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AEW Fight Forever (PS5) Review

July 25, 2023 | Posted by Marc Morrison
AEW: Fight Forever Image Credit: THQ Nordic
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AEW Fight Forever (PS5) Review  

Coming back from the injured list myself, I’ve been playing Fight Forever since my return home and have many thoughts on it. I do first want to acknowledge/apologize to Yuke’s/THQ Nordic for the long delay in this review. The game came out on June 29th with almost all other publications having reviews ready at that time. Mine, obviously, wasn’t done then due to my injury/recuperation. But I’m here now to finally give my thoughts on it and they are mostly positive with a few speedbumps here and there.

So “yes”, AEW Fight Forever is a wrestling game but it is trying to take its cues more from the N64 era of wrestling games, specifically WWF No Mercy. It’s also taking a few choices from the AKI games from the Def Jam wrestling games around the PS2 era. This extends to the controls, first and foremost.

Basically, they tried to make this much more of a “pick up and play” game than the traditional WWE games that come out. Square is punch, triangle is kick and the X button is used to grapple. You can hold these buttons down for strong versions of the move as well. Circle is used to run in any direction you want. The other buttons have more functions, R2 is used to whip the opponent when you have them in a grapple. L2 is used to do certain actions like climbing the ropes or ladder, if you are in a ladder match, tagging during tag matches, etc. R1 and L1 are used for guarding/reversing and this is one big issue I have with the game.

Say what you will about the WWE games, but having only one counter button helps a bit. Even when you’re in a grapple, your opponent can either strike or put you in a grapple move so you have two buttons here to think about. It’s a bit of a guessing game about what the enemy is going to do but because the default mode doesn’t have any indicators, it can be a real challenge to figure out how to counter correctly. I say “default mode” because this game has one of the most baffling bug issues I’ve seen but I’ll get into that below.

Image Credit: AEW Games

Matches kind of flow as you would expect them to. Your life and momentum bar are the same, with your life being the colored part and the momentum being the size of it. Get the crowd on your side and you enter into a “Signature” state. Here, you can quickly pop off a powerful move a few times, if you want. You can also taunt your opponent to enter a “Special” state, where you can do your ultimate move. Some of these are situational, like you being on the top rope but most of them can be done when in a grapple situation, making it a lot easier than what WWE has you doing of stuff like “able to do your special move but only when the other wrestler is face down and you are at their legs”, stuff like that. Generally, doing an ultimate move will put the other wrestler in a “Danger” state, meaning they are far easier to pin than normal.

Something to really consider with this game is the budget. While not sold at a budget price, I’m sure this game was made with like one-fourth the budget that a mainline WWE game is made with. So some considerations have to be taken into play here.

For one, there’s only about seven or so match types: single, tag, Lights Out (hardcore), Falls Count Anywhere, Casino Battle Royale, Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match, and finally Ladder Matches. There are also 3-way and 4-way matches but these are more variations than whole new match types.

Most of these match types are also self-explanatory, but a few should be mentioned. The Battle Royale match, for example, is basically a Royal Rumble type match with a card gimmick where you pick a playing card and wrestlers are released based on what card they have with the Joker card being the final entrant. The ladder match requires you to climb a ladder and do a simple mini-game to unlock the belt from the wire but it’s pretty approachable.

The “Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match” match is probably the most unique. The ring is surrounded by barbed wire ropes that you can throw the other wrestler into to see it explode for a bit. There’s a two minute counter where when it reaches zero, whoever is closer to the ropes will take massive damage. Other than that, it’s a pretty traditional match.

On the issue of the budget again, is the roster. I know very little about AEW’s roster, and this is pretty out of date, even for a wrestling game, so someone else might have a better take on this issue than I do. There are 47 wrestlers unlocked from the start while two can be bought from the in-game shop for a small amount of currency. There is also about a few other hidden wrestlers that can be unlocked by doing various tasks. While a roster of 52 wrestlers might not sound like a lot, who cares? This game doesn’t need six different versions of Kenny Omega or the bloated roster of a WWE game. Are there some AEW guys I wish were here, sure! But people like Danhausen (DLC soon to be added), Saraya, or Colt Cabana aren’t specifically required for this game to be good.

The one place where the low budget does rear its ugly head is with some of the presentation. I immediately turned off the menu music for the game since it only repeats like 3 or 4 of the same rap songs constantly. Or the wrestler intros are these very shortened affairs that only last like 10-15 seconds. You can set up a somewhat customized intro, letting you fire off pyro and smoke whenever you want, but it’s just not the same. They should have just said “Screw it” and put in FMV intros like the old PS1-era Smackdown games used to have. That would have been a fun alternative but they didn’t do that.

From a high point though, the somewhat low budget has forced them to be a bit creative. The story mode here is only about 2 or 3 hours long, not the 10+ hour story mode that the last WWE game had. You can either take a custom wrestler in or pick an AEW person but you, inexplicably, can’t customize the AEW person. I can understand they don’t want to mess with the overall roster too much but there should be an option to let you copy a wrestler and use that copy in the story but that’s just me.

“Road to Elite” is the story mode and it is basically broken into four, 3 month chunks. During these monthly chunks you get four weeks to do whatever you want: train, sightsee, eat out at a restaurants, do side matches, play mini-games and so on. Doing activities rewards you with more morale, money to spend at the shop or skill points to spend on your created character. The creation suite isn’t as detailed as in 2K23 but “who cares?” and I do mean that. It has enough to be able to make someone new and that is fine.

Most of the stuff in the Road to Elite mode is actually written well. The restaurant interactions and sightseeing stuff give you a little history of the town that you’re in. Occasionally other wrestlers will pop in and there might be a small interaction but it’s nothing serious. While I won’t spoil it, the second to last fight in this mode proves that Kenny Omega had his hand in writing it, no question.

Image Credit: AEW Games

The mini-games are all varied and while not all of them are great, I appreciate that they are in here. There is a baseball mini-game, AEW trivia game, rhythm game (think PaRappa the Rapper), pose in the middle of a spotlight, “Where’s Orange?” (find Orange Cassidy in photos, think Where’s Waldo?) and a half a dozen others. An odd thing is that even though there is a “Minigames” option on the main menu, you can only pick three games. Those are “Chip Gather” (run around for chips), the rhythm game, and the trivia game. Like, I’m not sure if you can even unlock the other mini-games to practice on/play but it seems like an odd omission.

This honestly brings me to the biggest issue with the game: it seems weirdly buggy or half-finished. The best example is the menu system. There is stuff in there like “Player Indicator” which draws a circle under you and other wrestlers, showing who you are targeting. Or blood, you can turn blood on or off, if you want. You can change the referee if you so want, or turn on something of a counter indicator, but in actuality, it just makes the counters more colorful.

This all sounds good, right? Well, you can’t actually change any of this stuff during a match. The ref I can understand, they don’t want to just magically swap out a new model, but stuff like the Player Indicator is kind of necessary, or you should be given the option to turn it off/on whenever you want. You can only alter this stuff on the main menu options screen, so the fact that it is present during the pause menu but you can’t actually DO anything with it, is bewildering. That’s why I don’t know if this is an unintentional bug or if it was some intentional choice.

The final score: review Good
The 411
Here’s the thing, from a content standpoint Fight Forever isn’t as good as WWE2K23. Also, from a presentation aspect, it lacks some important things. However, it is a good first outing and shows that they can build upon that framework if they want to. Either with a lot of new content or with an eventual new game. If you are looking for a wrestling game just to play with your friends, this is the better pick between the two but your mileage may vary upon how much of the roster you know. Above all else, Fight Forever is actually fun which the WWE games haven't been since Crush Hour.

article topics :

AEW Fight Forever, Marc Morrison