AEW fans have been waiting for almost the entirety of the company’s lifespan for their official video game, with AEW: Fight Forever being one of the first non-wrestling related announcements that the promotion made. It was clear from the get-go that Fight Forever was a passion project for AEW EVP Kenny Omega, recruiting former WWE game developers Yuke’s to create a wrestling game that harks back to titles like No Mercy, Shut Your Mouth and WrestleMania XIX. For better or worse, AEW: Fight Forever achieves that goal, but whether it’ll be something you enjoy is another story.
On the whole, AEW: Fight Forever’s gameplay accomplishes the brief of being an old school grappler, with fast gameplay that promotes strike combos mixed with grappling. There’s also counters, reversals and a lot more, ensuring that the gameplay remains dynamic. It’s not revolutionary, of course, as it follows the same wrestling game staple of “build momentum, hit finisher, win”, but there’s some interesting nuances that keep things somewhat interesting.
Aerial offense, particularly regarding springboards off the ropes, turnbuckles and ring barricades, is much easier in AEW: Fight Forever than in other wrestling games, with players able to bounce off different parts of the ring and arena by pressing two buttons together. Considering how many wrestlers in AEW love to indulge in the flippy side of wrestling, having that side of the product be represented and easily accessible is a nice touch. The fact that the game allows intergender wrestling too is brilliant, opening up more match possibilities.
Another intriguing element that I personally hope becomes a standard feature in other wrestling games is how you can customise a wrestler’s entrance on the fly. Each wrestler can have up to four sets of pyro and screen effects equipped, which you can trigger at any point you want during an entrance. The options range from the standard fireworks to more ridiculous things like rubber balls being dunked on a wrestler’s head, or the wrestler being pelted with garbage like they’re Andre The Giant coming out at WrestleMania III. It’s silly, but there’s joy to be had there, even if the entrances themselves only last like 10 seconds, unfortunately.
The gameplay of AEW: Fight Forever is at its best when it leans into the elements that the company has become known for over the years. Whether it’s the ridiculous amount of blood that comes out of Jon Moxley’s head, the fact that you can use Darby Allin’s skateboard to attack people, or you can hold an actual Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch that you can choose to have explode or fizzle out, just like in real life, it’s these nods to the tapestry of AEW as a whole that makes Fight Forever feel like a labour of love.
Where AEW: Fight Forever runs into trouble is the fact that it’s trying to corner a gap in the market where there’s no longer a gap. Fight Forever was originally announced back in 2020, at a time when wrestling game fans had become sick of the WWE 2K series’ constant disappointments and glitches. The simulation-heavy gameplay had become a sticking point for a lot of fans, so the idea of AEW offering an old school, arcade inspired experience sounded like a great alternative.
After the abysmal reception to WWE 2K20 though, Visual Concepts took some time away and completely reworked the WWE 2K series as a whole, coming back stronger than ever and boasting a more arcade-focused gameplay style, one that ultimately feels better to play than AEW: Fight Forever. As much as there’s fun to be had with Fight Forever, the game feels clunky to play. Running feels incredibly sluggish at times, and is awkward to activate by being on the circle button, while having to hit the d-pad to trigger signatures can be incredibly clumsy for certain wrestlers.
Unless you’re a die-hard AEW fan, there’s little here that makes Fight Forever worth recommending over WWE 2K23 right now. Content-wise, Fight Forever’s roster is paltry compared to both 2K23 and AEW’s own roster, with some glaring omissions here (having no Acclaimed but putting Max Caster on the soundtrack was a choice, lads), and the selection of mini-games on offer will probably grow stale after one or two rounds.
Meanwhile, there’s only a few match types, and the Road to Elite career mode is just a bunch of self-contained storylines with no real choice, agency or enjoyment to be had. Some of the cutscenes have some silly jokes that might get a laugh or two, but there’s only so many times you can see the same workout scene over and over again before you want to take your ball and go home.
This is without getting into the options for the game’s creation suite, which is seriously atrocious. Only having four kinds of beard options when depicting a sport that has some of the most bearded men in the world feels like a glaring oversight, along with the fact you can only equip one tattoo at a time. Hopefully, these issues are addressed in the future, as more content and features are added to the game.
What’s more baffling though is that AEW: Fight Forever looks like it could become a genuine contender in the future, with a supposed leak revealing that there’ll be a battle royale mode inspired by the real life Stadium Stampede match, which could be an absolute treat for someone who loved Rumbleverse before its untimely demise. None of that was part of the review build though, so it doesn’t matter. We can only review what we play.
It’s likely that this Stadium Stampede mode is going to be shadow-dropped when the game launches, or it’ll be part of a “Season One” of content coming in the future, but it’s a shame because a mode like that could have done wonders for AEW: Fight Forever when reviewing it. The creativity and novelty of it alone would’ve been enough to make AEW: Fight Forever a curiosity recommendation, if nothing else.
Without it, you’re left with a package that can’t quite keep up with the competition. Considering that AEW: Fight Forever is meant to be a live service game instead of an annual release though, it’s likely that 6-12 months from now, we’ll be looking at a completely different version of the game, because no live service game can ever just launch in a good state. It always has to be some kind of redemption arc. I just hope that future version of the game has much more to offer, because right now, AEW: Fight Forever feels like a botch.
A copy of AEW: Fight Forever was provided by PR for the purposes of this review.
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AEW: Fight Forever’s good ideas can’t save it from a paltry amount of content and somewhat inferior gameplay compared to its competition.
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