AEW: Fight Forever Review | Not quite the Revolution you’d expect

AEW: Fight Forever is fun, but it's far from perfect.

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AEW: Fight Forever is the brand’s first foray into the triple A gaming sphere and an attempt to go toe-to-toe against the WWE and their perennial monopoly on video game wrestling. Backed by THQ Nordic and Yuke’s, two huge names in the action game community, they had all the more reason to go Double or Nothing.

While there have been a slew of wrestling video games from across the red, blue, and gold pond for a good part of the past decade, none have achieved as much mainstream popularity and exposure. Titles such as Fire Pro Wrestling World and Retromania had their own quirks and charm, but couldn’t go head-to-head against the 2K-powered wrestling game franchise.  Since their announcement in 2020, AEW guaranteed a gritty, action-packed video game title that would being the essence of their brand to gaming rigs all around. With a variety of talent behind their roster, some compelling storytelling since their inception, and help from two major companies well-known for kicking ass, AEW: Fight Forever had nothing but potential coming into the fray.

 

So, did they deliver the promised Rampage, or did things just go Dark for everyone? Let’s have a look at AEW: Fight Forever.

Back to basics

Since Yuke’s had a hand in this game’s creation, it’s safe to say my personal expectations were high. The PlayStation 2 games of old were a huge part of my teenage years, and I can honestly say that 2004’s Smackdown vs. Raw still holds up today. Fight me (forever).

You get seven main modes that a list of include exhibition matches and online competitive mode. “Road to Elite” essentially serves as Manager/Career Mode, and the customization suite contains everything you need to modify existing wrestlers and stables, or creating your own.

Match modes can be modified even further with stipulations such as falls count anywhere or Lights Out (No DQ).  I do wish there was more variety with the tag teams, like six or eight-man tag matches, or Tornado Tag (everyone in the ring all at once). Still, as a vanilla experience, this is perfectly serviceable.

You can tell that this is, indeed a Yuke’s title, with the intuitive controls, ever-do-slightly exaggerated physical features, and heavy, impactful hits. I always found their straddling the line between hyperrealism and uncanny valley quite charming, and on-brand. It was their calling card, and it was plastered firmly onto Fight Forever. However, this might be a seen as a negative for a lot of players–especially CM Punk fans, who’d be confused as to why he resembles Cliff Curtis from Training Day more than Phil Brooks himself.

Speaking of controls, there’s not much to nitpick. They’re easy to navigate, remember, and chain together. Button prompts appear at your preference, and you can even enable “casual mode” which makes things even simpler. It might take a bit of getting used to once you’re facing more than two opponents at once, as the target switching can be a bit unresponsive and requires a bit of timing. This couldn’t have been more apparent as I got my ass handed to me by Death Triangle. Otherwise, your opponents will be cruising for a bruising once you remember all the button prompts required to pull off different moves.

The overall aesthetic of Fight Forever will definitely be an acquired taste. But once you start playing, you’ll have more frustration thinking of ways to manhandle your opponent than actually performing said manhandling. It works just fine.

The “Less is More” conundrum

Don’t get me wrong, Fight Forever passes as game fit for release. It’s not some buggy mess that had questionable quality control. That being said, it’s still severely lacking on a few fronts–one of which, I’ll go into more detail later. 

From the get-go, you get a generous 47 wrestlers to choose from, which is great. However, once you play around with the different game modes, you’ll see an errant wrestler that you couldn’t find in the main roster. These wrestlers could either be acquired via DLC or unlocked in Road to Elite mode–which sort of poses a problem. When we talk about unlockables, a few hints here and there would be nice, especially for those who don’t aim to grind this game for hours.

By this, I mean that without any prior knowledge, you’d probably spend a good two or three days finding out how to unlock the late Brodie Lee or The Wrestler Formerly Known as The Big Show, Paul Wight. Unlocking them takes some extensive trial and error, and you’ll find yourself stopping and starting your Road to Elite campaign. Unlocking Owen Hart requires you to complete 100 exhibition matches. As for everyone else, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

This brings me to another issue–the dreaded DLC-exclusive. If their plans involve locking all the upcoming wrestlers behind a paywall, then that would be a tad problematic. You want to recreate epic matches between The Ass Boys and The Acclaimed? You want to “scissor Daddy Ass?” Well, sorry compadre. No cash, no Ass. At least, I hope not.

One last problem which didn’t stand out too much for me, but would definitely be a glaring issue for more wrestling gamer purists would be the lack of voiceovers, voice acting, in-game commentary, and full entrances for wrestlers. Sure, we do get Justin Roberts, Tazz, and Jim Ross lending their voices for tutorials, and perhaps we get Jon Moxley’s actual, blood-splattered grunts, but why not go the extra mile? Why cut the entrances short of the wrestlers stepping off the ramp? You can always tell that sports commentary, regardless of the video game, is just a constant loop of voice lines–but it’s still nice to have it there.

Freedom with constraints

For the better part of this section, I’ll be making use of my personally curated AEW wrestlers, Bill Goldberg and Roman Reigns–just a couple of no-names you’re probably never heard of.

The character creation mode might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m sure a few people share my sentiments in viewing it as a major feature that contributes to a game’s replayability. Whether it’s basketball, boxing, or a JRPG, best believe I’m making my epic self-insert, or creating an inconceivable brand crossover.

Fight Forever allows you to do that, albeit with some major limitations. First off, you get eight unchangeable, untweakable faces and about the same number of hairstyles and facial hair. As far as creating your wrestler’s likeness, that pretty much it. You have four body types which you can modify further in terms of height, fat, and muscle definition, and while that’s more acceptable compared to faces, it’s still limited. In terms of names, you get more variety–even when it comes to ring announcements. It’s understandable that you can’t get some of the more special names (like “Roman Rey” and “Go Bert”), but you’ll find a Seth Rollins and Rhea Ripley on the list, mainly because they’re actual, plausible names. It’s a nice touch.

As for the movesets, entrances, poses, and attires, you get a good amount of customizability. If only the faces didn’t look so far from the people you had in mind, you’d get a more accurate representation. I’m not trying to be nitpicky here. It’s just that the freedom to tweak faces has been a feature readily available in games since the 2000s. You’d expect to see it in a modern triple A game in 2023.

Complete the story

Road to Elite and character creation go hand-in-hand, at least in my case. If both modes are fleshed out thoroughly, there’s hours worth of gameplay to enjoy. So, given we’ve covered the limitations of the character creation system, let’s go over the dedicated career mode.

The career mode takes you across four story arcs split into three parts each, basically your journey from All Out to Double or Nothing. From there, you get a variety of tasks that include workouts, fine dining, socialization, and taking part in AEW Dark and Rampage. Your main objective is to build up your wrestler with rewarded stat points while making sure you make it to Double or Nothing in one piece. You’ll encounter a few members of the roster along the way, and likely challenge a few champions for their titles. Nonetheless, your endgame is to be crowned AEW champ by the conclusion of the four story arcs.

This is as straightforward as it gets–unless you’re out to unlock characters, as mentioned earlier. If you get a spotty win-lose record like my Roman Reigns, you probably get a midcard titles, a couple of interesting feuds, and a lot of pain. If you streamroll the competition like my 24-0 Goldberg, then you get more stat points, more fanfare, and you leave Double or Nothing as reigning champion.

I’ve yet to see what a losing streak will do, but one thing is guaranteed, Death Triangle will always make an appearance. Speaking of appearances, you’ll get a few random moments with your favorite AEW stars along the way. Sure, there are a few issues with writing, like Riho talking like a college professor who majors in English. Otherwise, the self-awareness and references might give you a chuckle or two. Still, it would’ve been nice if there were actual voiceovers.

I’m sure there a few more things to discover in this mode, but the lack of voiceovers, repetitive animation, and limited actions, I don’t really feel like going through it a third time just yet. I’ve already sunk in 20 hours into the game, and most of it was for Road to Elite. Given how Kenny Omega was very much involved in the development process, I expected a bit more, given his hobbies and personality. Honestly, a  full-blown dating sim inside the game wouldn’t have been a bad idea. Nonetheless, this portion of Fight Forever is fun for what it is, but it gets old rather quickly.

Final Verdict – 6/10

This is a very generous 6 out of 10. I won’t deny the fact that I had a lot of fun in my accumulated 20 hours, and I’m looking forward to playing it even more over the weekend. But my enjoyment won’t overshadow the issues this game possesses. For a triple A title that costs $59.99 USD for the base edition, and $79.99 USD for the premium edition on PlayStation 5, I need to put my foot down. Throwing in a few wrestlers doesn’t make up for the lack of features.

It’s worth noting that on Steam, the price is lower and immediately went on sale upon release. This makes things marginally fair, at least for those on PC.

At the end of the day, Fight Forever is a fun experience that accomplishes what it set out to do–be a serviceable wrestling video game. Holding it to a higher standard, going a bit more in-depth, and considering its price versus its competition sees it fall short. It has the potential to become a great franchise down the line, and this was by no means a failure of a first game. I suppose we all just expected a little bit more care and effort put into it–given the companies involved and the people helping out in creatives. This was developed during the height of the pandemic, so we can cut them a bit more slack. Still, a delayed, more polished game would have been better, at least in my opinion. Regardless, I look forward to how they’ll proceed from here.

I’m sorry, Cody. But it looks like you won’t be able to complete your story, at least not here.

This review was made via a PC game code provided by the publisher.