While it might feel like it’s been a thousand years since AEW: Fight Forever was announced, it’s finally here. After 20 years since the last time WWE was challenged on the video game front, will AEW bring something to the table to set them apart from their long-term competition, or have the years of ring rust from the old AKI engine produced something that will fizzle out much like every other wrestling company game that has been produced in the shadows of the WWE juggernaut? Let’s strap on those tights and leather boots and get into the ring with the newest wrestling game on the block.
Name: AEW: Fight Forever Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (reviewed), Microsoft Windows, Xbox One/Series X|S Developer: Yuke’s Publisher: THQ Nordic Game Type: Sports Mode(s): June 29, 2023 Release Date: Single-player, multiplayer
AEW: Fight Forever: A Story of Success
Road to The Elite Review
I know I would usually have a section outlining everything that happens in the AEW: Fight Forever story mode, which is known as Road to the Elite. However, this time the story is not that straightforward. AEW: Fight Forever’s story mode is a part history lesson about AEW as a company, reviewing its rise from a one-night Pay-Per-View to the second most watched wrestling promotion on the planet while you go through your own story with its own twists and turns along the way.
Much like WWE No Mercy, AEW: Fight Forever runs different “Blocks” of a story mode which will change based on wins and losses that you get throughout the mode. In my own playthrough of the mode for this review, I picked Kenny Omega and played through to the end of the first All-In show, where I beat Chris Jericho for the AEW World Heavyweight championship. However, the history of the company states that Chris Jericho won the belt that night, so I was coming straight out with a new history of AEW as its first World Heavyweight Champion.
Because I won at All-In, the next “block” was designated “Block 2B”, showing I’m on a different track than the game wanted, but it didn’t punish me for it… Unless you count getting booked into the first-ever AEW Barbwire Exploding Ring match as a punishment. But that’s the greatness of using the old WWF No Mercy multi-track story mode as your base, as you do not know what is going to happen next. (Unless you’re one of those people who will download a path guide on the internet).
During your time going through Road to the Elite, you’ll either gather up a bunch of coins (Used in this mode only to unlock T-Shirts of the area you’re visiting or boost your character through power-ups and recovery items) or develop your custom-created character through a mix of modes. Each week you’ll get 3-4 options to do before heading to the ring for the weekly Dynamite TV show or Special Event Pay-Per-View. The options available to you are Workout, Dining, Go Out, and Rampage/Dark Challenge.
Workout puts you through one of 3 workout cutscenes that will give you skill points that are used with the created character (These points mean nothing for already-established AEW wrestlers). Dining is used as a recovery option where you go out to eat a local dish from the area you’re in at the time. Go Out gives you three options: Sightseeing, which restores your motivation meter. Attending a Press Event/TV Show/Meet & Greet where you’ll regain energy and motivation, and mini-games, where you’ll play a mini-game to gain skill points and/or coins. Dark/Rampage Challenge is when you fight against someone who challenges you through a visit during the other 3 events.
It’s quite easy to balance these options to keep your character running high on motivation and energy… At first. As you go on wrestling, you’ll find that you will lose more energy and motivation as the mode continues, showing that sometimes that time off is not a bad thing in the wrestling business… And that’s all there is to this mode.
If you’re a fan of AEW or a newcomer to the company, you’ll find something here that will either educate, challenge, or entertain you as you move through the multiple paths that AEW: Fight Forever brings to the table.
It’s Not About Realism, It’s About Action!
AEW: Fight Forever does what it can right out of the gate to bring that nostalgic look and feel of the Nintendo 64-era wrestling games back into the spotlight while updating the graphics at the same time. This gives AEW: Fight Forever a very nice and unique look to it by having some pretty detailed wrestlers, arenas, and other areas while keeping the style looking like you’re playing with wrestling action figures.
This style is not going to be for everyone, especially those who have grown up playing the WWE 2K wrestling games. While AEW: Fight Forever doesn’t look photo-realistic, it does like a video game. All the male wrestlers either look like the well-muscled men that they are, or for those with a gut, they actually look like the rest of us mere mortals. For the most part, the women look like they are in real life. Those who are slim are slim, and those who are not. So when it comes to knowing the difference between all of the wrestlers, it is pretty easy to do so… Even the horrible Eddie Kingston model that people were complaining about online isn’t that bad when you look at it.
As for the wrestling itself, the arena looks like the original dual tunnel version that AEW had up until its 4th anniversary, and all the shows are there. If you want to wrestle on Dynamite, Rampage, or Dark TV shows, you can choose those. Or you can pick one of the 4 main Pay-Per-View sets (All-In, Double or Nothing, Revolution, and Full Gear). Once you are in the ring, you will notice that the crowd is fully three-dimensional, but AEW: Fight Forever does darken things after the first few rows to reduce the amount of crowd needed to present each match.
The ring is a perfect recreation of the one that you will see at each show, complete with logos and everything (This was before the Draft Kings sponsorship). The only time that the ring will change is when you pick the Barbwire Exploding Ring match, where the ring ropes are replaced with barbwire.
Speaking of the Barbwire Exploding Ring match, this match is a pretty cool addition to AEW: Fight Forever. While the real-life version of the match was a bit of a letdown with its explosion, this version does not disappoint. After 2 minutes, the ring will explode with a huge explosion that shakes the game camera and almost blinds anyone playing with the light show that comes with things going kaboom… Though if you want the authentic experience, I’ve heard that it is included, but I have yet to experience it.
AEW: Fight Forever Retro Revival
The gameplay in AEW: Fight Forever is, as mentioned many times now, based around the AKI engine that was used in games like WCW vs. The World, WCW vs. nWo: World Tour, WWF Wrestlemania, and WWF No Mercy on Nintendo 64 in the late 1990s/early 2000s. For those of you who grew up with that era of wrestling video games, you’ll jump right back in like it was the N64 days right away. However, those of you who have grown up on the WWE 2K series of wrestling video games might have a little bit of trouble working out that AEW: Fight Forever has one of the simplest yet complex timing controls in gaming.
You have 2 attack buttons; one for punching, one for kicking, a grapple button, a run button, an action button, and 2 reversal buttons; one for grapples and one for attacks. You use the control pad or left stick to move your wrestler, and the right stick is to taunt. If you want to do a more powerful version of moves/alternate moves, you hold down a button to get the “heavy” version. When you think about it, this system is a lot better than anything 2K games has done in the last 5 years.
Damage isn’t really a thing in AEW: Fight Forever, but it goes back to the momentum meter days of the older games. By hitting successive moves in a row, your meter will build with it. Once you hit the “Signature” state, you have access to your wrestler’s signature move, usually activated by hitting the directional pad from your wrestler’s desired state. Unlike the 2K games, once you hit your signature move, you are not forced into your finisher state. Instead, you can hit your signature time and time again until the state ends but beware, by doing the same move over and over, you risk losing your signature state after time. Alternatively, you can taunt your opponent and enter your “Finisher” state, where you can hit your ultimate move on your opponent to win your match.
By and large, AEW: Fight Forever presents these matches in a really smooth style. Unlike the other company, which has had some horrible clipping and collision issues, AEW: Fight Forever doesn’t have any of that. Wrestling flows with swift and fluid action at all times like you always wanted it to. Even the hair on wrestlers will move better than anything that the 2K games will. For those of you who complained about AEW: Fight Forever getting delay after delay, this is why… So we get quality action in the ring.
The last thing I want to mention is the Mini-Games that AEW: Fight Forever has… Or at least the three that are available at launch. While these might be a weird addition to a wrestling game, the way AEW: Fight Forever works them into the overall feel of the game. From launch, you get to pick either Chip Gather, where you run around the ring collecting coins of different types while avoiding bombs; AEW Quiz, where you answer questions based on AEW history and moments; and Penta Says, where you play a Simon Says style posing game by pressing specific buttons to the pattern and beat Penta El Zero creates.
While these things are a combination of simple and weird, they create a really fun experience that wrestling fans will enjoy if they give it a chance.
Want a Rematch?
AEW: Fight Forever is going to be that game that you come back to when you want to just have a fun wrestling experience. It’s like Mario Party for wrestling fans, meaning it’s easy to pick up and play for people of any skill level. You don’t need to spend forever in the tutorial mode in order to get a good match going either solo or between friends. However, the limited roster and match selection does mean that there isn’t a lot of selection available, and even the mini-games have this issue too. Though there is a Season Pass available that will give 5 more wrestlers and a few more mini-games to play very soon, those of you who are expecting multiple packs of wrestlers will be left disappointed as this Season Pass looks to be a one-and-done.
If you like to create yourself or other wrestlers in AEW: Fight Forever, then you’re also going to be disappointed as there aren’t that many creation parts of working with and no shortcuts like image upload available for you to use. But if you work with what is available (and unlocked through the in-game Shop), you might be able to make decent-looking recreations of many AEW and other wrestlers. AEW: Fight Forever does not skip on the recreation of entrances from other wrestlers, with even some WWE Superstars entrances being made available for you to use.
Even the online mode might be a bit tight as there aren’t that many modes available. Unfortunately, I have been unable to test the online parts of AEW: Fight Forever due to my PlayStation Plus subscription has run out, and due to the cost of living, I cannot afford to resubscribe at this time. So good luck to those who want to play online.
All the complaints I made aside, AEW: Fight Forever is one of the best wrestling games I have played in a long time. Even if the choices are minimal, the gameplay itself has made AEW: Fight Forever one of those games that I do not want to put down.
Haters Gonna Hate
Alright, I’m going to do the one thing that people on the internet should never do: I’m going to address people on Twitter who have already pre-judged this game as a failure.
For the most part, the people who are against AEW: Fight Forever fall into the following categories:
WWE fans who already hate AEW because it’s not WWE
People who have not played the N64/AKI era of wrestling games
Those who think Graphics = Quality
Addressing the first group is easy… SHUT UP! WWE is not the only wrestling product that matters. There are thousands of wrestling promotions around the world; some of them even have TV deals and make a decent amount of money without needing Vince McMahon or Triple H creating “Superstars.” Just because WWE has become the brand that is associated with the word wrestling (Even though WWE doesn’t like the word wrestling, it prefers Sports Entertainment), it does not mean that no other company should be allowed to do things in the wrestling space.
The second group is the one that has become the most brainwashed. For the last 20+ years, we have gone from wrestling video games being a fun arcade experience to a sports simulation experience like Madden, NBA 2K, etc. A lot of people have either grown up on these sports simulator versions or have gotten used to them being the norm for wrestling in general. This sucks because, for those of us who grew up with the N64/AKI era games, we know that wrestling games are about having stupid amounts of fun doing dumb things with one of the simplest controls on the planet. Not every game has to be a complex multi-button affair with a full career mode where you build the same created wrestler up to World Champion over and over again while playing the 800th version of a Showcase featuring one of about 4 different eras. Not everything needs to be complex to be fun, you goddamn marks!
Speaking about complex, let’s talk about the third group. As I have mentioned above, AEW: Fight Forever has some very detailed graphics for the look that AEW wants for the game. AEW: Fight Forever was not designed to be a WWE 2K game, it was designed to invoke memories of playing WWF No Mercy, so that is the style that they used. AEW: Fight Forever has a detailed but simple art style that gives us some great-looking characters that you know exactly who they are when they enter the ring. Not everything has to be photo realistic. Yes, WWE 2K games have amazing realistic scanning tech to give us an almost picture-perfect recreation of WWE shows, but sometimes simple is fun.
So many people online are going to call AEW: Fight Forever outdated graphically, calling it a PS2/PS3-era-looking video game. People are also going to call the controls too simple, saying that there isn’t a ton of move variety. Some people are going to complain that the character creation isn’t as deep as a WWE 2K game. If these people really want to make AEW: Fight Forever into another WWE 2K series clone (which they would bitch about that, too, if it happened), then this game is not for those people. AEW: Fight Forever is for those people who want an ALTERNATIVE for wrestling games, just like AEW is an ALTERNATIVE to the WWE for those of us who want to watch WRESTLING and not Sports Entertainment.
Plus, this is AEW’s first game, so give them a chance to grow and learn from mistakes like WWE games did over the last 20+ years.
I remember saying in my WWE 2K22 review that I was waiting to see what AEW produced, and after not getting the game that year, I felt even more depressed reviewing WWE 2K23, getting used to the sameness that has come from that series over the past couple of decades. Playing AEW: Fight Forever, I felt reenergized, wanting to play more and more of the game as I got used to the controls again. AEW: Fight Forever brings me back to the days of WWF No Mercy, and more so, my favorite game of that era: WCW/NWO Revenge.
For the first time in a long time, I’m having FUN with a wrestling game. I’m having so much fun with AEW: Fight Forever that I don’t think about creating or downloading a different roster from another company in order to enjoy this game; I’m just having fun… and that’s what gaming is about.
Review Disclosure Statement: AEW: Fight Forever was provided to us by THQ Nordic for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
AEW: Fight Forever brings me back to the “glory days” of wrestling video games with its easy-to-learn but hard-to-master controls, fun and entertaining graphics, and a KISS match selection that gives you just enough of a taste of what All Elite Wrestling is about. AEW: Fight Forever might not have the complex simulation look and feel that we’ve come to accept because of WWE video games over the last 20 years, but it’s FUN, something that the WWE games tend to forget about.