AEW: Fight Forever Review
Over the last 5 years, the landscape of wrestling has altered dramatically. Vince has lost his iron-like grip on the industry as the indies thrive and viable competition has emerged. While the onscreen product continues to excite, the virtual rendition of the sport has served up botch-filled experiences that fail to capture the spirit of pro wrestling. Although the 2K series has finally evolved, fans still yearn for a game in the mold of AKI’s quintessential Nintendo 64 titles. With Hideyuki Iwashita, director of WWF No Mercy and veterans of the genre, Yuke’s at the helm, will AEW: Fight Forever manage to book a main event classic?
WWE games attempt to replicate their television counterpart and due to this, they tend to lack that pick-up-and-play quality. AEW: Fight Forever foregoes that notion in order to deliver an arcade rumble that embodies the ethos of AKI. Inside the ropes, the game is familiar yet refreshing. The DNA of iconic releases is evident, which makes it easy to learn the nuances that imbue the action. You can link together strikes to perform fluid combinations or hold the punch or kick button to unleash a strong variation. Due to the delicious combination of sound and animation, the impact of each attack is heightened. Chops, slaps and superkicks connect with precision to create memorable sequences that can swing the momentum of matches in your favor.
Collar and Elbow Tie Up
Grappling is central to any wrestling game as this is where you transition to the plethora of moves available for each superstar. Yuke’s harnesses the system established in AKI games giving wrestlers a wide move set that is easy to execute. You can perform a weak or strong grapple and then use a directional input and button press to deliver a lethal attack. Different moves are tied to each command giving you the opportunity to add variety and flair to fights.
There’s an organic flow to matches which makes each contest an absolute thrill. Due to the simple and intuitive control scheme, you can easily take to the skies to deliver a springboard moonsault, or take the technical route and tie up your opponent in a figure four leglock. The options available are vast and allow you to adapt your approach. As you may come up against a larger foe, you will have to use defensive strategies in unison with offensive moves to claim victory. With no prompts and a bespoke button for blocking and reversing, you simply need to read the game and time your input. This leads to some incredible moments where you reverse a move in a unique manner and then begin your onslaught of attacks.
From Whatever, Weighing Whatever…
Although the roster lacks the presence of a few of its on-screen stars, the attention to detail of those within is great. Finishers and signatures are perfectly translated and include a replay each time they’re hit. Despite the fact that this is far from a graphical powerhouse, each wrestler’s personality still shines through due to the authenticity of their design. Clothing, taunts and move sets are accurate and supersede the lack of polish and odd hit detection issue. Each athlete can evade but some even have unique methods which add to their character. For example, some side-step, others can roll but MJF pleads in order to lure his opponent in before taking advantage. This continues with others such as Orange Cassidy who can fight with his hands in his pockets and Adam Cole lowering his knee pad before the Last Shot.
In addition to singles and tag matches, you can also take part in triple threats and fatal four ways. Each of these is well-designed and expands on the solid foundation to create interesting matches that offer different challenges. Tags allow you to combine with others to perform unique attacks but also include a forced awkward rollout animation when your wrestler’s time is up. The inclusion of gimmick matches is a must for the genre as they are a spectacle that fans yearn for. The Lights Out fights lets you use any of the 40 weapons available to bloody your opponent whereas Falls Count Anywhere continues the madness allowing you to claim victory where ever you are.
In the Casino Battle Royal, you must throw your opponent over the top rope and fight until you’re the last one standing. The Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match, which is famed in Japan for its brutality, is also playable. The barbaric battle lets you sling your adversary into explosives as a countdown signals how long it will take for the ring to explode. Due to the nature of the match, this leads to a faster fight as you scurry for the pinfall. The AEW debut of the match has one of the biggest botches in the business and you can set this as an option in the game! It’s a brilliant reference and also refreshing to see a company poke fun at itself.
Road to the Elite is a single-player story that takes place over a year with the company. You can decide to walk down the aisle with a wrestler from the roster or you can create your own. Unfortunately, the creation suite is basic and it is very difficult to build anyone with a resemblance to another professional. This is particularly disheartening as there is a huge CAW community that creates incredible wrestlers which allows you to personalize your roster. You can, however, select the entire move set for your fighter which means that Yuke just needs to add community creations and more options to this portion of the game.
Your career is split into four sections with each leading to a PPV. Based on your performance at certain points, you follow a small story and a different route to the show. Between matches, you can take part in press events, mini-games and other activities while also managing your energy and motivation levels. With a created fighter, you are given the opportunity to build their persona, adding in-ring manoeuvers, altering their stats and applying passive skills. Unfortunately, this is the only way to do so, which means you would need to play through this with each of your creations to fully customize them. Even though it is a straightforward single-player mode, it does a lot of things right. At key points, it celebrates the history of AEW with slick video packages that display significant moments. It’s these aspects which make you want to re-visit and access every route.
AEW: Fight Forever is the best wrestling game since WWF No Mercy. There’s a visceral nature to every punch and slam which makes every physical match-up an absolute thrill. While the mechanics are deep and allows fans to master techniques, there’s also a pick-up-and-play ethos that is amplified through silly mini-games and over-the-top gimmick matches. The odd hit detection issue, basic creation suite and lack of community uploads are disappointing, however, they don’t take away from what is the greatest wrestling game in the past 20 years.
*** A PS5 review code was provided by the publisher ***
- AKI Grapple System
- Addictive Gameplay
- Fun Additional Modes
- Basic Creation Suite
- No Community Uploads
- Lacks a Bit of Polish