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AEW Fight Forever review: going "All Out"

AEW Fight Forever throws out the realism of modern wrestling games for a more arcadey feel

Whether you like the WWE 2K series or not, the fact they sat unchallenged as the only triple-A wrestling game for over a decade has been rather disappointing. It’s what allowed the series to release a disaster like WWE 2K20 and come out of it entirely unscathed.

Much like when AEW itself launched in 2019, AEW Fight Forever is finally here to upset the status quo with all the drama that comes with wrestling. Just like it poached Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley from WWE, AEW managed to lure over development studio Yuke’s from the 2K team – a studio that has been creating wrestling games almost exclusively since the mid-90s.

AEW Fight Forever CM Punk stomping MJF

This means that all the fundamentals of a good wrestling game are there. Action in the ring is clear and easy to read with impactful moves and the potential for intricate sequences between skilled players.

You’ve got most of the standard match types you’d expect, along with a few wild ones, which is where this game starts to really stand out from its contemporary – WWE would never allow you to play an “Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch”, after all.

AEW isn’t afraid to laugh at itself either — the firm’s one real-life attempt at that explosive stipulation was notoriously terrible, and while the default in-game explosion is much more impressive, you can select a “dud” version of the explosion that mimics the pathetic sparklers we saw on TV.

AEW Fight Forever Explodin Barbed Wire Deathmatch

It gives Fight Forever this “wrestling insider” tone that runs through it. Where WWE always tries to hide the inner workings of the wrestling business, AEW knows that most of their audience is already wise to it, so it brings you along for the ride. It’s not afraid to make little in-jokes and sneaky references to WWE wrestlers that only hardcore fans will get. Some are as simple as including Roman Reigns’ entrance animation, while others poke fun at Brock Lesnar’s history with diverticulitis, which is really playing with fire.

That spills into the gameplay style too. The team has said many times that WWF No Mercy is their main influence, and that shines through. The many extra layers that the WWE games have added over the years have been stripped away from matches.

The are no extra abilities, no stamina bars, and no separate gauges for different moves. There is one bar: if you’re kicking ass it fills up, if you’re getting your ass kicked it empties. Fill it all the way up and you’ll get access to your finishing moves to try and end the match, let it empty all the way and it’ll be much harder to kick out of pins or break free of submission holds.

AEW Fight Forever Cody Rhodes covered in blood

This makes it a much more arcadey-feeling game, the kind that you can pick up and play as you please, with controls that are very easy for a new player to get to grips with. The only reason I struggled at first is because the WWE control scheme has been hardwired into my brain for over a decade.

This gameplay style rewards you for being consistently dominant too, as you can keep using your signature move over and over as long as your opponent doesn’t counter or take control of the match. Even with that, turning things around isn’t too difficult when you’re on the back foot. A well-timed dodge or counter opens the window for your to start regaining momentum, doing so will cause your opponent to lose their stored finisher too, so evening the playing field is much easier.

The trade-off is that gameplay can begin to feel samey a lot quicker than in more advanced systems. When you’re messing about and having a laugh in multiplayer modes, this isn’t that big of an issue, but when you’re playing single-player, it’s quite off-putting.

AEW Fight Forever Road to Elite stats

The WWE games have several modes that make solo play fun. You can draft a roster and face off against competition in MyGM, or you can use Universe mode to create your own shows, championships, and storylines. AEW doesn’t have much of that. The only purely single-player mode is the Road to Elite story mode, which is underwhelming.

You play a year of AEW programming, from their debut show, Double or Nothing, and things start really well. You’re thrown into the Casino Battle Royale, where you have to defeat a grueling gauntlet of 20 competitors if you want a shot at the world championship. This is a task the game clearly expects you to fail at, but I succeeded and it didn’t quite know what to do about it.

I got my match for the championship at the next pay-per-view, All Out, I won the title, and then never heard from it again. For the rest of the story mode, the fact I was the world champion – by definition the biggest star in the company – was never so much as mentioned by anyone. I couldn’t even wear the belt when I came out for my matches. I can only assume I pulled a Jericho and had it stolen from the boot of my car.

AEW Fight Forever CM Punk hitting the GTS on MJF

Even putting that aside, the mode itself is so dull even Goldberg would call it a bit one-note. You’ll be playing an endless parade of singles matches that, since you’re always controlling the same wrestler, always play out the same. Then, when the game finally decides to give you something different it’s a ridiculous challenge like fighting all three members of Death Triangle at once – a match that came about following a conversation that boiled down to:

Pac: “You’re pretty cool, wanna join Death Triangle?”

Me: “Yes”

Pac: “Actually, screw you, we hate you now.”

I guess he realized “Death Square” isn’t as good of a faction name.

How much you get out of AEW Fight Forever depends on what you like most about wrestling games. If you’re a solo player who likes to take these TV characters and create your own matches and stories, then you’re not going to find any of that here. However, if you want a wrestling game you can boot up to play on the couch with your mates, then Fight Forever is a blast to mess around with, it just doesn’t have quite as much variety as WWE’s offering.

Score: 7/10

  • Story and narrative: 5/10
  • Visuals: 8/10
  • Audio and music: 8/10
  • Mechanics and systems: 7/10
  • Technical performance: 8/10

Version tested: PC (Steam)

AEW Fight Forever technical performance

AEW Fight Forever shows signs that it didn’t have the smoothest development, but it holds together surprisingly well despite that. Load times can be a bit long, but the game holds a steady 60fps on PC, even when the ring is at its maximum capacity of four competitors.

I encountered only a few bugs, but most of them were funny rather than game-breaking. The Casino Battle Royale was the main culprit, where Wardlow did a full flip over the ropes to be eliminated, but somehow still landed in the ring and I had to give him a gentle nudge to the floor.