When All Elite Wrestling superkicked in 2019, it shook up business by offering wrestling fans the first real viable competition for WWE, in terms of financial funding and television prominence, since WCW shut down in 2001. How AEW Differentiated With its more mature-rated product and greater emphasis on in-ring action, Fight Forever aims to be an alternative to WWE’s simulation-based 2K series by offering old-school arcade-style action. Although it mostly delivers on that main bullet point, the overall package is far from elite.
Fight Forever’s big selling point is that it is modeled after older AKI-developed wrestling games, such as WWF No Mercy and WCW/nWo Revenge. It’s been more than two decades since I last played those titles, so my working memory is too hazy to accurately compare, but Fight Forever is indeed a faster, more pick-up-and-play- Favorable experience. After years of navigating WWE 2K’s convoluted control scheme, it’s nice to hit a move by just pressing a button and a cardinal direction, and there’s no mini-game in sight. I enjoyed building up to my signature and finishing moves with a momentum-based offense that rewards you for being on top and punishes you for getting beaten; Nothing feels better than taking down an opponent so badly that they lose their finisher.
You also get various attack buffs for actions like executing strike combos, mixing up your offense, or taunting, but they don’t seem beneficial enough to meaningfully turn the situation around. Generally, the action feels smooth and the pace is noticeably quicker than what WWE has to offer, but it’s not without headaches. Opponent AI, especially tag team partners, can range from questionable to downright silly. Picking up arms remains a historic sore point in the genre. The default auto-targeting is also a nightmare, so I suggest switching to manual. The game lacks formal tutorials (a training room only lets you compete with dummies without direction) and sporadic tooltips are less than ideal methods of onboarding. Expect to scramble your way through the opening matches, trying to learn essentials like targeting and positioning opponents.
Fight Forever offers some of the expected match types (singles, tag, multi-person, and ladder matches), and AEW staples like the Casino Battle Royale and the Exploding Barbwire Deathmatch have been adequately recreated. But overall it’s a relatively shallow package. The odd mini-games, such as Simon Seitz-style rhythm drills starring Penta, provide variety that inspired me to play them more than once. No matter how you slice it down, the dated graphics, brief entrance, and lack of match commentary or adequate voice-acting all wrapped up in one underwhelming presentation. Fight Forever is a mid-card competitor with a main event price tag.
The roster has some cobwebs reflecting the long evolution of the sport, offering a snapshot of AEW circa early 2021/2022. Chris Statlander is still an alien, Anna Jay is in the Dark Order, and Cody Rhodes gets a chance to appear in two wrestling games this year. There are 36 men on the roster but only 13 women (including referee Aubrey Edwards). Both genders can compete against each other in any given match, and although it’s a nice touch, I suspect it makes up for the shorter match variety in the women’s favor.
It would be unfair to expect most of AEW’s massive roster to be included, and while the main stars are here – The Elite, Jericho, Moxley, Baker, Punk – there are still some disappointing omissions. It’s disappointing not to see big names like Jamie Hayter, Samoa Joe, Toni Storm or The Acclaimed, especially since it leaves a number of factions off the table, such as Blackpool Combat Club, House of Black and JAS Jeff Hardy are present, but Matt is a staggering pre-order exclusive, which means you won’t get the Hardy Boys out of the box. For the most part, I like the stylized wrestler design and proportions, which give them the look of semi-cartoonish action figures, though the resemblance to the real versions is hit-and-miss.
Fight Forever’s other big mode, the story-focused Road to Elite, fails. As an AEW star or a custom-made wrestler, you’ll embark on a very drab, sometimes bizarre journey from new signing to World Champion. Some mini-stories offered brief recaps of old angles, such as the Inner Circle vs. The Pinnacle and the introduction of the FTW Championship (one of the few titles you can compete for). Between bouts, you are encouraged to engage in activities such as going to the gym to increase stats, eating at local restaurants to maintain energy, and going on social outings such as sightseeing. However, you cannot alter the stats of AEW stars, negating the need for exercise. He is alright; The only really important factor is the food, and the rest seems tedious. Other than watching silly moments like taking selfies with wrestlers, I recommend going straight to the matches.
One of the most frustrating and baffling aspects of Road to Elite is that playing as a female wrestler only features a female division-focused storyline for the first month, before it reverts to the male storyline for the rest of the mode. This means that instead of feuding with the likes of Hikaru Shida and Jade Cargill, you’ll be wrestling only men on the exact same path, without any explanation. It’s as if the UK started out creating a separate story for women and then gave up, and it’s a depressing and, frankly, disrespectful representation of that divide.
The lack of options is probably the biggest downfall of the Creation Suite. Create-a-Wrestler lacks facial textures, offering few pre-set facial assets that severely limit who you can create and how different they’ll look. Wear minimal accessories and costumes and no clothing designs, and you can expect to parade as current stars or largely plain projections of yourself. There’s also no option to share the characters online. Creating custom arenas is a bit better but still frustrating. Additional creation assets can be unlocked with in-game currency earned by completing daily challenges, but they’re neither good nor plentiful enough to inspire me to spend the same hours I’d normally spend in my dreams. meticulously preparing the wrestlers of the
If nothing else, AEW: Fight Forever has potential. I’d be happy to see more arcade-style wrestling games, especially one based in a major promotion. The gameplay foundation is strong, and when it’s firing on all cylinders, the action showcases the simple fun of the ’90s and early 2000s. The rest of the package just needs to catch up. Until that happens, even the most ardent AEW fans may have a hard time keeping up with this main event.