Like AEW itself, AEW: Fight Forever reintroduces an alternative vision for what wrestling games should be.

After about six hours of playing AEW: Fight Forever on PC (and a not-great PC, to be honest), it’s clear that the development team—led by legendary wrestling game director Hideyuki Iwashita (WWF No Mercy, Def Jam Vendetta)—has executed their vision of a fun, fast-paced, pick-up-and-play experience worthy of your favorite WCW, WWF, and Def Jam games from the 90s and 00s.

From a gameplay standpoint, players can effectively pick up the game and be competitive. Deeper expertise surrounding counters, feints, chain-wrestling, and defensive tactics will take more time to develop, and hopefully, they’re rewarding endeavors.

Let’s be clear: this is WWF No Mercy 2023 in the ring, and it is a joy to play. The action is fast—matches last less than five minutes on average—and relatively fluid. I experienced a few missed inputs and lag, but I was playing on a PC with just 8 GB of RAM and using a PS4 controller that had been sitting in a drawer for…a while. I’m looking forward to diving into the game on my PS5 in the coming days.

Graphically, AEW: Fight Forever is a matter of taste. I enjoy the action-figure characters and dedication to fun over realism. The moves are suitably impactful, and the light flourishes on signature and finishing moves make them stand out even more—though I think they could’ve added even more flourish to those special moves.

Even with an incredible in-ring experience, AEW: Fight Forever leaves significant questions outside the ring, including in the creation modes, the potential for ongoing support, and longevity.

Creation Tools

Previews heavily criticized AEW Fight Forever’s simplified creation tools; unfortunately, those concerns are well-founded. Announcer Justin Roberts provides a massive collection of names for created wrestler entrancesfrom Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito to Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. Still, you will be hard-pressed to recreate any of those characters accurately. In the pre-launch version of the game included just eight faces for created wrestlers at launch and no face morphing at all.

The attire options are no better. Trunks, pants, shorts, and singlets are all available, but hopefully, you like one color and don’t want any designs or graphics. Custom arenas can only be templated from the default sets if you want to include a full stage, and by not letting users create (or share) custom logos, it’s next to impossible to recreate NJPW, NOAH, or WWE arenas.

What’s worse, AEW: Fight Forever has no sharing options. No sharing codes, no Community Creations-style features, no custom logos, and no export tools. It seems unconscionable to release a wrestling game without those features in 2023, but it’s also difficult to be upset about it when the creation tools themselves are this spartan.

The rumors are true—you cannot customize the attributes of created wrestlers without building them up through the game’s career/season mode, Road to Elite. You can play through the mode with a regular roster member, but Road to Elite is there primarily to build your created wrestlers.

As for Road to Elite itself, it’s a No Mercy-style text-based season mode. The storylines branch based on your wins and losses, but it will take multiple playthroughs of the relatively-short seasons to determine whether those branches provide proper depth or superficial differences.

A Wrestling Game Platform

AEW: Fight Forever’s developers can solve many of these issues through ongoing support for the game. It is indeed shocking that an AEW game doesn’t support trios tag matches, but it isn’t unreasonable to think trios support, cage matches, or even a promoter mode could be added down the line. It seems even more plausible when you see the rumored Stadium Stampede mode floating around (more on that later).

The in-game shop is pretty empty pre-launch but is set up for deep, long-term support. New attires, arenas, entrances, and new wrestlers can all be purchased using in-game cash, which is only attainable through playing the game (so far). No shark cards in AEW: Fight Forever.

I want to be clear—I LOVE that a wrestling game is trying a platform approach rather than pumping out annual releases with minuscule improvements. It requires some trust in the development team and publisher to believe they will support the game—and we still haven’t seen a road map beyond the first six additional characters—but I will gladly pay for NJPW or ROH expansions on Fight Forever rather than a “new” game each June.

Overall, AEW: Fight Forever delivers a beautiful pro wrestling video game experience in the ring and values fun above all else. The long-term value of the game will rely on a roadmap and content support plans, but there’s a good base built here. Like AEW itself, AEW: Fight Forever reintroduces a fresh new vision for what wrestling games should be.

AEW: Fight Forever Rating

⭐⭐⭐⭐ with room to grow—or shrink.

Now, let’s get into some quick hitter points:

The Good

  • The most crucial part: AEW Fight Forever is FUN. The game is focused on action and fun above realism and is all the better for it. Matches are fast-paced and short—this is the MOVEZ promotion AEW is accused of being.
  • The roster is excellent, albeit smaller than you might be used to. Maybe it’s because there are a bunch of new faces compared to the WWE 2K series, but the lineup feels like a breath of fresh air. With HOOK, Danhausen, FTR, and Matt Hardy already announced for season one DLC, I expect to see this roster well-supported as it expands.
  • Another note about the roster: There are no wrestler ratings, and I love it. Wrestling games should not be sports games. And sure, Dr. Britt Baker, DMD is more powerful in the game than Abadon, but we don’t need 1-to-100 attribute ratings to get that across.
  • Opinions on the game’s wrestler entrances will vary widely, but I like the shortened versions. The 5-10 second entrances are all I care to see anyway, and the custom pyro adds a layer of meaningful customizability.
  • GIFs and videos of AEW: Fight Forever’s vast collection of weapons and the carnage they create have been flooding the internet for weeks, and the game is just as wild as it looks. Barbed wire, thumbtacks, and nail-studded bats all create immediate bloody messes throughout the ring—and the bloodstains fade in a way that looks like blood drying on the mat. A classy touch. I haven’t found the exploding gas cans yet, but the barbed wire death match explosions certainly deliver.
  • The in-game shop is pretty spartan at launch, but there’s enormous potential here for timed/limited releases of unique attires, created wrestler pieces (PLEASE ADD MORE FACES), new logos, and new arena creation pieces.
  • To earn all these new goodies, you need in-game currency. AEW dollars are earned exclusively (for now) by playing the game and aren’t terribly difficult to earn. Time will tell how the economy develops, but for now, there are no unlockables that feel unattainable.

The Bad

  • I’ve already talked about it higher up, but calling the wrestler and arena customization “bare bones” is too generous. I have never been adept at creating wrestlers or arenas myself, but it’s unconscionable to release this game without sharing tools (even sharable codes!) if and when people figure out how to use these tools.
  • AEW: Fight Forever has massive potential, and the idea of a wrestling video game as a platform rather than releasing iterative annual games is brave. But AEW or THQ has yet to communicate what long-term support looks like beyond the initial season one release included with the Elite Edition of the game.
  • AEW: Fight Forever ships with 1-on-1 matches (varied by Lights Out and falls count anywhere stipulations), 2-on-2 tag, 3-way matches, 4-way matches, the Casino Battle Royal, 1-on-1 barbed wire death matches, and ladder matches. But an AEW game without 3-on-3 trios tags is unfathomable. I understand there are technical limitations, but this is not a resource-intensive game. I am not a technical expert, and I don’t know what’s possible, but I really, really hope that trios tags can be added down the line in a FREE update.
  • An upcoming 30-player battle royale mode called Stadium Stampede appears to have already leaked. There are two ways to look at this. The good side: there are extensive plans for new modes and inclusions. The bad side: they’re already less focused on in-ring wrestling in favor of content that departs from pro wrestling. I would much rather see trios matches, cage matches, or even Blood and Guts added before online-only battle royales.
  • Minigames might be fun with friends, but the three included at launch are uninspiring and control significantly worse than the proper wrestling does.
  • Using alternate attires, including those purchased in the in-game shop, is unexplained and potentially confusing. Players have to go into the creation tools and modify the existing wrestler’s attire by creating a new preset. It’s clunky, confusing, and would benefit from some explanation.
  • Warning: there are hidden unlockable characters. Hidden unlockables will be less of an issue after millions of people get their hands on the game and all the secrets end up online, but at least two characters must be unlocked before they appear in the in-game shop. Brodie Lee must be defeated in Road to Elite, and you must play 100 singles matches against the computer to unlock Owen Hart before purchasing either of them in the shop.

The Hungee

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AEW: Fight Forever Release Date

AEW: Fight Forever will be released globally on Thursday, June 29 at 6AM PT / 9AM ET / 2PM BST for consoles and 5AM PT / 8AM ET / 1PM BST on PC.