The rise of All Elite Wrestling wasn’t just great news for wrestling fans looking for an alternative to WWE; It has also delighted fans of wrestling games. Those who grew up playing games, such as WWF No mercy on Nintendo 64 have been waiting for a return to arcade-style wrestling, something 2K’s simulation-oriented version of WWE fails to deliver. All Elite Wrestling: Fight Foreverthe debut game of the promotion, aims to take us back to those nostalgic glory days.
But don’t get too excited just yet. While new footage premiered this week, showing a full match showed promise, but playing it was a different story. I tried the game at Gamescom and wasn’t sure what to expect from the final product. While his approach to arcade wrestling has potential, AEW: Fighting forever will need quite a bit of polish before it hits the ring. With a good gimmick, you can only get this far with a crowd.
To really test the game, I pitted Kenny Omega against Adam Cole – a dream match without a doubt. What is immediately noticeable is this AEW: Fighting forever really doesn’t try to emulate the live TV experience. Wrestler entrances are not recreated as the camera only shows the character models walking down the ramp for a moment before hitting the bell. There is no ringside commentary, so all you hear is the roar of the crowd and a few thumps as the game progresses.
Some fans will like this stripped down approach, especially if they’re not really into the simulation aspect of games like WWE 2K22, but this lack of additional detail leaves the experience a bit empty. If big ideas like this are missing from the final game, what other ones could be left out of the roster?
None of this would matter if the core wrestling was spot on, but I’m not entirely smitten with the game’s N64 throwback style. During my match, it felt like I was mostly just throwing strikes when pressing the attack buttons. The right trigger is a dedicated Irish Whip button, hilarious but otherwise I found it difficult to stumble into a large spot. If I’ve ever climbed the top rope, it’s been an accident. And if I ever managed to jump off it, I couldn’t tell you how to reproduce that.
My match didn’t look nearly as smooth or clean as what THQ Nordic showed at Gamescom.
Air movement is also where the choppy side of the game shows up a bit. When I hit a high-flying move, my opponent awkwardly teleports to me for the intended animation to take place. The WWE 2K games have the same quirk, but here it seemed more prominent. Those hoping this is a cleaner alternative to 2K’s games should probably expect about the same.
The small details add up over the course of a game. For example, the size of the character model feels a bit exaggerated to give that arcade feel. However, it has some logistical disadvantages. I found it difficult to get my opponent into a pinning position without being able to force an accidental rope break. Kicking an opponent when they’re down is futile as these attacks just don’t seem to be connected (sorry, heels). The game also has a dedicated reverse button, but it was unclear when to press it and what moves can be countered.
My match didn’t look nearly as smooth or clean as what THQ Nordic showed at Gamescom. It was comparatively stiff, with a few big spots outside of me that ended the match with a one-winged angel (even the CPU-controlled Cole only hit an exciting move). To 2K games’ credit, the WWE series is pretty good at letting players trigger cool-looking sequences with a simple button press. These felt far and wide, which is a little at odds with the more “record and play” nature of his approach.
This might be good news for purists. It’s also not like old-school wrestling games have much flair, as older graphics really limited the amount of animation detail possible. AEW: Fighting forever Matches certainly feel good, but vintage goggles do a lot of the work. Newer fans rolling in for a full-fledged AEW game might be a little confused as to why a game meant to belong in the 2020s feels as stiff as one from the 1990s.
I don’t think that’s a cause for alarm, at least not yet. THQ Nordic seems to know that the game needs more polish as it hasn’t announced a release date for it yet. With some tweaking, I can absolutely see it thriving as a nostalgic party game. The build I played feels just as early on as the very first trailers for the game looked. But as with anything AEW-related, the real benefit is that it’s completely different from its rival wrestling promotion. Perhaps some rough edges are forgivable if the game is successful in restoring the genre to its N64 glory.
All Elite Wrestling: Fight Forever is in development for PS4, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Nintendo Switch.
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