Wrestling games have been around for almost as long as mainstream gaming, but in recent years they've really tried to enhance themselves and go beyond the games of old. With that in mind, Midway Studios - Los Angeles, were set the task of creating an engaging experience for fans of the wrestling promotional outfit called Total Nonstop Action (TNA). While a home console version of TNA iMPACT was released in 2008, the game has now come to the handhelds in the form of TNA iMPACT: Cross The Line.
In the story section of Cross the Line, players take control of a fictional wrestler called Suicide. He went against the wishes of fellow co-workers and ended up being ambushed, kidnapped and shipped to Mexico with a messed-up face - not really an issue considering he wears a mask seemingly all the time. To cap things off, the beating was so severe that he's developed amnesia. The only thing he remembers is a longing to compete in the ring and after winning a few minor challenges, he eventually manages to make his way back into the ranks of TNA.
Despite being pretty ridiculous in its premise (or is it?), the story does a good job of actually making players want to continue playing the game. That's a good thing when considering that the game is rather boring and bland. According to Cross the Line, each wrestler only has a literal handful of moves, and even then some of them are the same as others. Players are able to perform an irish whip, weak and heavy punch/kicks, a weak grapple move, a small selection of high-flying moves and a few heavy grapple moves. It means that matches almost have no variety, because the wrestlers have such a limited array of moves. There's also no customisation at all for Suicide, so the moves he starts with are the moves he ends with.
To go alongside the lack of variety, the gameplay mechanics don't help things one bit. As players progress through the story, the AI, as one would expect, become much more adept. This means they can counter moves - something they do far too often, and something that is far too damaging for the player's character. It gets to the point where almost any grappling move that's attempted gets reversed, and it can become very frustrating. So, how do players get around this? By performing endless strings of melee moves until their opponent is stunned and cannot perform a reversal.
This is all well and good, albeit boring, but players get style points for moves they perform. The better the move, the more style points they acquire. These help them to build up their 'Impact Bar', which when full, allows them to perform their finishing move. Now, there's nothing wrong with this system at all, but with an already limited selection of moves, being forced to perform melee only moves means style points diminish quickly, as players get less points for doing similar moves in succession. Also, due to the skewed difficulty of the story, by the later stages, players will have to pummel their opponents, often performing two finishers to even get close to keeping them down for the 3-count. Conversely, if their opponent scores maybe two reversals and a few melee blows, that's game over for the player. It's justified by 'Suicide' being in the Heavyweight division, but it makes little sense for him to have to be dealing constantly high-impact damage for around 4 minutes, for his opponent to then do maybe 5 moves and win.
To mix things up a bit, there are various modes aside from the straight singles. Players can also take part in tag matches, and some more unique matches like Full Metal Mayhem and Super X Cup. They do offer something new, but the controls don't aid their inclusion. When attempting to tag, players will often find themselves rolling out of the ring instead because the detection is quite poor. If facing AI in the Super X Cup, they will also find that the AI is very adept at performing the mini-game on the item in the middle - those matches end up being incredibly short, which is actually a blessing in disguise.
The game doesn't look too bad, although the animations are quite rigid sometimes. There are also some obvious and annoying glitches which take place, generally revolving around the performing of high-flying moves. If the opponent starts to stand up, it doesn't matter what move is done to them, they will just avoid it. When wanting to do a move from a turn-buckle, it's often best to wait until your opponent has got to his feet and then perform the move, so there's no chance of wasting the effort. The AI also has a tendency to just walk to the middle of the ring and stand there, which is still in hitting distance. The sound is a plus point though, and it's good to hear the voices of the TNA cast featured in the game. The commentary does repeat far too often though.
Aside from playing through the story and unlocking different wrestlers and arenas, there isn't that much replay value to be had with Cross the Line. Once the story is complete, players can choose to go through it again, or play various exhibition matches - that's all there is to offer.
TNA iMPACT: Cross The Line isn't necessarily a bad game, it's just plagued by monotony, some of which is further compounded by the game's design. There is a limited selection of moves and it causes matches to feel very repetitive. The story gives some incentive to continue playing, but the difficulty towards the end can become very confusing and with few options upon its completion, TNA iMPACT quickly loses its appeal.