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AEW Fight Forever Review

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AEW Fight Forever Review

Have Mercy!... 

It’s ironic how a distinct formula just melds perfectly with pro-wrestling titles,  the simplicity of manufacturing an arcade-like exhibition without over saturating the core fundamentals to make it as intricate as possible. This has become WWE 2K’s weak point where the gameplay may be complex, but suffers from overcomplicating its overall experience to nurture a niche market. Pro-wrestling is considered a “carny” sport, as many mainstays of its product would tell you its “sports-entertainment” rather than competitive combat. The landscape of wrestling has been lopsided for the better part of twenty-plus years now, with the WWE dominating the western market, while other leagues such as New Japan Pro Wrestling has kept its legacy intact in the east. However, in 2018 a revolution was founded by then Bullet Club members, known as “The Elite”.

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Garnering critical acclaim for their unscripted-like behaviour seen on-screen, and via their hit YouTube show “Being the Elite”, their purpose to deliver a paradigm shift was in motion and could not be denied. This was the spark that drew the flame for All Elite Wrestling. The pro-wrestling revolution founded by Tony Khan and The Elite’s five core members, Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks and “Hangman” Adam Page. Four of the five within the stable would go on to be Executive Vice Presidents of the company, while Tony Khan would proceed to fund the venture, alongside his father, billionaire tycoon and co-owner of AEW, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Fulham F.C., Shahid Khan. AEW’s catered market was an alternative to WWE, where its competitor’s product had become questionable at least, with its PG product seen by fans as its outlier.

AEW has quickly become the fastest rising competitor to the WWE since Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling (WCW), with stars from either side of the fence peering over to seek opportunity – an exciting experience that hasn’t been seen since WCW’s closure in 2001. With its limitless potential, AEW has seen incredible successes in its first four years, but none greater for gamers than its first home console release in AEW Fight Forever. With the launch of AEW Games, the promise of a title that sought to pay homage to the classic era of pro-wrestling titles could only see the team responsible behind the forever-praised “WWF No Mercy”, join forces with All Elite Wrestling with hopes of revitalising the wrestling genre with its accessible combat, and old school style mechanics with a modern twist. That would of course, be Japanese development team Yuke’s.

You know it's all about the BOOM!...

Now, it goes without saying that nostalgia can be a rose-tinted affair when it comes to remembering certain gameplay being “perfection” within a delegated genre. Yes, No Mercy was indeed the perfect pro-wrestling experience for its generation, and I’m not going to say that it still doesn’t deliver today. If anything I prefer WWF No Mercy over many modern WWE titles. It’s just easier to pick-up and play. AEW Fight Forever seeks to replicate this formula, engaging its audience with expeditious pacing that requires little thought and rapid execution. Something that’s always been a welcome feature for many within the two markets of gaming and wrestling. Having multiple modes at your disposal, AEW Fight Forever delivers on both singular, multiplayer and online experiences aplenty.

From the get-go, normal 1v1 exhibitions are simple to set-up and play, while its simple UI/UX and on-screen tutorials will take you through the title’s basics with mentor William Regal delivering tips to hone your craft in the ring. The catch-as-catch-can abilities that see ring-mat technicians showcase their prowess, can be a marvel to gawk at, with simple grapples and action buttons executing a side-headlock, to a takeover with a potential reversal lined up by your opponent, which can again be reversed by the player into another hold. These features are basics that have gone missing for quite sometime in WWE titles that are a refreshing return to form in AEW Fight Forever. With the variety of in-ring styles clashing throughout the onset, you will tend to gravitate toward your favourite wrestler on this incredible roster of forty-six male and fourteen female talents – not to mention the ability to play intergender matches which is pretty neat.

Other modes such as the Exploding Barbed-wire death match is a fun gimmick, however its limited functions outweighed its flexibility to the point where I found its tedious nature to be cumbersome after little time. Tag Team matches were fun to experiment with, but with little balance and too many interceptions by partners it became a mess to try and defeat my opponents. There are steady tweaks through the title’s available difficulty options that help with some unbalanced demonstrations, but despite these changes the gameplay loop could remain unchanged in some modes. Regardless, the outcome still delivers a satisfying experience overall, with some minor gripes withstanding.

Refinery is possibly the title’s weak suit with bugs rearing their ugliness in unconventional match-types, but this is all part of the pro-wrestling video game experience. Wrestling titles have never been the cleanest, nor the most polished and sometimes that can be by design, and AEW Fight Forever’s quirky nature only lets these minute blemishes elevate the game’s charm. In terms of movement and mechanics, I would equate the game more to the WWE Day of Reckoning series, rather than a complete call back to No Mercy, with character models designed to look a little inhumane, and cartoonish. Its style certainly draws inspiration from the GameCube exclusives, with mirrored mechanics and control schemes that are unquestionably familiar from Yuke’s older pro-wrestling titles. 

This is prime pro-wrestling video gaming at its best, and one I will be delving into for years to come. Goodbye, and Goodnight. BANG!

It’s a simple formula, you have your gauge and your opponent’s gauge on-screen. The stronger it gets, the more red it indicates and when it reaches its max, it will display a “Signature” to which you can execute by strong grappling your opponent, then hitting a directional button on your D-Pad, for example; Kenny Omega’s Powerbomb V-Trigger combination strike, followed by a taunt which triggers all wrestler’s “Special” state, and in Kenny’s case can then go on to hit his finishing manoeuvre, the “One-Winged Angel”. Strikes are designated by action-specific buttons instead of all-out combinations that are executed by just mashing one button. Punches and kicks are kept separate, while grapples will determine a respective throw or hold depending on which action button you press.

Irish whips toward the ropes will rebound your opponent back toward you for a quick move that may take them down or aid you into a finisher. You may utilise each corner for top-rope execution, whether this be a superplex with both fighters at the top turnbuckle, or have your opponent laying, standing, or sitting to land a singular stylish, high-flying move. Throwing your opponent to the outside of the ring, will have the referee execute a ten count in a standard exhibition, which can be turned off or customised in the match menu’s options, along with other rules that can be tweaked to your liking. While outside the ring, just as it was in No Mercy, you can reach over the barricade, and into the crowd to grab a weapon and strike your opponent – just be weary of your surroundings and the referee as you could be disqualified in standard exhibition settings.

A little bit of the bubbly...

SOLID POINTS

✔️ A familiar formula that revitalises the genre.

✔️ An amalgamation of WWF No Mercy and WWE Day of Reckoning.

✔️ All your favourite AEW Stars, with trademark match modes, moves and diverse range of skillsets.

❌ Some bugs that can be patched, but I found them to be part of the game’s charm.

❌ Zero vocals in Campaign mode.

Career mode in AEW Fight Forever is aptly titles “Road to Elite”, as you follow your favourite stars path through All Elite Wrestling’s first year since its inception. The story itself is segregated into multiple chapters and intertwines depending on your match outcomes, which can both fast-track you to a World Championship match, or send you down to the bottom of the card, or keep you locked-in an unlikely tag-team duo. This is all dependent on your character’s actions as you progress through the campaign itself. I would equate the experience as a mixture of WWE 2K’s Road to WrestleMania and its GM Mode, where you have to maintain your wrestler’s health, diet, training regime and mental wellbeing.

These are all tracked via attributes labelled in the mode, to which can be kept at a healthy balance to ensure a prosperous career ahead of them, or an injury prone path to early retirement. While all well thought out, there are caveats to its quality assurance that may have slipped under the radar, including dialogue that had spelling errors, weird cutscene quirks such as Kenny Omega addressing Chris Jericho as “Kenny”, and odd encounters with waitresses bringing me my toast with avocado. You can’t tell me that people actually hate toast with avocado – it’s freaking delicious.

Training your character for strength and vitality, while trying not to injure them can be quite nerve wracking, as its all up to the RNG Gods to determine your workout’s outcome, but its also avoidable by choosing a Light, Medium, or Intense workout. Your character could get injured during a match, to which you may not want to make them lift heavy weights, rather have them do squats or sit-ups to lower the risk of any further strains. It’s a smart way to experience an RPG-like juxtapose to simply progressing through a week-by-week linear narrative. The only drawback from the mode is zero voice over. The entire experience is subtitled with the only cameo appearance being that of Tony Khan calling you at the beginning of the campaign, and Jim Ross assisting you throughout the mode with tips and tricks.

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A definite plus I’m in favour of however, is zero commentary. I would always turn off WWE Games commentary as soon as I would boot the game. My primary focus is of the match itself, so not having a voice be falsely passionate overhype my matches was certainly a welcome omission. Creating your own AEW Star is simple, but can also be somewhat complex if trying to get it just right. You’re not going to be creating the most realistic CAW of Roman Reigns here, I’ll put it that way. Pre-existing AEW rostered stars can have their movesets and entrances tweaked to your liking, as the title is accompanied by a plethora of customisable options to select from. From 8-Bit covers of your favourite wrestler’s theme music, to an alternate variation of their entrance. Winning matches earns you cash to unlock certain tweaks and hidden stars like now WWE’s Cody Rhodes or playable Referee, Aubrey Edwards.

While certain limitations will hold AEW Fight Forever back by comparison to WWE’s 2K series, AEW’s first foray into the video gaming world is a refreshing and exciting prospect that can only get better from here-on-out. A welcoming touch to those that are casually invested in the product itself, and aren’t highly versed within the genre of pro-wrestling titles, Fight Forever gives fans, old and new alike a chance to experience the glory days of pro-wrestling video games with a modern twist that’s exciting, bold and will unequivocally revitalise their love for the product itself. Its a great campaign to bring in those that aren’t yet familiar with AEW’s product, but also those that are but aren’t avid gamers. This is prime pro-wrestling video gaming at its best, and one I will be delving into for years to come. Goodbye, and Goodnight. BANG!

AEW Fight Forever Review

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AEW Fight Forever is an upcoming professional wrestling sports video game developed by Yuke’s and published by THQ Nordic. The game will be the debut title on home consoles and personal computers from American professional wrestling promotion AEW.

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Story
8
Gameplay
9
Presentation
8
Sound
9
8.5

8.5

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