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AEW Fight Forever review: A little bit of old school for the new school

Richard Lee Breslin

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AEW Fight Forever review: A little bit of old school for the new school

Featured Image Credit: AEW Games

The premise of AEW Fight Forever is based on the old-school formula of WWF No Mercy on the N64. In terms of gameplay, it’s quite basic, but don’t let that put you off. One of the selling points of this game is that its easy pick-up-and-play style is for just about everyone.

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Without even touching the training mode, I and my 12-year-old son had no issue picking up the controller, and jumping straight into the action. It’s the emphasis on accessible, arcade action that separates AEW Fight Forever from the likes of WWE 2K23. Sure, we didn't know all the moves for our first match, but the gameplay is so deliberately simplistic, we were both having fun instantly. If you were to skip the training mode, you’ll still be greeted with in-game prompts for your first few match types with pro wrestling legend William Regan explaining some of the basics.

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At the most basic level, you’ll just need to know how to Grapple, Punch, Kick and Sprint. There are other moves to learn, which you’ll easily pick up after a few matches. Other than those basics, the two other most important moves are the ‘Signature’ and ‘Finisher’.

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On the attack during a match, AEW Fight Forever focuses on building up momentum which is represented by a gauge letting you know whether you are in trouble or on the verge of victory. When you're ready to perform your Signature move, the prelude to the Finisher, simply grapple your opponent and press the D-pad to perform the Signature. What’s more, once your gauge is in the Signature state, a flick of the analogue stick will trigger a taunt to activate your Finishing move, so grapple your opponent once more to end the match in style.

Defensively, players can block a punch or kick with a well-timed press of the top shoulder button. You can also counter-moves by predicting what button your opponent has pressed at the exact time. While this method of defence is somewhat random, if you’re lucky, it can result in a fun prolonged chain of wrestling counters.

AEW Fight Forever (AEW Games)
AEW Fight Forever (AEW Games)
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What’s more, if you end your opponent with a Signature and Finisher combo, you will earn additional currency which can be spent at the in-game shop to unlock new wrestlers, as well as entrance emotes, new moves, and arena items (with the latter few items being used in the ‘create a wrestler and arena’ suite).

To earn more currency as well as a potential five-star match rating, the more varied your moves are during the match, whether it be a flurry of Signatures/Finishers, high-flying spots, crashing someone throws a table, using weapons or drawing blood, it will contribute towards your end-of-match rewards.

Unfortunately, after several hours of playtime, you will find yourself performing the same moves over and over again. This is why I’d recommended mixing it up with the 52 wrestlers available at launch, with new additions arriving via paid and pre-order DLC.

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AEW Fight Forever (AEW Games)
AEW Fight Forever (AEW Games)

Another way to avoid character repetition is with the create a wrestler feature. Here you can select gender, size, features, moves and more, as well as customise your entrance. It’s quite robust and you should be able to create a decent presentation of yourself or a favourite wrestler currently not in AEW Fight Forever. You can even dabble in creating your arena.

The main mode of AEW Fight Forever is Road to Elite. Here you will embark on a journey starting from AEW’s first-ever Pay-Per-View event, Double or Nothing and will consist of four more PPV events with four in-game weeks in between each. Following the first PPV in Road to Elite is All Out, Full Gear, and Revolution, before coming full circle with Double or Nothing once more.

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In Road to Elite, you can either pick a real AEW wrestler or select your creation. It’s worth keeping in mind that while you can increase the stats of your created wrestler in this mode, the stats will stay as they are with real wrestlers. For my first playthrough, I selected CM Punk. During each of the four weeks, you will not only wrestle on weekly shows and PPVs, but also interact with other wrestlers.

AEW Fight Forever (AEW Games)
AEW Fight Forever (AEW Games)

Depending on who you interact with and what choices you make during a match, you will form alliances or enemies. In each of the four-week gaps between PPVs, you will be able to take on at least three different story paths. Having multiple paths in Road to Elite adds to the replay value of AEW Fight Forever, and it will be interesting to see how multiple playthroughs may differ from the last using a variety of real wrestlers as well as created characters. Though that variety will no doubt have its limits and won’t be infinite.

You will also have to manage your wrestler's mind and body during Road to Elite. Each match will consume energy and losses especially can deduct motivation represented by gauges. You must keep these gauges as high as possible, otherwise, it can make matches more difficult with your wrestler tiring more easily or worse, picking up an injury.

You maintain your wrestler's motivation and energy by working out at a gym, seeing the sights of the town as you travel across the United States, going out for a meal, and partaking in a press conference or TV chat show. You can even play some mini-games, which include a rhythm dance QTE fest, a baseball mode, smashing of boxes in a set time limit and more for some Mario Party-inspired fun.

Outside of the Road to Elite, you will have a variety of Exhibition matches to choose from, including the aforementioned Casino Battle Royale as well as 1v1, 2v2, Three Way and Four Way matches, Lights Out Match (no-rules match), Falls Count Anywhere, and a Ladder Match. However, the standout match type in AEW Fight Forever is the Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match, which is as chaotic as it sounds. Each of the exhibition matches can also be played online.

In the Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match, the ring ropes and turn-buckle corners are covered in barbed wire. Before long, all participants will be drenched in blood. There is even a timer during the match that when it expires, will cause big damage to those closest to the ropes. This is hands down one of the most fun matches that I’ve ever played in any wrestling game, and I’ve played a lot.

Visually, AEW Fight Forever is below the standards set by WWE 2K23, but again, don’t let that put you off. After all, while visuals do play a part in the presentation, it’s not the be-all and end-all. The arenas and wrestling rings look good with the cartoon(ish) art style, but some character models are at times, a bit hit-and-miss. For example, the likes of Kenny Omega, CM Punk, MJF, Thunder Rosa and Hikaru Shida are some of the best of the bunch. Unfortunately, the likes of Anna Jay, Eddie Kingston, and even the Young Bucks look a bit off.

AEW Fight Forever (AEW Games)
AEW Fight Forever (AEW Games)

Speaking of presentation, a major part of pro wrestler entertainment is the extravagant entrances. Sadly, AEW Fight Forever doesn't have the full entrances for the wrestlers. Instead, you get a brief intro with an animation and a clip of their theme music on stage before the game cuts to the ring. I know this design choice is to get to the action faster, but it would have been nice to have the option of a short or full entrance in AEW Fight Forever.

I must also add that the AI in the game can be a bit iffy. I’ve not only had quite a few instances when my CPU has been unable to walk over or around a downed character. Instead, they will walk on the spot until the said character is back on their feet. Hopefully, this issue can be fixed with a post-launch patch.

To conclude, it would be a mistake to judge AEW Fight Forever purely on its looks. Sure, this game is basic in a lot of ways, but it’s all about taking it back to the basics and ultimately having fun, and isn't that what playing video games is all about? AEW Fight Forever probably won’t be winning any end-of-year awards, but whether you’re a pro wrestling fan or an arcade brawler, AEW Fight Forever will be one of the most fun video games that you’ll play this year.

Pros: Easy to pick up gameplay, Road to Elite Story mode has good replay value, Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match is ridiculous fun

Cons: AI is not the best, lack of move variety

For fans of: Pro Wrestling and arcade brawlers

7/10: Very Good

AEW Fight Forever releases on 29 June 2023 for PC, Xbox consoles, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Code for review provided by THQ Nordic/Dead Good Media. Read a guide to our review scores here.

Topics: PlayStation, Xbox, PC

Richard Lee Breslin
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