Nobody makes incremental changes like EA Sports. Encouraged by an annually renewed interest in football, a global phenomenon, the highly slandered studio has successfully kept its FIFA franchise at the top of the sports gaming stack for nearly 30 years, despite making roughly as many significant changes as Tottenham Hotspur won trophies during this time.
Perhaps best of all, EA ended its multi-year partnership with the real-world organization FIFA after the latter reportedly valued $ 1 billion on renewing the EA name rights deal. The virtual series will live on – the first of many titles to bear the EA Sports FC moniker seems inevitable in 2023 – but first, the pair will sign a final joint entry for current and previous-generation consoles.
Enter FIFA 23, the latest hurray that benefits greatly from the high standards set by its predecessor, but also one that adds enough enhancements to secure a spot among the series’ best items.
Keep it real
The main updates for FIFA 23 are refreshingly mechanical. Leading the way are features that EA describes as Revamped Fundamentals – modifications to shooting, feeding and dribbling systems to provide more control over player behavior on the pitch.
For example, Power Shots allows you to add extra power and accuracy to your shots at the cost of time, while Extended Crossing Zones offers the option of placing irritating balls in a box from unusual areas of the pitch. All of these so-called basic tweaks work effectively – after a few matches, of course, to learn about their quirks – and add even more variations to FIFA’s already exhaustive set of attack options.
FIFA 23 also gives them the constant respect they deserve. You are now able to determine – on an almost detailed level – how the ball travels to the target from a free kick or corner kick, which makes players like Kimmich and James Ward-Prowse (i.e. those with fixed figure attributes) are much more valuable than in previous entries.
Each new mechanical feature also has its own unique set of animations. EA has invested heavily in recording and learning from actual soccer matches to ensure FIFA 23 has the highest level of authenticity possible, and the movements triggered by Power Shots and Technical Dribbling look on the verge of photorealism.
FIFA 22 was the first FIFA in a long time to introduce authentic graphics and gameplay enhancements, and FIFA 23’s HyperMotion 2 technology takes these solid foundations a step further into the peripheral areas of the pitch. The net now buckles naturally as you score, the pitch tears – and remains torn – throughout the match, and the confetti-decorated remnants of the crowd’s celebration obscure the side lines. Even the player’s hair looks noticeably more convincing than in FIFA 22 (Jack Grealish fans rejoice!).
The only criticism of the presentation worth leveling up in FIFA 23 – on PS5 at least – is the insistence on pumping sounds out of the DualSense controller at every opportunity. Sounds like the referee’s whistle and the audible network physics shot in your face at such close range become very annoying, very quickly – although you can, fortunately, turn off DualSense’s sound in the settings.
A mixed bag of tricks
In terms of modes, FIFA 23 is very similar to its predecessor, except for the combination of the Volta and Pro clubs and the welcome addition of a Women’s Soccer Club.
The career mode remains largely unchanged, although a few so-called upgrades change – and not unanimously improve – the experience. For example, you can now choose a real manager (or Ted Lasso) to lead your team to glory, but the apparent lack of voice acting makes this decision largely redundant (unless you find it easy to have fun dressing Pep Guardiola in pink. tracksuit and zippers).
There are also plenty of new transfer animations available which initially make the feeling of getting a lot of money deeper until they become just another cutscene to skip (even leaving players now have their 10 seconds in the spotlight). The same goes for transfer reports that evaluate your negotiation results – you want to learn from criticism at first, but they quickly lose their novelty.
The new Play Highlights feature, however, is a cool addition. In addition to the options to play, simulate or jump in and out of the match, you now have the chance to enter combat only during the most important moments. If your opponent is in attack, the game throws you into action in defense, and does the same if your front midfielder has room to play a killer pass. Annoyingly, Play Highlights won’t let you make changes and ultimately you’re dependent on the amount of chances your PC is generating for you, but it’s still a great time saver if you’re speeding up the season calendar.
Speaking of which, FIFA 23 also solves one of my biggest problems with FIFA 22. Now you have the option of skipping (or automatically simulating) training days while going through the calendar, which significantly reduces the time between matches.
EA has not made such an effort to improve Ultimate Team. FIFA’s flagship card counting mode is plagued by a seemingly endless wave of challenges, customization options, pack animations, and a frankly bewildering number of pointless notifications that make navigation a pain. Never before has the award of a new cosmetic item been so unwelcome.
The chemistry system has been modernized to allow for more team-building freedom, but before you figure it all out your eyes may have turned. Current FIFA fans will know what to expect (read: tolerate) from Ultimate Team, and the temptation to build a squad full of the best players in the world remains strong – but the mode hasn’t received any noticeable improvement. Microtransaction phobes, watch out.
Moreover, FIFA 23 boasts current-gen cross-platform play right out of the box, meaning players on Xbox Series X | S, PS5, PC and Google Stadia (RIP) can compete against each other in almost all modes . As with FIFA 22, PS4 and Xbox One players may outsmart it too, while EA said “work is done” to implement a cross-generational game in the near future.
The game in the world
Overall, FIFA 23 is the most successful FIFA title to date. Ultimate Team’s known issues remain, but EA’s latest sim looks more realistic than its predecessor and finds even more ways to improve its tried-and-tested gameplay mechanics. If your favorite thing about FIFA is its ability to simulate a game of soccer, then FIFA 23 is well worth the investment – just don’t expect to find a completely polished experience behind every menu.