AEW: Fight Forever Is a Clunky, Outdated Insult to Wrestling Fans

Inverse Score: 4/10

THQ Nordic

I’m 15 minutes deep into a World Championship match, and I’m about to pull my hair out.

Champion MJF is defending his belt against me, “The American Dragon” Bryan Danielson, and I want to finish the match with the Lebell Lock. However, using this iconic submission maneuver requires you to have a Finisher stored while standing above a face-down opponent, and I just cannot get the stars to align. After several attempts, I finally trigger the move, only for MJF to counter it and slither outside the ring.

Out of nowhere, MJF performs his Salt of the Earth finisher, a submission hold that tweaks my arm. Since there’s no submission mini-game, the game ruled that I had tapped out, costing me the match.

AEW: Fight Forever is a professional wrestling game based on the All Elite Wrestling brand. It’s developed by Yuke’s, the team behind the WWE games for nearly 20 years before disbanding from 2K. Given the developer’s pedigree, expectations for Fight Forever were high. However, Fight Forever is largely disappointing, with a plethora of missing features and frustrating design choices that will turn off even the biggest AEW fans.

Immediately Outdated

Fight Forever feels like it was planned to ship in 2021 or 2022, with an outdated roster that’s hard to ignore.

THQ Nordic, AEW

Reportedly, development on Fight Forever was mostly finished at the end of 2022, but there was some sort of ESRB ratings dispute that prevented it from launching then. Perhaps because of this delay, Fight Forever feels oddly outdated right from the jump, with missing wrestlers, old entrance music, and inaccurate championship titles. Combined with the game’s abysmal visuals, this makes Fight Forever hard to love — even before getting in the ring.

For instance, current AEW World Tag Team champions FTR (consisting of Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler) are completely absent from the game. So is Women’s World champion Toni Storm and FTW champion Hook. The International Championship and World Trios Championships are not present in the game at all. Other talent such as Top Flight (Dante and Darius Martin), Danhausen, Saraya, Wheeler Yuta, Claudio Castagnoli, and The Acclaimed are absent from the game — all of whom are glaring omissions.

The inconsistencies don’t stop there. All wrestler entrances are shortened, making them feel like afterthoughts. Each entrance only shows the wrestler on stage for a few seconds, with no footage of them walking down the ramp into the ring. Some entrances are completely wrong, like Jon Moxley’s, which doesn’t feature his signature track "Wild Thing" By X — probably due to licensing issues.

If you tune in to AEW programming each week, it’s hard to ignore all of these issues.

Not So Elite

Clunky gameplay makes it difficult to perform moves in a wrestler’s arsenal.

THQ Nordic, AEW

Once inside the ring, things play out mostly how you’d expect, as you have access to a variety of grapples, finishers, and signature moves. In general, the gameplay itself feels a bit clunkier than the WWE 2K series.

This is due to slow animations that are easy to telegraph, rewarding players for sticking to faster strikes instead of traditional suplexes and other grapples. Though, if you’ve watched any AEW shows before, you’ll know that matches aren’t restricted to simple strikes. So, if you try to execute a series of your favorite grapples, you’ll likely have a hard time pulling off the moves you want since a quick strike negates any heavy maneuver attempt.

Finishing moves, which are essential to ending any wrestling match, are immensely cumbersome in many cases. You need to dish out damage to fill up your Finisher bar, but once you do so, the Finisher is only available to use temporarily.

So, when utilizing certain wrestlers who have unorthodox Finisher requirements — such as running, from behind, or standing above a downed opponent — it can be hard to actually utilize the maneuver. If you miss the window, you’ll have to earn your Finisher again, which impedes on a match’s pacing.

Many matches are simply decided after performing a standard move since some Finishers are hard to pull off. This often feels anticlimactic, removing any of the drama present in a real wrestling match.

The submission system is completely underwhelming and feels unfinished.

THQ Nordic, AEW

And arguably the greatest missed opportunity is Fight Forever’s submission system ... or lack thereof. Many of the promotion’s top stars — Bryan Danielson, Chris Jericho, Dr. Britt Baker, and MJF — use submission holds as Finishers or Signature moves.

But the game ditches any sort of meaningful push-and-pull system from other pro wrestling games. Whereas past WWE 2K games utilize a satisfying “tug-of-war” submission mechanic, Fight Forever’s system is unrefined and unresponsive. I could never escape a hold if an opponent used a Finisher submission.

A lack of commentary also keeps matches from feeling immersive. Part of the fun of AEW is the color team consisting of Taz, Excalibur, Tony Schiavone, and Jim Ross. These commentators are funny and feel much less scripted than those on WWE programming, so for them to not be featured in Fight Forever is a shame. Though, considering Fight Forever’s overall quality, I fear implementing this would have been repetitive and grating, anyway.

Much of the game’s marketing seems to focus on the wild match types like Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match and the Casino Battle Royale. While these match stipulations are exciting, I would have preferred Yuke’s focus on high-quality gameplay that feels authentic to the product, rather than an abundance of gimmick matches that don’t feel good to play.

Given the long wait and high expectations, it’s easy to be disappointed by AEW: Fight Forever. It plays like a budget version of the WWE 2K series, which already has a litany of issues. Fight Forever may be fun for maybe a couple of matches, but it’s hard to imagine spending a considerable amount of time with this game.


AEW: Fight Forever launches for PS4, Xbox One, PS5, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and PC on June 29, 2023. Inverse reviewed the PS5 version.

INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: Every Inverse video game review answers two questions: Is this game worth your time? Are you getting what you pay for? We have no tolerance for endless fetch quests, clunky mechanics, or bugs that dilute the experience. We care deeply about a game’s design, world-building, character arcs, and storytelling come together. Inverse will never punch down, but we aren’t afraid to punch up. We love magic and science-fiction in equal measure, and as much as we love experiencing rich stories and worlds through games, we won’t ignore the real-world context in which those games are made.
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