Total Nonstop Action Wrestling’s videogame debut couldn’t have come at a better time, with the rival WWE Smackdown Vs Raw series on the wane and the UK release for the excellent Fire Pro Wrestling Returns on PS2 pulled at the last minute. Happily this is much more than an opportunistic crack at a genre in dares need of freshening up. Its unique six sided ring and roster of WWE vets (Kurt Angle, Booker T), indie starlets (Samoa Joe, AJ Styles) and aspiring youngsters (Shark Boy, Chris Sabin) are obvious plus points, but its Impact’s impressively accessible gameplay which makes this worth a look over its big name rival.
Not since Smackdown’s PS1 days has there been a grapple game that’s so easy to pick up and play. The fights are fast and the wrestlers responsive, and the lack of an on screen ref (a shortcut we can just about let go) means wrapping a chair around your opponent’s skull is legal at all times. If you have never played a grap game before, it’s a great place to start. Hardcore fans will gripe at the shortness of matches, you will rarely go over three minutes and in the time its hard to put on a mat classic.
Plus the movements aren’t exactly vast, so once you have played, say, 20 matches as Christian Cage, you never want to use him again. The game’s story mode, which sees you take on the identity of a former champ named Suicide and work your way back up the wrestling ladder, is a mixed bag. It’s well acted and logically paced, but offer little replay value once you have gone through unlocking all the available environments, characters, and movesets.