AEW: Fight Forever – PS5 Review 2

WWE have ruled the wrestling roost for a long while but that hasn’t stopped companies looking to mildly threaten the sports entertainment behemoth. Nobody has really come close but All Elite Wrestling are the latest to, at the very least, gain a foothold in the industry. What follows is AEW: Fight Forever. A return to wrestling games from Yuke’s, the long-suffering developer of WWE games until 2013. Boasting something more akin to WWF No Mercy, the nostalgia play doesn’t always hit but feels refreshing.

Let’s get the obvious problems out the way. AEW: Fight Forever‘s aesthetics are of a mixed quality. Some models look detailed and polished whilst others look considerably off. Part of it seems down to their cartoon-ish style. It looks oddly compromised between looking like reality and looking like action figures. It’s a pulled punch that results in talent that appears a little dopey. Portraits use stock expressions that make the likes of CM Punk resemble Popeye. To the game’s credit, the roster does seem large for the first time out. There’s some obvious omissions but the selection seems broad enough to cover plenty of bases.

I do think the game looks nice in motion. Animations are quick and it leads to a match that feels more immediate and fun than the WWE 2K series. Whilst some of the faces can look flat, the rest of their physiques look the part with appropriate movesets on offer. I don’t watch a lot of AEW but I sense they tried to focus a lot on personality and the in-ring product. I love little touches like MJF begging for his life rather than dodging or the fact Paul Wight’s size makes him genuinely difficult to lift.

And the action feels a lot tighter and easier to get to grips with. As mentioned, Yuke’s has went back to basics with a momentum-based fighting system. You can deliver light punches and heavy kicks with grapples being fairly simple to pull off. Naturally, there’s context-sensitive actions depending on where you are in the ring. Each wrestler has signature moves they can trigger when their momentum has peaked and taunting can trigger their finisher to become available.

I find it easy enough to grasp and the swiftness of the scraps does lead to a lot less downtime. Things are just more immediate here and I enjoy the faster pace and emphasis on a more arcade experience. Defence matters as there’s options to dodge or block incoming attacks. The timing window does seem relatively wide so the possibility to counter moves doesn’t feel like a huge lottery. I’ve not ran into to any problems with the AI although I always get annoyed by how slow referees get into position for pin-falls.

Game modes are relatively well-represented with one-on-one bouts accompanied by triple threats, fatal four way’s and handicap matches. The casino battle royale delivers AEW’s take on an over the top rope endurance test whilst the Barbed Wire Exploding Deathmatch serves as the standout hardcore option. The latter is surprisingly more frantic than I expected with explosions being triggered every two minutes.

There is, of course, a career mode. This allows you to take an official wrestler or one of your own creations through a year of AEW. In reality, that year is about 16 weeks of game time which seems very small. This mode can be over very quickly as you travel from venue to venue and end each month with a pay-per-view. The career mode does offer a twist with branching narratives depending on your wins and losses. It’s a nice way to give those results meaning and gives the mode a reason to replay it. I’m curious to see what permeations are whirring away under the hood.

On a day-to-day basis you can decide what to do with yourself. Each task works to improve your fitness, momentum or your wallet. Along the way you’ll also run into AEW wrestlers who will either challenge you to additional matches or pose for photos with you. It’s quick and fairly basic but it’s not without it’s charm. Some of the writing is very tongue in cheek and the restaurants you can dine at do deliver some pretty heavy puns.

I do feel the create-a-wrestler offering is slim. You don’t get that many options to tweak with appearance and the ones that are there aren’t as granular as some other sports titles. There’s a lot of flag-based apparel that seems to pad out a less than impressive wardrobe. When it comes to audio samples for names or hometowns, the options are hit and miss. Whilst there’s plenty of names to choose from (with some eluding to actual wrestling talent) trying to bill your wrestler from certain countries can leave with scant options for home. Come from England? London’s your lot. Maybe they can add more in the future. At the moment, it feels spotty. The potential movelist for your created wrestler is a lot more extensive with hundreds on offer.

I do find the overall presentation to be somewhat barebones. Wrestler introductions aren’t full experiences and, whilst that does get you in the ring sooner, it’s missing the pageantry and spectacle of the sport. There is no commentary which perhaps give the match atmosphere less crackle. For what it’s worth, the voice lines they do use from the likes of Taz and William Regal vary in quality. Poor old Jim Ross seems sedate whereas Tony Khan gives a fairly solid performance. Replays are also sparingly used, usually for signature moves or finishers.

I find myself both surprised by AEW: Fight Forever‘s competence in the ring whilst not quite being ready to fully recommend it. The throwback to a simpler time does help represent a slicker, more immediate arcade style but the presentation portrays a company that is very much working within a smaller budget. I didn’t find the overall quality of the wrestler models to be a dealbreaker but it’s clear some of them just aren’t right. There are some neat things on offer but it’s clearly a product compromised by time and money.

AEW: Fight Forever
7 Overall
+ Really slick and swift in the ring.
+ The career mode's branching paths make results feel like they matter.
+ Has some occasionally charming touches.
+ Has a decent selection of match types.
- Looks visually dated.
- Presentation feels bare and lacks a spectacle.
- Customisation is a little slim.
- Needs a cage match.
AEW: Fight Forever is a fascinating combination of ideas. It definitely feels like their first rodeo with the limited customisation options and presentation. On the flip-side, the grappling has a fluidity and pace which I found enjoyable. You can see the focus on the in-ring product and that's where the polish lies. The career mode is short but fairly replayable with little charming touches throughout. Perhaps it's fitting this feels so scrappy and, on a budget price tag, it becomes a little easier to recommend.

About Mike

Mike gets all the racing games because he understands that stuff even though he doesn't drive.

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