Arcades may be a dying industry but some video games still manage to capture that sense of joy of slotting a token into a massive gaming cabinet. AEW: Fight Forever is such a game. It’s more of an arcade-style button masher than what developer Yuke’s has released in the past but there’s an appeal to a more stylized and casual title While it would fit right in as a machine you’d find in a row of obnoxiously loud and brightly colored cabinets lining the walls of an arcade, as a game you can play on your home console, it immediately feels dated. It works in a clunky sort of way but feels more appropriate as an arcade cabinet where you’d spend game tokens to play for an hour on the weekend rather than pay full price for upfront.
Insert Tokens to Play
Fight Forever is designed like an arcade game for home consoles. Just replace tokens with the steep price of $60 and you’re ready to play. Therein lies one major problem with the game — there’s not enough content to warrant that full price tag. Aside from being able to wrestle as familiar characters, or your own custom one in standard matches, online, or a storyline, it all feels too barren and lifeless.
It goes a little something like this: Create a match, select characters, fight for a few minutes, and repeat. Yes, on the most base level, it all works rather well but after that initial excitement wears off it all gets stale after a few rounds. Luckily, there are a few additional features such as minigames and the campaign mode that do enhance AEW’s entertainment factor.
Wrestling Has More Than One Royal Family
AEW: Fight Forever is a wrestling game so you’re obviously going to be doing a lot of wrestling. Wrestlers face off against one another in a number of match types that unfortunately don’t differentiate themselves much from one another. You’ll compete in one-on-one, two versus two, and tag team matches as well as more unique modes such as the exploding barbed wire death match, minigames, and a campaign. The former matches are fun but are over quickly, whereas the latter match types are interesting and full of chaotic action and entertaining games like dancing, trivia, and the history of AEW.
Matches are genuinely fun to be a part of or watch the CPU fight, however, they’re all around sluggish. There doesn’t seem to be any urgency to the character’s punches or kicks. When attacks do connect, they hit hard. You’ll feel the impact of a slap or chop as the screen shakes and flashes red. You can also block attacks by button mashing either the left or right trigger in time, and again, when it works, it’s worthwhile and satisfying to deflect a blow and turn the attack back on your opponent.
The button layout isn’t overly complicated and mirrors that of an arcade machine. You’ll use the face buttons to punch, kick, and grapple opponents while the other buttons act as blocking, running, or jumping off the ropes. Characters each have their own moves you can execute by performing button combos. Once you do enough damage to an opponent, you’ll activate your signature and subsequently your finisher. Doing so makes for a fantastic moment as you twist your opponent around into a headlock DDT then pin them for the 1, 2, 3.
In the early stages of my playtime, I grew tired of the standard punch, kick, grapple, and pin maneuvers. Yet as I got more comfortable with the controls and tried different combinations, my mindset shifted. Things still feel like they’re moving in slow motion but pulling off a combo or building your finisher feels earned. Once you deal enough damage to your opponent and take them out with a signature is when Fight Forever shines brightest. Yet kicking out from a pin is the exact opposite of joy. You’ll need to press the face buttons when pinned to break free but it’s unclear if it’s in unison, random, or in order so button mashing is key here. Clearer instructions for controls would be beneficial. The controls work for a game like this, it makes it feel as if you’re standing at an arcade machine frantically tapping the buttons.
Insert Tokens to Unlock More
When it comes to the wrestlers themselves, each has an entrance, move sets, and outfit like you’d see during an AEW show. However, the characters take on a much more exaggerated look than they do in real life. Arms are too long, heads are too small, and hands are too large. It works for a more arcade-style feel, but I felt it a bit distracting as, while everything feels more animated, the characters still have a realistic look to them.
If you’re like me, you enjoy getting to make your own custom character in games. AEW allows custom characters but I use the word custom lightly as there is a limited amount of choices you can choose from. Each character, regardless of gender, has a select amount of clothing they can wear either in the ring, entering the ring, or as street clothes. The in-ring attire is so restricted that you’ll be forced to see multiple custom characters end up wearing nearly the same outfit in the ring, albeit a different color. If you want more options, whether it’s clothing or unlockable wrestlers, you’ll need to spend in-game currency to do so. My main problem with this is there just isn’t enough to unlock that makes doing so worthwhile. Aside from Cody Rhodes and a few other wrestlers, I never went back to the shop to unlock a T-shirt. And while you do unlock free cosmetics in the campaign mode, they aren’t all that impressive. It’s just another generic shirt. There’s no wow factor to any clothing you can purchase or ones found in the customization options.
Another thing that really needs to be updated is choosing a character’s move set. You’re free to change it up for your custom character or famous wrestlers but doing so is a chore. When you want to choose a new move, for instance, you’re forced to scroll through an alphabetical list of hundreds of moves. However, as you’re unable to search for specific moves by name or letter, you’re left scrolling for quite a long time until you find the name of the move you want. It’s poor game design and just adding a faster search option would clean it up.
1…2…3…Ring the Bell
AEW is simple. There’s nothing sophisticated about it, and it knows it. It’s not groundbreaking, and it doesn’t need to be but it does feel unpolished and unrefined for a game that had as much hype as CM Punk’s return behind it. It does keep you coming back for more through replayability and quick fights. Yuke’s is adding plenty of additional content as well so there will be more coming to keep you entertained.
AEW: Fight Forever is a fun game that’ll hold your attention for a short time. If you’re looking for a wrestling game with popular characters capable of beating the ever-living shit out of each other, AEW is great. If you’re looking for a wrestling game with complexity, multiple match types that take place in and out of the ring, and impressive character customization, look elsewhere.
Keeping with the wrestling theme, it’s not ready for live television and has a long time before it’s ready for a pay-per-view match.
AEW: Fight Forever was reviewed on Xbox Series S with a code from the development team. The game is available on Steam, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
- Campaign mode
- Replay value
- Minigames add in uniqueness
- Sluggish combat
- Lacking customization