IT'S FINALLY HERE! After being announced back in 2020, All Elite Wrestling fans have had to sit idly by and wait for it a lot longer than expected. After years of watching gameplay demo live streams, entirely too short character trailers, and extensive match footage from the homie HaangEmHigh on Twitter (YOU'VE DONE GOD'S WORK, GOOD SIR!), AEW Fight Forever is readily available. And after putting this brand-new wrestling game through its proper paces, I'm left satisfied with the majority of what it has to offer. However, it's clear that not all of this game's potential isn't fulfilled as of yet. Now with all that being said, let's get into the rest of my AEW Fight Forever review.
'AEW Fight Forever' Review: Close to Elite Status
'AEW Fight Forever' Review
So let me confront the elephant in the room before anything else - AEW Fight Forever's visual presentation. A lot has been said about how it pales in comparison to the extremely photorealistic graphics of the WWE 2K games. But to be quite honest, AEW's first-ever console game doesn't look all that bad. While I will admit that some of the wrestler's facial animations look a bit off (Adam Page and CM Punk do look kind of iffy at the character select screen when you compare them to their real-life counterparts), the roster's in-game models look pretty lifelike and easily comparable to the favorites I regularly watch on AEW television. When it comes time to finally step into the arena to rumble, AEW Fight Forever's visuals remain strong. While the entrances are short, they still look good and add another element of active participation since you can activate all sorts of pyrotechnics. I also have to shout out this game's move animations for looking extremely painful upon impact thanks to the sound of the mat, camera zoom-ins, and instant replay moments. AEW Fight Forever's visual prowess might not be mind-blowing, but it's still solid enough in my eyes.
When it comes to overall gameplay feel, AEW Fight Forever can be categorized as a championship contender when it comes to the best wrestling games. The arcade-style feel is clearly inspired by classic N64 grapplers developed by AKI, which will give retro fans of WCW/nWo Revenge and WWF No Mercy a whole lot to like here. Light/strong grapples and weak/strong attacks come from tapping/holding the attack buttons, which gives this game a great pick-up-and-play feel that even the most casual gamer can wrap their head around. What truly blew my mind is the wealth of maneuvers you can pull off, especially when it comes to specialty matches. Hopping on a skateboard to gain extra momentum so you can hop off of it and Swanton Bomb your latest victim through a table outside the ring is just one of the outlandish actions you can pull off in this game. I also got way too much enjoyment out of placing a ladder on my head and swinging it around to knock out everyone unlucky enough to be in my vicinity.
You'll certainly get the same high levels of enjoyment that I got from checking out the Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch and Casino Battle Royale match types. The overabundance of blood on the mat and the exploding ring ropes & and the ring itself seen in the first match type, plus the four-person mayhem that erupts in the second match type gives AEW Fight Forever's gimmick bouts plenty of replay value for local/online play. Now I will admit - some unfortunate bugs/glitches annoyed me. Sometimes characters will get stuck in the ladder as their body morphs through it and the impact audio from a top-rope slam will not come through at random times. The slow response of the referee's making a pinfall count and the sluggish feel of trying to pull off a running maneuver when close to your opponents are problematic as well. Here's hoping future updates clean up all those technical issues.
Now when it comes to the rest of AEW Fight Forever's content suite, "Road to Elite" plays the part of the game's story mode. I'm quite pleased with how it unfolds and its abundance of replay value. Three different storylines are featured as a part of the roads to all four of AEW's main PPVs. And depending on whether your character wins or loses, each storyline can take a winding road to a different final matchup and definitive outcome. I love the fact that you can participate in leisurely activities to build up your wrestler's stats, refill their energy, and simply have them engage in some hilarious interactions with the rest of the AEW roster. I also admired the inclusion of non-storyline progression bouts that let me confront random challengers in order to attain more points to further strengthen my rising AEW superstar. Road to Elite is a solid first attempt at an AEW video game's career mode.
Now the one disappointment that I have to bring up in my AEW Fight Forever review is its lack of ring attire for custom wrestlers. I heard rumors about how the Create-A-Wrestler option in this game is its most limited feature - that sentiment is half true. There's an abundance of theme songs, entrance videos/character animations, pyro, and moves to attach to your original wrestler. But there are just not enough pieces of attire included here in order to create some truly over-the-top characters and close-to-real-life copies of non-AEW talent. There are way too many shirts and shorts with country flag designs for my taste, to be quite honest. I'm praying that future updates to this game fill out the attire options you can choose from because that's clearly the one area that's in dire need of additional content. Oh and in the side case of the assorted minigames included here? They're mindless fun, but I would have preferred the game's developer to pour more of its efforts into offering more custom wrestler gear instead of a pop quiz game.
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