FIFA 23 review: A fond farewell to FIFA

It’s the end of an era. After a 29-year run, FIFA 23 is the last EA football game to don the FIFA name, with the series to be rebranded EA Sports FC going forward.

We also suspect it’s the last to be released for last generation consoles, considering how little seems to have changed for those machines year-on-year. And, to be honest, you’d be hard pressed to find that many enhancements to even the current gen versions, as this very much marks the end of the FIFA reign. EA’s best new features are surely earmarked for 2024.

So, does FIFA 23 still offer enough to appeal beyond its hardcore fanbase or is it just a bunch of new kits and gimmicks?

We reviewed the PlayStation 5 version to find out.

What’s new?

When you first load the game you’ll realise that much of the design language from last year has continued. There’s a new colour scheme and a few fancier graphical flourishes on the menu system, but it’s very similar to before.

It’s the same with the gameplay modes, with all the old favourites returning and little else. There are some additions and enhancements though, such as the ability to play as the lead character from the hit Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso and his team, AFC Richmond. There is also a greater presence for women’s football, with the inclusion of club teams from England’s WSL and the D1 Arkema league in France.

Sadly, you still can’t take on a women’s team in career mode, nor a specific female player, but EA has promised further updates through free DLC over the coming months. That will include the addition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia alongside the men’s Qatar World Cup as new playable tournaments, so there’s definitely more to look forward to.

Cross-platform play is also better realised this time around. It made its debut after a software update late into FIFA 22’s year-long lifespan, but was restricted to certain modes and truncated somewhat. Now it works across almost all multiplayer modes, including Ultimate Team, and even shows an icon above players showing which platform each gamer is using.

We’ve played a lot of matches now and can honestly say that we haven’t noticed any advantages nor pitfalls caused by the platform of an opponent. It’s worth noting though that only PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Stadia and PC owners can play against each other. Last generation machines (including Switch) do not support the feature.

Other than these, there’s little else changed when it comes to the overall FIFA experience. Perhaps the biggest improvements are in Ultimate Team and on the pitch.

Ultimate Team

There’s no doubt about it, while career mode, Volta and seasons are fun in their own right, FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) has proved the most popular section of the series over the years. The latest iteration will be no different.

It is set up almost the same as in FIFA 22 but with a major change to the way you can put together your team. The chemistry system has been overhauled after many years of an almost identical format. Now, rather than have linking lines between players from the same league, team and/or country, they can be enhanced through a three-point system whereby the more points earned through compatible team mates being in the same starting 11, the higher the benefit of a chemistry add-on they’ll receive.

Where it mainly differs from previous years is that you don’t need to put matching players next to each other – they can be positioned anywhere in the team. Plus, once you have three matching players to build up the three points on each, you can use players from other leagues and nations.

This effectively allows you to create teams with much more freedom than before. You can have a combined La Liga and Premier League team, for example, without suffering any penalties on player performance. Also, while it might sound complex initially, it’s actually more simple to match players when you don’t have to ensure they are next to each other on the pitch.

Another Ultimate Team change is in player positions. Rather than allow you to switch positions of players depending on zones, you are now restricted to changing a player’s starting position based on their real world abilities. That means that a striker who can also play as a centre forward in real life is capable of adopting either of those positions, but will find their chemistry rating penalised if placed anywhere else. Also, position modifier cards in the game are now universal – you don’t need to purchase a specific CM to CDM card, say. As long as a player is a natural fit for the position you want to change them to, you just use the same card.

The final addition to Ultimate Team is Moments. These are on-pitch single-player objectives to complete in order to attain stars. These moments stars can then be swapped for in-game items, packs, and even players. They are reasonably easy to achieve (for seasoned players) and also serve to help newcomers to understand the fundamentals of the gameplay – important considering the action feels a bit different this year.

On the pitch

Matches definitely feel slower and more methodical this time out. There is a heavier reliance on passing and, while many of the same tactics and moves seem to still work, a more considered strategy can pay off.

In truth, the game feels a little too sluggish right now, especially in Ultimate Team, but that might be because we’re starting all over again with lower ranked gold cards rather than the meta players we’d accumulated at the end of FIFA 22. Going from 99 pace and passing back to low 80s is a bit of a jolt. Accurate passing is certainly a bit trickier when you first start out, and through balls are almost impossible to pull off.

Those will naturally improve as your team does, and when EA pushes its numerous gameplay tweaks and patches, as always. But, we do really like the fact that pace is far less important this year, especially in midfield and defence, with other stats now more relevant. Naturally, a striker with decent pace will still get behind defences more capably, but it’s no longer the be all and end all, it feels.

That’s thanks to what EA calls Hypermotion 2 – an upgraded version of its animation and AI engine that enables on-field players to take up more intelligent positions and passing routes. There are also new acceleration (AcceleRATE) and shooting technologies that allow better gamers to get an extra yard or more powerful strike on goal.

Set plays have been changed too, with a different viewpoint and new line-style system that makes free kicks and corners more varied and accurate – once you’ve sussed them out. Penalties are also different, although we’re not entirely sure we’ve got to grips with them yet and suspect it’ll take a while.

That’ll be the case with the general gameplay full stop. It’ll take a fair few weeks to really get a feel for it, and find the best tactics to use – just in time for EA to push a patch that’ll require you to rethink everything. It’s always the way.

Stunning but the same

Perhaps all that’s left to cover is how the game looks and, to be completely frank, there’s very little change bar some slightly improved player models and new kits. Even the FUT stadiums are effectively identical to last year.

That being said, FIFA 23 still looks superb. It runs in 60 frames per second during gameplay and, seemingly, in 4K on PS5, Xbox Series X and compatible PCs. And, it is as sleek as ever.

We have suffered from some frame drops during play, but that’s because of server connection rather than the software itself. It’s worth also noting that we played during the review and early access period when things were still being set up properly, so that might not even happen on the full consumer release.

Audio is identical to FIFA 22, although we do get a new tracklist of licenced songs that will eventually imprint themselves on your brain as they rotate on the menus and holding screens. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Original Article