Platforms Xbox One and Series S/X, PlayStation 4 and 5, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Released June 29th 2023
Director Hideyuki ‘Geta’ Iwashita
Developer: THQ Nordic
Who’s ready for review time with Jack Mc Morrow BAY BAY?
As a fan of the art that is professional wrestling, there are many promotions I watch and since 2019, one of those has been the new kid on the block in terms of leading tv wrestling in the United States of America, All Elite Wrestling (better known by the acronym AEW). It has only been about 4 years but has a formidable presence. 4 or 5 ppvs a year (not including this year’s UK event, All In at Wembley Stadium on August 27th which your fearless scribe and the Recharge Wrestling crew will be at). Shows Dynamite on Wednesdays, Rampage on Fridays and Collision on Saturdays. Until recently there was Dark and Dark: Elevation, the YouTube show too.
Before even episode 1 of Dynamite back in 2019, the company had announced their first game, or rather first few. There was the mobile phone game which awarded real-world prizes such as t-shirts, then the second, also a mobile phone game called AEW Elite General Manager, which allowed you to basically Premiership Manager for AEW. Now we have their first console game, it was planned back then and in an announcement video parodying heavily the all too familiar Apple conferences.
The team developing it was headed by Geta Iwashita, the man who directed the sublime WWF No Mercy for the Nintendo 64 in 2000 and especially game enthusiast and belt collector, Kenny Omega. The team worked closely with THQ Nordic. Personally, seeing THQ’s logo on the bootup screen again was like welcoming an old friend from a school reunion.
On the subject of Kenny Omega, it is strange to note how closely he worked with the development of the game and yet, certain character models are a bit … less than accurate. Indeed notable amongst these are Kenny Omega, Matt and Nick Jackson (collectively known as ‘The Elite’ and CM Punk are fantastic wrestlers but the models' verisimilitude is well … it leaves you wanting. Maybe Kenny felt penance is owed for the Brawl Out incident of 2022? Although it must be noted that while some models are rough as a dog’s behind, some like Dustin Rhodes’ models (amongst others) are fairly spot on.
Moreover, none of this affects gameplay and most of the screen is taken up by the ring, ringside, and in certain cases, the tunnels and the stage set around them too.
In limited ways, the AI of COM-controlled characters is a little lacking. In ladder matches, the wrestling match type that lends itself arguably best to multiplayer, COM-controlled wrestlers just allows you to unhook the prize in fairly short order. To be fair, the ladder match in WWE 2K23 basically requires you to take a 3-year degree to win the same, the mini-game here is much simplified and apparently far more concerned with the player(s) having fun. Also the screen between the face and heel entry tunnels is fully destructible. I’ve walked to it, but the opponent seems very satisfied staying where they are in the ring. Hopefully, this AI lacking is patched out and this does seem to be thankfully limited to these limited scenarios.
Graphically, this is not the powerhouse that the other brand’s annual game churns out. I for one am shocked that such a well-established company with deep, deep pockets like WWE would be capable of this. The graphics here from AEW are less advanced, but never distracted me from the amazing gameplay and the fact is this is the first console game, with WWE 2K23, the simulation is at least the 30th iteration, the 2K20 iteration being notorious for having more bugs than Regent Park’s Zoo.
There are a number of matches available like your standard 1-on-1, tags, 3 and 4-ways (giggedy) and the very standard Exploding Ring, Barbed Wire to name but a few. The latter after a few minutes features a hellscape of pyrotechnics, basically the opposite of the main event of Revolution 2021. Although it appears AEW at least has a sense of humour about this as an unlockable Easter egg allows you to change this explosion type to ‘historic’ which emulates the farty pyro we got there.
There are omissions, the AEW Collision arena is nowhere to be found but that show only began twelve days prior to this game’s launch (on the day your fearless scribe and 13th Doctor, Jodie Whittaker had birthdays), many wrestlers are notably absent (most of the Dark Order and all of Ring Of Honor) and the signature trios match did not get into the game either.
That being said, these could very well be rectified by future DLC packs. I have invested in The Elite Edition to get future DLC free because of the sheer quality of what is already on offer, notably the random pre-order bonus of Matt Hardy in his BROKEN YESSSSSS gimmick and more standard form and my current favourite tag team of FTR. Future will include Keith Lee and Anna Jay, superb wrestler and better half to ‘Jungle Boy’ Jack Perry as well as many containing additional mini-games to add to the base game’s already substantial total.
Notable unlockable characters are Cody Rhodes and senior referee Aubrey Edwards, the latter of which costs twice as much AEW counterfeit bucks as the former. Although Cody is in an elite club of his own, only wrestler to be in a WWE and rival video game in the same year. Also, only wrestler to have his logo tattooed on my left hip. His inclusion is due to his importance to the genesis and the first few years of the company’s existence.
Another notable is making his first video game appearance in 19 years and the first where he was alive at launch since 1998, the man many *including me) feel is the G.O.A.T. Of professional wrestling, Owen James Hart. His widow, Dr. Martha Hart works with AEW and this shines a bright spotlight upon his life and career, one of paramount importance.
Just on pure speculation but with how this game already has DLC on Day One, more DLC is promised and the creation suites for wrestlers, teams and arenas, it is a virtual fait acompli that these will all be added via DLC, especially when you consider the game is currently planned to not have annual instalments and rely more on DLC packs between base games spaced further apart than WWE’s ones.
Overall, while it does not hold a candle in terms of polish to WWE’s latest simulations, the gameplay is incredibly solid, the movement of characters is fluid, moves crisp. Fun match types (with some glaring omissions which could be fixed via DLC such as Trios Tag, Steel Cage and Dog Collar) and mini-games that reminded me of unrelenting fun on various Mario Parties and Pokémon Stadiums.
This game is very well put together and that is before you even touch this game’s short and in-depth career mode, Road To The Elite (I am an agent of chaos, so I have started a career with CM Punk to see what is assured to be some of the most awkward interactions between him and The Young Bucks). With how well supported it is and how it includes a prominent WWE superstar due to his importance for AEW and the first video game appearance of a man who passed in 1999 aged just 34, plus the relatively low price of the base game, I have a feeling this is a strong first effort and bodes well for the future of All Elite Wrestling on the home console market.
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