Mixed martial arts are the rage among those who take pleasure in all things gladiatorial, but there's still some fight left in pro wrestling. Total Nonstop Action has weathered its awkward early years as a scrappy upstart league and made it to the big time, with weekly airings on Spike TV. Now, following in the WWE's footsteps, TNA has unleashed the first of what will likely be many videogames. TNA Impact! isn't likely to change the mind of anyone who thinks pro wrestling feels like a throwback to the late '90s. Sure, next-gen consoles allow for startlingly realistic recreations of the brawling stars. Each fighter's signature style is recreated in fluid animation based on motion-capture sessions, making every body slam and Irish whip appear lifelike.
But the game beneath the gorgeous veneer is the same one we've been playing for a decade. Players punch, kick, and grab their opponents, eventually building up enough power to unleash a lethal special attack. Granted, the game's brawling is polished: The wrestlers' moves feel satisfying, especially when an incoming drop-kick or punch is successfully countered. But in spite of tons of multiplayer options, rules variations, and playable celebrities, TNA Impact! feels staid. Conservative, even. It's a shame to squander such a colorful cast of characters on such an uninspired game.
Beyond the game: The TNA Impact! stable features several outstanding wrestlers. Gold medalist Kurt Angle and former WCW champ Sting are the most recognizable names, but young turks like Samoa Joe, Christian Cage, and AJ Styles prove that the league has enough fresh blood to stay interesting.
Worth playing for: "Ultimate X" matches see multiple wrestlers vying for a brass ring of sorts. The first to scale the scaffolding and claim the "X" dangling above the ring is the winner.
Frustration sets in when: TNA Impact! assumes that players know the ins and outs of their universe and the tropes of the average wrestling game. A better introduction to both would have made the game more welcoming to new fans.
Final judgment: If wrestling games want to regain some relevance, they're going to have to be way more imaginative than this.