AEW: Fight Forever is the first wrestling game from the upcoming wrestling organisation AEW. Only a few years old, it’s taken the pro wrestling scene by storm and has established itself as a real competitor to WWE. But is the game any good?
Yes! Well sort of, yes! Company man and serious gamer Kenny Omega have been involved in the development of the game, and they’ve turned to Yukes for the development. This is serious – because it involves the team and style of the N64 Yukes wrestling games, the last one being WWF No Mercy which is regarded by many as the greatest wrestling game of all time. So it’s a sort of sequel, but 23 years later. Big wrestling boots to fill.
Fans of that game still remember the mechanics incredibly well, and as such AEW feels very familiar immediately. Buttons will punch, kick, and grapple, and each shoulder button offers a chance to counter a strike or a grapple. Different lengths of button presses and directions when in a grapple unlock different moves, and you have a variety of options to manipulate the position of your opponent whilst they’re locked up, or on the floor. It’s a ‘simple but complex’ system which makes it relatively easy to pick up and play for newcomers.
Slightly harder to grasp perhaps is the lack of health bars. There are damage indicators which pop up and the wrestlers show these effects over time, but the core indicator is the momentum bar. Do better, and it gets bigger. This increases your chances of reversing and unlocks signature moves (awkwardly mapped to dpad) and then finisher moves. The finishers almost always result in a definite victory, which has seen some complaint over social media although the developer response has been that AEW is different to WWE, and folks don’t often kick out of finishers. Although arguably this makes a slightly less dramatic game and turns into a ‘rush to finish’.
The core mechanics are really solid and the actual wrestling is very good, although there are quite a few odd little glitches and awkward moments which pop up which could do with some refining. The rush to finish can also result in really short matches. There is a reasonable amount of match variation, but sadly the AI is terrible in anything other than 1 vs 1 matches. Tag matches result in your partner always running in, and three or four-way bouts can be equally frustrating in various ways. These problems can all be fixed, however. Some extreme match types exist; ladder matches, barbed wire death matches and no disqualification, but they can be a bit fiddly.
In no-DQ matches, for example, you can pull weapons out of the crowd. Normal stuff turns up, like chairs etc, but then you get to skateboards which you can ride (cool idea, controls badly) and propane tanks which you throw and explode which starts to feel just really gimmicky. Turning up the gimmick are a series of mini-games which you can either play standalone or as part of the ‘Road to Elite’ career mode. They’re really just filler, asking you a quiz about AEW, or making you remember the order of some cards. It’s not what you buy a wrestling game for and it feels like development time would be better spent elsewhere.
The Road to Elite career mode is a relatively short but re-playable story mode. It has a lot of terribly written dialogue with an unnecessary energy/currency metric followed by lots of loading screens and cutscenes. It charts your wrestler’s journey to champion with branching narratives, but they range from joining a club to being betrayed (and then immediately you can ‘hang out’ with the betrayer) or having your clothes stolen by your teammate. Not great.
You can also create your wrestler or arena. The lifeblood of longevity for these sorts of games, but sadly it’s very sparse at the moment although there’s promise of more being added over time. You can wrestle online, but there’s the same variety of modes as offline to select from, but this seems to be segregating the player base meaning it can take a long time to find a game.
AEW: Fight Forever is a really good new entry into the wrestling game genre. Time will tell if it’s a flash in the pan or if the developers can keep tweaking it by fleshing out the content and fixing some of the gripes and niggles, but there’s a solid foundation here and a lot of promise.
Reviewed on PS5