking care of reversals and blocks. Players fill the “Impact!” meter to acquire a finisher, while a health meter depletes from taking move, and ultimately hitting the circle button fast to fill a bar to kick out of pins. And the 25-character roster is the same one in place when Midway was working on the port, so don’t except the return of Hulk Hogan to be part of SouthPeak’s handheld release, this one at least.
But it’s not all old news with Cross the Line. The portable version features three new modes – Full Metal Mayhem, the Super X Cup and Gauntlet. Full Metal Mayhem, by TNA rules, is an “anything metal goes” sort of match, so Cross the Line litters the outside of the ring with metal objects to pick up and use to abuse the opponent. Super X cup is a tournament mode, and Gauntlet lets the player take on the TNA Impact roster in succession. The game also utilizes the PSP’s ad-hoc capabilities for one-on-one multiplayer matches.
SouthPeak also has a TNA Impact! game in the works for Nintendo DS, according to Iggo, but only the PSP version was shown in Orlando and the publisher was coy about details about the DS. The DS version is being built from scratch and will be a completely different game, Iggo confirmed. But until more details on that emerge, TNA fans can expect more of the same from TNA Impact! Cross the Line, only on the go. The timing is definitely right to bring back the series with TNA’s television happenings, and if the price is too, TNA newcomers and old fans alike may embrace the chance to get in the six-sided ring and kick a little ass in a portable format.