AEW: Fight Forever Review: A Solid First Shot

When All Elite Wrestling first announced its plans for its inaugural console video game title back in 2020, it did so with a clever parody video resembling a classic Steve Jobs Apple presentation from the 2000s. The video featured wrestlers dressed in black turtlenecks, glasses, and mom jeans. After three years, AEW: Fight Forever has finally arrived, maintaining the same nostalgic charm that characterized its initial announcement. The game not only aims to revive the era when multiple wrestling promotions successfully released video games but also seeks to bring back the arcade-style wrestling games with simpler control schemes that once thrived. To achieve this, AEW went the extra mile by enlisting Hideyuki "Geta" Iwashita, the director renowned for creating classic wrestling games such as WWF No Mercy and WCW/nWo Revenge.

Fight Forever successfully recaptures the gameplay style of the bygone era it seeks to emulate. The controls strike a delicate balance, being accessible enough for beginners to jump right in and start playing, while also offering enough depth for seasoned players to delve into and strive for mastery. Matches maintain a brisk pace, and each wrestler possesses distinct attributes that lend them a unique feel. For example, Kenny Omega can relentlessly employ V-Trigger knee strikes, while Jon Moxley can counter almost any attack in a brutal fashion. The game manages to encapsulate the essence of each wrestler so effectively that playing as them surpasses any attempt fans may have made to recreate them in WWE 2K. Moreover, the game is replete with an abundance of Easter eggs scattered throughout the venues, particularly in specific matchups, actively rewarding players who exhibit creativity in their offense or attempt to recreate iconic AEW matches.

However, once you delve beyond the gameplay loop, Fight Forever begins to exhibit some shortcomings. The options available for creating your own wrestler are disappointingly limited, although the extensive range of choices for crafting your wrestler's moveset does provide some redemption. The "Road to Elite" story mode can be completed within a mere few hours, leaving players wanting more. Additionally, the roster itself raises concerns.

Based on the available roster and ring gear at the time of the cutoff in late 2021, some of the AEW originals may be missing. Therefore, none of the additions made in the past year, such as the AEW Trios Championships, Orange Cassidy's International Championship, or any mention of Ring of Honor and its roster, including former champions like Samoa Joe, Saraya, The Acclaimed, and Jamie Hayter, are included. Additionally, despite AEW's renowned stacked tag division, only four of its tag teams are featured, and the current champions, FTR's Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler, are part of the DLC. As a result, although many of AEW's main event players and fan favorites are available at launch, you may quickly notice the limited depth of the roster.

(Photo: AEW/THQ Nordic)

If there's one redeeming aspect to the game's limitations, it's that it maintains a lighthearted tone throughout. The dialogue and visuals in "Road to Elite" strike a playful balance between Street Fighter II and a Being The Elite sketch. The mini-games provide amusement, reminiscent of the enjoyable style found in Pokemon Stadium. Moreover, the more extreme stipulation matches offer plenty of entertainment, ranging from the sheer absurdity of the Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch to the assortment of weapons featured in Lights Out matches.

AEW: Fight Forever possesses the foundation of a truly exceptional wrestling game, with gameplay that is undeniably pure and enjoyable. While there have been hints of following the No Man's Sky approach, with post-launch updates and DLC aiming to enhance the overall experience, it is also possible that a sequel could take inspiration from the original idea and achieve great success, akin to Street Fighter's evolution. This game may not revolutionize the pro wrestling video game landscape, but AEW fans and players seeking a distinct alternative to WWE's yearly releases will find enjoyment in it.

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