I am old enough to remember hearing about the very first Wrestlemania and trying to talk my mom into taking me to the dog track where the show would be broadcast live on closed circuit TV. She never did agree to take me but I read about it the next day in the sports section of the Boston Herald newspaper, this was news after all! I have been through more wrestling video games than I can remember; Pro Wrestling for the NES (Starman!), the WWF arcade games, Fire Pro Wrestling imported for the Dreamcast, No Mercy and so many more. What I am saying is that I have played my share of wrestling games and most of my favorites are from the N64 era and earlier. The storylines my friend John and I yelled out before starting a match in Pro Wrestling was as in-depth as any story that Vince McMahon has ever thought up, we had a notebook full of storylines and match results to keep track of the action and it was fun.
Modern video games seemed to move away from the quick action into more of the WWE “Sports Entertainer” area with long cutscenes to sit through and matches that dragged out forever as you slowly whittled away the opponents health bar. Remember when Austin would stun an opponent out of nowhere and get a quick pin? If you do it was in real life and not in a WWE video game for sure, even an Austin vs The Hurricane match would take 20 minutes when holding a controller.
AEW: Fight Forever is not the perfect wrestling video game, far from it. It is the first video game release from the new company and it shows; its missing some AEW match types, character customization is strange, and the controls can be challenging at times in particular changing targets during a rumble style match. What the game does do right is the actual fun factor of picking up a controller and playing as your favorite AEW superstar. I have played more of AEW: Fight Forever in the first day than I played in the last WWE video game I bought which was the 2k22 version of their annual title. Where 2k22 was slow and methodical in its presentation (and was widely considered a major step up after a few years of critically panned releases) AEW is chaotic and fun.
Even the various mini-games are stupid fun; choosing to train extra hard before a match with a higher risk of injury or choosing to go sightseeing in the town your next show is in to recharge your energy never takes too long. You are not subject to long cut-scenes that will have your pressing the skip button repeatedly, you get in and you get out. Before you know it you will have spent four days training/sightseeing/doing PR event and then battled your way through a PPV match in the time it takes 2k22 to finish its intro animations. This may be a deep cut but the game this most reminds me of (sort of) is the Dreamcast wrestling game Royal Rumble. That game was more arcadey than a full simulation but it was a blast to play particularly with friends joining in. The character intro walks are abbreviated, the after match celebration is brief, and the game is moving you along to the next thing quickly.
If all this seems like a complaint, it is not. AEW: Fight Forever is the perfect game for fans who want to actually wrestle and not sit through an endless string of cutscenes. It has a strong lineup of wrestlers to chose from, a good variety of matches and you can make series progress in the Road to Elite career mode in a single setting. The game has online ranked and un-ranked matches, exhibition matches including the exploding barbed wire match and ladder matches, and daily/weekly challenges to earn extra experience and stat boosts.
Right now it looks like AEW: Fight Forever will not be a yearly release but rather get constant updates to further expand the game which is a great plan. There is also not season pass right now so gamers can pay once and enjoy all the game has to offer. There is still room for improvement but right now wrestling fans looking for the best modern wrestling video game, and not a sports entertainment video game, will find their fill with this game.