I feel like a genius for requesting a Nintendo Switch review code for AEW: Fight Forever. A major wrestling game with the throwback feels of WWF No Mercy for on-the-go use? I’m All In. Despite a surplus of flaws, AEW’s debut entry on consoles is the ultimate pro wrestling game for casuals who don’t require super glossy 4K visuals, a zillion modes and wrestlers on the roster, or a deep customization suite.
Fight Forever should only hope to have the continuous update life of, say, Fire Pro Wrestling to withstand any sort of longevity. Right out of the box, the game feels super MID (*MJF voice*) as FF is severely lacking in replayability – unless, of course, you’re just treating it like the casual pick-up-and-play game that it should. If allowed, Fight Forever can be a wonderful alternative to the WWE 2K series and has a whole other quirky charm going for it. With that said, let’s break down the 4 pillars of this All Elite Wrestling video game section by section.
While most squared circle marks are tuning into Titan Tower every week – especially with the Triple H Era giving fans a solid, watchable product on TV and Premium Live Events on Peacock that remind us more of the “Black and Gold” era of NXT – All Elite Wrestling has offered an edgier, more “hardcore” alternative over the past 3-4 years, an amalgamation of WCW/ECW/ROH/NJPW/PWG/AAA fantasy booking. Matches in AEW don’t have one particular style, and there is a rotating door of new characters and athletes in the company week in and week out. With Fight Forever, the in-ring gameplay definitely reflects that wild mix of old and new – from the arcadey design of classic Yuke’s Nintendo 64 wrasslin’ games of yesteryear to current day animation that does an admirable job capturing its TV counterpart. Here, female talent is treated equal to men with no “Superstar” ratings in sight, and they can even capture the AEW World Title. Mixed tag matches are fun, too, and Britt Baker can chuck around the former “Big Show” Paul Wight around like a ragdoll.
You guessed it: a sim, this is not. Most of AEW:FF‘s charm comes from the cartoony character models that, aesthetically, still look very much like the wrestlers it portrays. The multitude of delays certainly looked like it helped character model render development. Kenny Omega, Abadon, Eddie Kingston, and company come off as slightly exaggerated, almost Def Jam Vendetta versions of themselves. While not aiming for 2K’s level of realism, that animated/comic book stylization is still believable and far from the retro/pixelated stylings of RetroMania and super-bloated bobblehead of WWE Battlegrounds. Since I have the Switch version, I can’t compare how FF looks on a PS5 or Xbox Series X in comparison to the gorgeous visuals of 2K23 – and, for that, I’m actually thankful.
DOUBLE OR NOTHING
The animations are smooth on the Switch, with the biggest issue being some heavy lag during matches. While far from a gamebreaker, the slow responsiveness and awkward movement when your opponents are lying on the mat, bumping into barricades outside the ring, clustering up too close to each other, etc. desperately needs some smoothing out in a future patch. Omega, Yukes’ chief consultant on Fight Forever, admitted in an interview that there was no way that the game could compete with 2K in terms of production polish and there was absolutely no intention of trying to. Fight Forever does do a bunch of small things great. Malakai Black can squat down “Yoga style” to avoid attacks; he can also spit black mist that will stutter your opponent for a few seconds. There are a lot of smaller, cool moments like these and Orange Cassidy’s sloth-motion hands-in-pockets power, Adam Cole can remove his kneepad and Penta can remove his glove, MJF’s signature play-dead eye-poke that diehard AEW fans will really appreciate.
The match pacing is great, if you’re up for a relentlessly frantic style that is 100x more Here Comes The Pain than the more schematic sim of 2K. It’s all about momentum, mixing up your combat and offering a blend of unique offense and well-timed defense to get that victory. Signature and Special moves are super easy to accomplish, you can obtain these sequences fairly early in the match if your momentum is right, and the animation captures these moments greatly. Fight Forever has absolutely no shame in going over the top, and captures an awesome balance between being cartoonishly arcade and STILL feeling REAL TO ME DAMN IT. You can toss gas cans for some wild explosions, ride around in Darby’s skateboard, and splatter tons of blood via barbed wire brooms, bats, fire extinguishers, and the like. There are over 40 weapons in all! The Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match is super thrilling with a friend and so Fire Pro, even offering a hidden option to recapture the infamous dud explosion from AEW Revolution 2021.
When it comes to presentation, AEW Fight Forever is not that Dynamite. Maybe that’s the point. THQ/Yukes saves a few bucks by having the four main voices of All Elite say very few things, and, surely, Excalibur, Good Ol’ JR, Schiavone and Taz digitally mail this one in. Hell, Ross sounds like he recorded his bits half asleep on a plane whenever he welcomes the players to an AEW show (“It’s Sunday and you know what that meanzzz…zzz…zzz…). Somebody ought to give this guy a slobberknocker shot of whiskey in his barbecue sauce. Come on, Jim! On the contrary, I’m starting to see a lot of feedback on social media that gamers prefer not having any commentary anyway, judging how the play-by-play and color commentary in WWE 2K has been mundane for years. It’s a shame that wrasslin’ games haven’t been able to live up to the level of NBA 2K or even Madden NFL’s outstanding booths.
Entrances are seven seconds long, deeming the Create-An-Entrance mode worthless. What’s the point of overpowering your hello with pyro for.. seven seconds? Again, it’s one of those things where the smaller budget for FF went to other things than a 40-second plus entrance that most players will eventually skip anyway. That said, Fight Forever’s seven second entrances are great for the seven seconds. You’ve also got to love the Austin Aires/Kenny Omega/Ultimo Dragon ALL DA BELTS pose possibilities. It’s cute, little things like this that give Fight Forever the charm it needs to help separate it from the wealthier competition.
Sadly, you essentially can’t create anyone. The creation suite, particularly create-a-wrestler, is an absolute stinker, incredibly underwhelming, bare-bones, and whatever other adjectives you want to describe what a travesty this mode really is. I even tried to make everyone’s favorite pro wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer and he has no other choice but to look 35 instead of 63, which I’m sure would make him thrilled. So no face morphing, aging, changing colors of accessories, etc. Worst yet, you can’t download anyone’s creations. A lot of gamers buy 2K JUST to download the amazing work of Dre41, Iconic 2K, Defract, WhatsTheStatus, etc. Maybe this was a heavy copyright thing that AEW didn’t want to deal with; then again, you can still make a Big Lots Cena and Ross Reigns and post video of your creations up on YouTube, so likely just another budgetary thing.
Not quite, Adam. Sans the incredibly fun (but still limited) Barbed Wire Death Match and Lights Out matches, Fight Forever offers very few match types and even lesser modes. For a company that has had 100 Ladder Matches with the Lucha Bros, you can’t have a tag team Ladder Match. For a company that often apes the 8 and 10-person tags of New Japan, you can’t have more than 4 wrestlers in a ring. For a company that has Trios TITLES, you can’t have a 6-person tag match. Yeah, there’s hardly any variety here.
I had the most fun with FF’s eccentric little single player career mode, Road To Elite. Because the menus are somewhat clunky, I had no idea I could even take a CAW into the career. Thus I opted for Jungle Boy, who, at the time – but has since gone full-on Luke Perry rogue – appeared like the most white meat babyface guy to start a fresh career path with, and it was a blast getting involved in a “Blind Eliminator” tag team with Eddie Kingston (before that term even became a thing), taking selfies and talking scrap at some tourist sights with Hangman Page, and getting into a love affair turned ugly with Jack’s real life beau Anna Jay. The fact I got to accomplish this all in one single night on the clock at work? “Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-ohhhh-ohhhh” is right! I’m telling y’all, portable play will have you forgiving a lot of things about Fight Forever.
RTE will bury you, too. There are several paths, stories and even characters to unlock during this mode and it will take you a few times before you get it all. In a way, that’s great; but what happens to our “career” once we complete it? There’s no Universe we can set up once we become “Elite”. There’s just a bunch of exhibition matches. That said, I’m expecting a ton of expansion with Fight Forever; word from THQ Yukes and AEW is that there will be a lot of post-launch support for this one ala FPW, maybe even for years, compared to the annual cranking of WWE entries from 2K. While that would definitely be best for business, I’m wondering if $60 might have been too high for a game that’s admittedly incomplete – especially if you have to pay an extra $20 for DLC. It felt so strange to try to put the FTW title on Hook, the AEW Women’s Title on Toni Storm, and the AEW World Tag Titles on FTR, only to find that none of these real life champs were in the game on day one. Heck, Storm didn’t even make the first wave of DLC that features Cash, Dax, Taz’ kid and Keith Lee, Danhausen and The Bunny.
The general consensus is here: AEW Fight Forever is a fine start, a solid core wrestling title with lots of kinks to work out, yet a foundation reminiscent of the good ol’ days of games like WCW/nWo Revenge and WWF SmackDown: Here Comes The Pain with lots of promise in the future. Can it ever truly be Elite? Well, that all depends on what you want from a wrestling video game. Old school/arcade fans will eat this up, but for how long? We need an additional GM or Career Mode. We need to download other gamers’ creations. We need to import logos (especially for Create-An-Arena). We need more than 4 wrestlers in the ring. We need more wrestling match types (a future Stadium Stampede mode is confirmed!). Mini-games are fun, but for how long?
Longtime 2K heads will definitely be disappointed by the depth, especially once the nostalgic joy of Road To Elite starts to fade. But, if Kenny & his homies at Yukes (I mean, he brought back Geta!) follow the FPW & Virtua Pro Wrestling formula over the next 2-3 years, we may be in for a lengthy Elite treat without having to essentially buy the same game year in and year out. That’s a whole lot of hope, but if anyone can deliver on the promise it’s The Cleaner – the sweeping brain behind all the silly Mario Partyesque mini-games, international meals and sights that only a Yakuza-loving Best Bout Machine could offer.
P.S. Change all of the music in the Jukebox option immediately to the 8-bit tribute versions of entrance themes. You can thank me later.
Gameplay = 4.25/5
Visuals/Animations = 3.5/5
Presentation = 3/5
Matches/Modes = 3/5
Creation Suite = 1.5/5
Switch Portability = 4.5/5
Overall = 3.25/5 Whiskeys.
THQ Nordic/Yuke’s AEW: Fight Forever is available now on the Nintendo Switch, PS4, P5, Xbox One, Series S/X, and PC.