For years, THQ Nordic, Yuke’s, and All-Elite Wrestling have been working to get a game out the door that’s meant to take players back to the good days of Nintendo 64 and arcade wrestling games like WCW vs. NWO: No Mercy and WWF Royal Rumble. Now, AEW Fight Forever is here. Was the wait worth it? Sort of. Fight Forever’s gameplay, modes, and campaign are quite a fun time, if not occasionally cheesy. Unfortunately, rough graphics, strangely limited features beyond the wrestling, and some very phoned-in commentary are just a few of the things that distract from what might otherwise be a solid competitor to WWE and its 2K series.
Grab the brass ring
AEW Fight Forever began development in 2020 and is as much a celebration of how far the promotion has come as it is its own wrestling game. For the most part, that’s a great thing. We got a roster that includes Cody and Dustin Rhodes, Kenny Omega, Nyla Rose, Thunder Rosa, Bryan Danielson, Jon Moxley, the Death Triangle, the Best Friends, Orange Cassidy, and so much more. We also get Tony Khan, Taz, Jim Ross, and Excalibur on commentary in between the action, for better or worse, but I’ll get to that later.
AEW Fight Forever is also chockfull of the types of matches and modes that have been part of All-Elite’s programming over the years. You got your standard 1v1 and tag team matches, as well as Lights Out Matches, Royal Rumbles, and even the Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match, just to name a few. You can also create a wrestler, design their moveset and entrance, and take either your own character or someone on the existing roster through the story mode, Road to Elite. One thing is for sure, AEW is not lacking in the slightest for things to do.
If only it looked as good as it sounds. My main gripe about AEW Fight Forever is the presentation. This game is not pretty or well-presented. Nearly every time you’re up close on a wrestler, their eyes are bulging out of their heads and their bodies look plastic, and not in an endearing, comical way, such as in games like WWE All-Stars. It’s just kind of ugly every time you’re five feet from anyone. More than that, a lot of the voice work sounds phoned in. It’s a shame because I really enjoy Jim Ross, Excalibur, and Taz’s commentary, but they generally introduce a match, do its ending, and provide quips in tutorials and activities throughout the game, all with the same energy of an insurance salesman reading their pitch. I’ve never heard Ross so nonplussed to talk about his BBQ sauce until this game. It would be funny if it didn’t look like the game was really trying and just didn’t get there.
That extends to other elements of the game as well. As I said, there’s no actual commentary during the match, but the entrances are also cut ridiculously short. Instead, the game’s soundtrack just kind of plays lightly over the background of the match in a muted tone, which I found to be an odd decision, but it’s better than silence. Simply put, don’t look or listen too closely to the finer details in AEW Fight Forever. They are in no way the game’s strong points.
Leave it all in the ring
Thankfully, the actual gameplay is where AEW Fight Forever really shines for the most part. Moves in the game are divided into four major categories of high hand strikes, low kicks, weak grapples, and strong grapples, not to mention each wrestler’s unique signature and finisher moves. In any given match, the action in Fight Forever feels fun and fluid. You trade blows with your opponent, trying to weaken them enough to take bigger and bigger moves while attempting to build your momentum up to hit them with all of your best stuff.
Grappling in AEW feels like some of the best I’ve played in a wrestling game in a long time. We got corner moves, rope moves, between-the-ropes dives to the other ring, guardrail moves, weapons under the ring, and so much more, and it’s all satisfying to use. When I got into an Exploding Barbed Wire match and pitched my opponent through a wire-laden table in the corner, causing them to bleed all over the ring, you better believe I got giddy over the sheer brutality of it all. Ladder matches, royal rumbles, and other gimmicked matches also play out in satisfying style. For the most part, these matches feel fun and satisfying to play whether alone or with others.
I think one of the few issues I had with AEW Fight Forever’s gameplay was in tag matches with a computer-controlled partner. The AI sometimes gets stuck when both opponents have to jump off the apron to return to their side of the ring. I’m also not crazy about how calling for a tag and getting into the ring are the same button. If an opponent is pinning your partner, you can jump in to save them, but if you press the button too soon, you’ll be stuck calling for a tag from your pinned partner instead of jumping in to save them from the three-count. Fight Forever also seems to have an issue with getting players back to their sides when their time is up in tag matches. The game forces them to return to the apron on their side and the camera doesn’t help. I lost track of my character and my opponents a little too much for my liking when the game took getting me out of the ring into its own hands. Outside of these few janky tag mechanics, it’s a pretty good time.
Create-A-Wrestler was also a bit of a mixed bag for me. On one hand, AEW Fight Forever gives you a lot of options to make your wrestler play the way you want with a list of grapples that might actually be longer than Chris Jericho’s list of 1,000 holds. I really enjoyed crafting my moveset, my wrestler’s mentality, and even their entrance, despite entrances being a little skimmed. My problem with the AEW Fight Forever’s Create-A-Wrestler lies more in the physical creation of your character. If there’s actual customization beyond presets in Fight Forever, I couldn’t find it, except for height, weight, colors for clothes, and fat-vs.-muscle sliders. Faces, hair, eyebrows, and body types are set to static options that can’t really be modified beyond. I really love spending hours in these things making my ideal character. Unfortunately, the sheer amount of restriction to presets meant I could never really go as deep as I wanted.
Also, AEW Fight Forever has online modes and they work well enough, but if you’re going to play with friends, you’d better coordinate your platform. AEW Fight Forever won't allow crossplay between Switch, Xbox, PlayStation, and PC at launch. PS4 and PS5 can play, as can Xbox One and Xbox Series X, but if you want to play across platform ecosystems, you’re out of luck here for the time being.
The start of something promising?
I’ll give AEW Fight Forever this: When I was playing actual matches, many of my problems faded into the background. The actual wrestling is a good time and up to four players can throw down in a massive variety of ways with a huge roster or their own created characters. It’s when I came away from the squared circle and had to look at other parts of the game that its flaws were hard to ignore. Even so, I think THQ Nordic, Yuke’s, and AEW have a good start here. They’ve made a game that is at least fun to play and feels good in the ring, which is arguably the most important part. If there’s another AEW game, I’d like to see Create-a-Wrestler, crossplay, and the overall presentation of the game rise to meet the gameplay. For now, I’ll just try not to spend too much time outside the squared circle in Fight Forever.
This review is based on a PlayStation 5 digital copy supplied by the publisher. AEW Fight Forever comes out on June 29, 2023, on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
AEW Fight Forever
- Wrestling feels good
- Huge roster of existing stars
- Movelist for CAW is massive
- Good variety of modes to play
- Online and local play for up to four players
- Visuals and presentation are ugly
- Voicework sounds uninspired
- No in-match commentary
- Create-a-Wrestler mostly features preset options
- No crossplay at launch
- Tag mechanics are janky
TJ Denzer posted a new article, AEW Fight Forever review: Don't try this at home
Great review, TJ. This is the score I expected and would have assigned. I hope the game does well so the publisher can justify investing in a sophomore effort. That said, I'm a huge wrestling fan and foumd the game lacking in even more ways.
>TJ mentioned shortened entrances, and that's one of the biggest offenders to me. Entrances in WWE games have been full length going back to SmackDown, before the series switched branding to 2K. They play a major role in immersing players in atmosphere and presentation. Fight Forever's entrances are roughly the same length as entrances in PS1-era WWE games, if not shorter in some instances.
>I don't see an option to create and upload created wrestlers. Maybe I overlooked it. What this means to players like me, who don't have hours to design exact replics of wrestlers, means players won't be able to round out the roster. Speaking of that...
>There are some glaring omissions. No Acclaimed even though they're arguably the most "over" teag team in AEW aside from stables such as the Elite. Danhausen, Wheeler Yuta, and Claudio Castagnoli are featured prominently on AEW programming; they're missing here. Some of these holes will be patched up with DLC, but not all. The option to download created wrestlers would solve this problem, which shouldn't exist in the first place.
>In terms of gameplay, countering doesn't work as well as it should. In WWE games, countering a strike triggering a 2-3 second animation of your opponent stumbling from the swing and miss. This gave both players time to strategize: will the player who countered go for strikes or grapples of their own, or perhaps Signatures or Finishers? Will the players who missed go on the defensive or try another offensive move? Pressing strike in Fight Forever tends to unload at least two punches. when you counter, your character moves your head to the left or right, and then goes back to neutral. There's very little pause in the offensive, and I found very little reason to go on the defensive because the window to counterattack is infiniesimal. That window widens a little if and when you evade a grapple, but strikes are quicker and fill in gaps between grapples. That is to say, you're throwing hands more often than you're going for suplexes because strikes soften opponents up for suplexes rather than the other way around.
> Another gameplay note is that Fight Forever feels clunky. I get that the game is a throwback to WWF No Mercy and WresteMania on N64 and even GameCube's WWE Day of Reckoning duology, which themselves were throwbacks to the N64 games. Even considering that, I did not miss the clunkiness. WWE's games aren't perfect, but feedback and responsiveness are head and shoulders above this game. Simply upt, they feel more modern.
There are other flaws, but those are the big ones. I'll defer to TJ on these and ohter points; I'm certain he's sunk more time into Fight Forever and he wrote an excellent review. But for me, if I only had enough money to choose between AEW's game or WWE 2k23, which is excellent, I'd go with the incumbent.
On your point of countering, I agree with a caveat. I almost never bothered with the strike counter for the very reasons you pointed out. My finger was always hovering the grapple counter though.
I like the flow where you have to land strikes and weak grapples repeatedly and soften your opponent up if you're going to go for the big moves. Likewise, breaking a grapple felt key to turning the tide at crucial moments. You can completely flip the momentum of a match by breaking a grapple and launching into your own offense. Strike counter though? Not enough reward for the risk of standing there not throwing out your own moves.
I’m sad. I was hoping for another No Mercy N64 era game that is solid. Oh well…
It's supposed to be like a throwback to No Mercy, but it's developed by Yukes, who basically threw out all of the mechanics that made No Mercy fun when they took over the WWF franchise in 2000. The fact that Yukes is involved makes me not interested, lol. If they got AKI/Syn Sophia to develop it, I'd already have the game preordered.
Aki hasn’t made a game in decades. I’m sure most of the talent moved on
*wrestling game I mean
Probably, but I still blame Yukes for getting rid of AKI's mechanics that made the WWF games fun and it triggers me that they're now claiming to be recreating the era of games that they ruined in the first place.