All Elite Wrestling was originally meant to provide a fresh alternative in the wrestling space and, in its own words, “change the world.” While it never quite lived up to its lofty initial claims, it eventually settled into a satisfying mixture of nostalgia and interesting young talent that is worth watching, even if it is rarely appointment television. Unfortunately, the wrestling company’s first console video game endeavor, AEW: Fight Forever, solely relies on nostalgia and has nothing interesting of its own volition to offer the genre.
AEW has teamed up with former WWE 2K developer Yuke’s, which slowly drove that series into mediocrity and showed few interesting ideas after making yearly wrestling games for nearly two decades. Switching brands and losing its framework hasn’t helped things any, as Fight Forever makes a rough first impression as the game is rough in nearly every area. Almost every character looks wonky, the presentation is lacking, and the gameplay is rough right off the bat, especially since characters are invincible anytime they initiate an attack animation.
AEW: Fight Forever only starts getting slightly better once its limitations are clear and after it becomes more evident that it is trying to conjure up memories of WWF: No Mercy and other wrestling games of yesteryear. While the action is quite limited, there’s actually a surprising amount of small details in its wrestler skill system that allows for certain characters to perform springboard attacks and bounce off ring ropes. Sometimes, the quick action clicks and matches start becoming entertaining.
However, these moments are pretty few and far between, as they can only take place in one-on-one battles. Any match with three or more participants in it is a total drag. Tag matches are constantly interrupted after every tag since all four men enter the ring and can last entirely too long since it’s difficult to get a pinfall. The Casino Battle Royale mode is a joke that can’t replicate its real-life counterpart because the game caps off at four people and just turns into a Royal Rumble rip-off. Rather than being engaged with these matches, you have to play in specific ways to get wins, which is limiting. Some of these win conditions include going for a pinfall right as an opponent locks in a lengthy move that stops them from breaking up a pin attempt and using weapons to quickly knock out every person in a four-way match.
So much of the game is dated, and that’s by design, as nearly every poor element can be explained by the phrase, “That’s how No Mercy did it.” But it’s not the year 2000 anymore, and wrestling fans should expect better from a game than to hold up a 20-year-old release as the pinnacle of the genre. All that’s really new to the genre is a collection of mindless minigames that would be the low point of the worst Mario Party game.
Rather than trying to innovate, AEW: Fight Forever is content with playing a cheap nostalgia card. That’s not even an effective card to play, either, as No Mercy didn’t feel like a poor product when it was released. AEW: Fight Forever should’ve attempted to recapture the feeling of first playing No Mercy rather than basing so many decisions off a dated framework.
The only mode with any meat to it is its main single-player offering called Road to Elite. It’s a quick take on a career mode that only takes place over a year and can be finished in around three or four hours. The idea itself isn’t terrible: pick an existing wrestler — or create your own one via its severely limited creation suite — and then see how their first year goes.
However, there are only 12 story possibilities that are mixed in during each playthrough, and most of them rely on terrible multi-man matches (including one that was a miserable one-on-three match that I only was able to win via count out). It’s relatively neat seeing stories like The Inner Circle’s alliance with MJF and the first AEW Championship match play out inside the game, but there’s little in terms of replay value here.
With the only real mode being a total miss, players are left playing exhibition matches or facing off against others online. It’s severely lacking content and giving players a reason to play. Everything can easily be unlocked in the shop after just a few hours of play, so there’s no reason to grind out matches. It’s a shame since, even though the limited female roster mostly relegates them to intergender matches, the male roster is pretty solid, and there aren’t many ways to utilize them outside of repeatedly playing meaningless matches.
AEW: Fight Forever Review: The final verdict
AEW: Fight Forever tries its best to invoke one of the most beloved wrestling games, but it’s a pale imitation that doesn’t live up to that legacy. The occasionally entertaining match doesn’t make up for most of the game feeling like an annoying chore to complete, and this doesn’t even seem like a particularly strong core to build off for a sequel. Wrestling fans deserve better, and developer Yuke’s continues to deliver middling games within the genre regardless of the brand it is associated with.
Disclaimer: This AEW: Fight Forever review is based on a PS5 copy provided by the publisher. Reviewed on version 1.001.000.