The long awaited AEW Fight Forever is now out, but how does it fare in a WWE-dominated medium of games? Here’s our review!
It's difficult to write an AEW Fight Forever review without acknowledging the kayfabe of it all. Which is to say, that the creation of a game intentionally attempting to recreate the nostalgia of an enemy promotion's most lauded video game. And, yes: That is a dig at the at-this-point legendary awfulness of the WWE 2K series. A franchise so terrible that this year's iteration being so mid is enough to trick fans into thinking it's the second coming of Christ himself.
Which is all to say that video games based on pro wrestling is a tough gig. Go too hard on simulation and realism and you miss what makes pro wrestling fun, operatic, and nearing on anime. Swing in the other direction with an arcadey, beat-em-up feel and you run the risk of ignoring the harrowing, hard-hitting nature of this most physical of sports entertainment.
In the case of AEW Fight Forever, the gameplay is certainly the reason to come to the table. Leaning on the best of the WWF/E Yukes years, it's a game that--for better and worse--perfectly channels that most beloved of all wrasslin games, No Mercy. However, the game's shallow nature makes it feel like a rushed product that deserved more time in the oven.
It's Wednesday, and you know what that means. It's time for the esports.gg AEW Fight Forever review.
AEW Fight Forever review: Get in the ring
Let's get down to brass thumbtacks with this AEW Fight Forever review. Does it play well? The biggest negative about the long-term domination of the WWE 2K franchise has been its deeply embarrassing gameplay. Yes, those games look fantastic and do a fantastic job of leveraging the look, feel, and history of WWE. However, it's also meant that ever year with the release of a new game that there was a new batch of eye-roll worthy glitches and gameplay woes.
Good news: AEW Fight Forever is a joy to play. Bringing back the spirit of WWF No Mercy on the Nintendo 64, Fight Forever knows exactly what it wants to be. It brings that style of arcade brawling with counter-grapple play with smooth visuals. Besides a few misses I truly do love how the wrestlers look.
Likewise, the game's move animations are wonderful and capture the impact of pro wrestling perfectly. A mix between button-mashy brawler and rock-paper-scissors counterplay, AEW Fight Forever toes the line in a way pro wrestling games should.
Though everything isn't perfect inside the squared circle. Like much of the game, I just wish there was more. More moves, more options, more quality of life changes. Small omissions like the ability to pick an opponent up into facing their back feel obvious. In many ways, it showcases how--even when they were bad--the WWE 2K games learned a little bit more each year between iterations.
Like the game's aesthetic, the gameplay just lacks any true depth. My best comparison are the early Naruto 3D arena games on GameCube. Each character only has three to four unique attacks, leaving the truly dedicated fan craving more. At any given time it feels like each wrestler only has a handful of move options out of a grapple.
How is it in the year of our lord 2023 that wrestling games are coming out that don't feel nearly as complex as the likes of Super Fire Pro Wrestling X from the SNES? It avoids the overly twitchy complexity that makes the WWE 2K games hard to pick up and play. That said, AEW Fight Forever feels like it needs another iteration to truly nail the Fire Pro Wrestling dragon that all these games continually chase.
Grab the broom, fight raccoons
This sparseness mentioned in regards to the gameplay is a complaint throughout all of AEW Fight Forever. Everything feels shorted and like the team's deadline hung over the development like the Sword of Damocles. Commentary is almost non existent, while wrestler entrances are relegated to just a few seconds. Oh, but there's pyro--so that's nice. The Create-A-Wrestler function suffers from similar problems. The created wrestlers actually look pretty great. But a lack of options sours the moment.
And this is all just indicative of the overall problem with Fight Forever. There's just not enough there, there. What is there feels like padding, such as the utterly useless mini games and Jim Ross reading the most robotic voice lines ever put in a sports game.
And that cheapness would be far more forgiving in a budget title, especially one not trying to rip fans off with expensive DLC. While this could change, the first DLC pack featuring FTR is out and comes in at around $13.00 USD. Considering that the launch roster has pretty big holes, it's outright insulting for this game to be selling wrestlers at six bucks a pop.
Finish the story
With time to develop it's possible that AEW Fight Forever, as a franchise, can turn into an amazing product. This first iteration of the series has plenty of promise, including a core gameplay feel that already beats the pants off any WWE game from the past decade. If you're jonesing for some old-school arcade wrestling then look no further than Fight Forever. However, those of you looking for a more complete product will want to wait until a price drop--or until next year.
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