AEW Fight Forever certainly has moments where it delivers on its promise of back-to-basics, arcade-like pro wrestling fun. However, such moments are few and far between. More often than not, you’ll be wrestling with buggy combat, lackluster visuals, and an underbaked career mode that feels woefully tacked on. It’s not a bad effort from Yuke’s, but one that’s far from the developer’s best work.
Massive base roster
Simplistic, arcade-like fighting
Amazing arena customization
Combat and moves often bug out
Custom superstars lack options
Career mode feels rushed
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Platform reviewed: PS5
Available on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Release date: June 29, 2023
AEW Fight Forever had all the makings of a title contender. The game marked developer Yuke’s’ return to the wrestling genre, five years on from WWE 2K19. With a fresh roster and promising a return to simpler, arcade-like play, AEW Fight Forever looked like it could’ve been something very special. Something that could’ve recaptured the phenomenal Smackdown vs. RAW era of wrestling games.
Despite the game putting its best foot forward in terms of modes and features, it’s packed with bugs. While certainly not quite as woeful as WWE 2K20, AEW Fight Forever is noticeably unpolished, with buggy combat and clumsy hitboxes plaguing most matches. Add in dated visuals, bare-bones creation suites, and a career mode that feels like a last-minute addition, and you’re better off buying WWE 2K23 instead, especially as both titles retail at full price.
AEW Fight Forever makes a solid first impression. When you reach the main menu, you’ll be greeted with a litany of modes and match formats. You’ll be well-served depending on your mood, whether you’ve got an appetite for more standard single or tag matches, or something more extravagant like a Fatal 4-Way, ladder match, or Casino Battle Royale (essentially just an elimination-style Royal Rumble).
Then there’s the hilariously cartoonish Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match. This ridiculous showpiece laces the ropes with electrified barbed wire, and a ring that explodes every two minutes, dealing huge damage to the wrestler closest to the sides. It’s good comical fun that’s perfect for couch play with friends, and certainly Fight Forever’s most unique match type. And yes, this mode absolutely delivers on the promise of comical amounts of blood.
There’s an utterly colossal roster of superstars, too. Close to 50 AEW stalwarts are among the roster at launch including favorites like Kenny Omega, Sting, CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Thunder Rosa and so many more. If you’re big into All Elite Wrestling, you’ll find your fave here.
The custom arena feature in AEW Fight Forever is absolutely fantastic. I spent more time than I’d like to admit perfecting my ring’s color scheme, entrance layout, props and lighting.
When AEW Fight Forever’s at its best, it can be brilliant (if simple) fun. Moves have a strong feeling of weight to them, and connected blows are sold almost as well as they are on TV. Special and signature moves hit particularly hard, with dynamic camera angles highlighting the strong animation work on display.
A few matches in, the facade starts to crumble. The game’s visuals are painfully dated. Superstars have a plastic, almost action figure-esque look to them that’s more reminiscent of a wrestling title from the PS3 and Xbox 360 era. There’s also no commentary to speak of whatsoever, which makes matches feel a touch lifeless. That’s a strange omission, given the likes of Jim Ross and Excalibur have lent their voice talents to the game for narration.
An overall lack of polish in the moment-to-moment combat makes it all seem worse. Hit detection is wildly inconsistent. At least once per match, I would have instances of a direct blow whiffing straight through my opponent’s face. Similarly, I’d often be pulled into a grapple as if the opposing superstar was fitted with a tractor beam. These are elements that’ll likely be patched and refined post-launch, but as it stands, the brawling of AEW Fight Forever feels amateurish.
As with most of the best wrestling games, AEW Fight Forever does feature various creation suites. You’re able to create your very own male or female superstar, teams, move lists and even arenas.
First off, arena customization is particularly impressive. Here, you can customize everything from the ring itself to the stage and ramp your superstars will descend from. You can even go a step further and completely change the colors of the canvas, lighting, surrounding floors, ropes and turnbuckles to make something genuinely unique. It’s easy to get lost in here for hours making custom arenas to suit your favorite moods and match formats.
Less impressive are the options given to you for custom superstars. In terms of face and body types, you’re stuck to a small handful of simple presets, with no sliders involved whatsoever. Options for clothing are also severely limited, with surprisingly few items available to trick your superstar out with at launch.
You can switch up every aspect of your superstars’ moveset, however. Punches, kicks, grapples, specials and signatures can be chosen from hundreds of options. This is where you can really set your superstar apart successfully, as they can be a totally unique wrestler, clad in one of the game’s scant outfit options.
However, another problem arises here, as not all custom movesets are made equal. You’re in no way limited in which moves you choose, of course, but when forming combo strings, some don’t play well with others. I often ran into a bug where performing the last move in a string would freeze my character in place. They’d be unable to move, at all, until my opponent got a free hit in, which would then have my superstar slam to the floor within a single frame of animation. On one occasion, this even cost me the entire match.
Road to nowhere
Rounding out AEW Fight Forever’s main modes is the Road to Elite career. But if you choose to skip this in favor of just loading up some matches with friends, you’re really not missing out on much. That’s because Road to Elite feels more than a little tacked on – a formality rather than something Yuke’s wanting to put significant time and effort into.
The biggest problem with Road to Elite is that its progression is all over the place. You join the ranks of AEW instantly, with no buildup to sell your superstars’ arrival. My first match was a one-fall 4-way brawl, which I lost. Fortunes quickly turned for my superstar, though, as they became AEW World Champion in just their second match. Erm, what?
That’s right. Something I expected to happen hours into Road to Elite, I’d achieved in a matter of minutes. It left the rest of the career mode feeling rather listless, as I’d already managed to obtain one of its most prestigious belts in the first hour of play. The titular Road to Elite isn’t as long or winding as you might think, it seems.
There are some more charming elements, though. Your superstar will often run into others on the roster during text-based events. These aren’t anything special, but the writing is deliciously cheesy in all the right ways, acting as a decent incentive to plow through your matches week after week.
All around, what you have here is a serviceable wrestling game package, but one that falters with a lack of polish, generations-old visuals, and frequent bugs, that take much of the fun out of what should be well-paced matches.
There’s no particularly standout accessibility features in AEW Fight Forever, at least at launch. However, players may want to enable the easy counters feature if you’re having trouble getting the timing right on reversing strikes and grapples.
There’s also a casual mode setting to make various inputs and prompts easier to gauge, as well as an option to reduce the screen shake effect if you’re prone to motion sickness. Subtitles are enabled for cutscenes, but there’s no way to turn them off in the options menu, nor are there settings to adjust subtitle size or background.
How we reviewed AEW Fight Forever
In testing AEW Fight Forever, I made sure to try out as many of the game’s modes and match formats as possible. I also spent a considerable amount of time in the game’s various creation suites and Road to Elite career mode. To really get a feel for the action in AEW Fight Forever, I also played through each match format with multiple superstars to get an idea of the broad range of movesets, specials and signatures on offer.
Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.