Published on June 29th, 2023 | by Gareth Newnham
AEW: Fight Forever Review
Summary: At the core of AEW Fight Forever is the No Mercy Successor wrestling fans have been waiting for. The question is whether you want that. I know I do.
No Mercy 2.0
AEW: Fight Forever is an odd beast. Both nostalgic and brand-spanking new at the same time. In other words, it has a serious case of the Yoka Laylees.
The first wrestling game to be based on All Elite Wrestling by veteran devs Yuke’s, who previously worked on the WWE franchise for about 20 years, (like many of the wrestlers in its extensive roster now that I think about it), Fight Forever is an attempt to recapture the magic of the wrestling games of the PS1 and N64 era.
The good news is that Fight Forever achieves its aims with aplomb. It’s a rock-solid arcade wrestling game built upon the solid foundations of the N64 classic No Mercy and Yuke’s own Smackdown! series.
Fights are fast, fun, and brutal while pulling off your favourite wrestler’s signature and finishing moves from the Walls of Jerico to the Coffin Drop is as simple as tapping the d-pad or pushing the right stick.
There is something instantly gratifying to the way the game plays but as an old bugger with fond memories of long summer evenings beating my best friends half to death with a two-by-four in hardcore matches in No Mercy and Smackdown! maybe there is some nostalgia at play – but perhaps that’s the point.
Compared to WWE 2K23, AEW: Fight Forever feels a little basic. That is to say, there are absolutely no frills here. The graphics are solid, and cartoony in a way that the old wrestling games were, but nothing to write home about, there are no grand entrances or commentary on the matches, or voice acting during the story mode either. Just up to four wrestlers in a ring beating the snot out of each other.
Likewise, the match types at least appear fairly limited to singles, and tag matches, with a couple of stand-out types including the casino battle royale, and exploding barbwire match, which sees the ropes replaced with electrified barbwire and the whole ring exploding after a set amount of time.
What I do find a bit of a headscratcher though is why the flashiest fight type in the game, doesn’t make an appearance Road to Elite, Fight Forever’s Career mode, which sees you either using your own custom wrestler or an AEW star to spend a year in the boots of a professional wrestler.
For the best part, it feels like a career mode straight out of the 90s. There’s minimal voice acting, your wrestler’s responses are limited to a small selection of phrases, depending on their ‘type’ and there are some basic RPG elements and meters to take care of. Though this is only the case if you play as a custom wrestler. AEW fighters all have their stats set at the beginning, which makes most of the side activities absolutely pointless, save for trying to get selfies with your fellow stars and playing the selection of mini-games hosted by The Young Bucks you can attempt once per month for some extra cash.
The mini-games themselves are a mixed bag and include everything from basic memory games, and spot the difference to playing baseball with your fellow wrestlers (they are the ball) and trying to knock your opponents out of the ring using bouncy balls and exploding propane canisters.
If you do make a custom wrestler though you’ll also be able to manage your energy levels by having a quick bite of the local cuisine, which also comes with a nice little factoid about the grub you’re about to chow down on ( shame the eating noises are like nails on a chalkboard).
You’ll also be able to do a spot of sightseeing or take part in press conferences that boost your motivation. This, in turn, helps you earn more experience points in the gym and reduce your chance of injury while doing more strenuous workouts.
Experience points are then used to unlock better stats, slots to equip additional signature moves and finishers, and additional tricks like being able to instantly spring back up if you are knocked down and attack your opponent before the bell rings.
It’s all pretty fun and surprisingly engrossing but there are a couple of things that irked me during Road to Elite, the first is that each of the storylines seems to be dropped, never to be heard from again. You win the tag championship, then immediately knock out your partner and this never is mentioned again. You can win the FTW belt, but you never defend it. It’s a shame really because having some variety based on your accomplishments would have really made it come alive.
The other thing to note is that if you start a second run of the Road to Elite with a custom wrestler the game will reset all their stats. Here’s hoping a New Game+ mode is added at a later date because being able to max out everything would be a ton of fun and add a little more replay value.
On the plus side, the women’s league and tag teams do have their own version of Road to Elite. This adds a little extra to the replay value and is a great reason to play through it again with another custom wrestler or two.
Speaking of custom wrestlers, it’s another part of the game that feels fairly empty. You can select from a handful of body types, builds, and haircuts, and then customize their move set, and entrance and finally give them a name the announcer can say while they’re walking to the ring. All hail The Bastard Potato.
The custom arena maker is also pretty simple stuff too, you pick an existing setup from a list of stock parts and colours to build your own ring. From the turnbuckles to barriers. In a nice addition, you can unlock all the parts you would need to make an arena that looks a lot like one from say, No Mercy, or another old-school wrestling game for the days when you just want a healthy dose of nostalgia.
Finally, there are some basic online modes that include Ranked, casual, and private matches. Getting into a match is fairly straight forward you just choose your match type, pick a character and away you go. Even with my fairly modest internet speeds ( joys of living in the country), each of the handful of matches I managed to play through was as smooth as playing the game with someone sitting next to me.
AEW: Fight Forever is a fun and engaging wrestling game that feels like a solid foundation for future entries. It’s easy to pick up, difficult to master controls, and focus on providing solid arcade-style gameplay, and brutal action in the ring over everything else should be lauded. But at the same time, this isn’t Yuke’s first rodeo and surely it’s their extensive experience of making quality brawlers that got them this gig in the first place.
If you have been taking your vitamins and saying your prayers in hopes of one day playing a spiritual successor to No Mercy. Fight Forever is that game and then some. Likewise, fans of AEW are treated to a decent roster of AEW fighters past and present.
However, if you’re looking for something to compete with the feature-packed pomp and slick presentation of WWE2K13 you may find yourself a little disappointed.
For the rest of us though, AEW: Fight Forever is a fun first foray into the world of video games for All Elite Wrestling and hopefully a rock-solid foundation for things to come.