FIFA 23 marks the end of an era for a long-running series. After nearly 30 years of partnership that began with players like David Platt, EA Sports has split from football’s governing body over a licensing dispute. Future games in the series will now drop the FIFA name in favor of a new EA Sports FC title. Not that you’ll be able to stand out from playing FIFA 23, keep in mind. Despite being the last game decorated with the family name, it’s business as usual both on and off the field for EA’s latest football simulation games. There are some new additions spread across its various game modes – and Ultimate Team sees its most significant change in years – but for the most part, FIFA’s swansong is a game of simple iterations.
This starts as soon as you step on gorgeous grass, with the introduction of HyperMotion2 ensuring that every match in FIFA 23 feels more realistic and immersive. This innovative technology debuted in a game last year and allowed developers to capture all 22 players in a real match. By capturing every minute detail and action of the context during the entire 90 minutes and implementing them in FIFA, there were a slew of new animations that brought the simulation closer to reality. With HyperMotion2, FIFA 23 simply expands on its predecessor by getting more data from both full matches and training sessions with professional teams. This means players move across the field, bumping into each other, and hitting the ball with more fluidity and an added sense of realism.
The impact of this on the gameplay is obvious, particularly with regard to the overall speed of the game. I said the same thing last year, but FIFA 23 is much slower than its predecessor. Legendary footed players can be devastating, but they work best in short bursts, using their acceleration to get a yard out of space or cross a fixed backline. For the most part, goals are created through sweeping passing movements. The choice of a teammate is more consistent this time around, and there is a satisfying response to the passes that is a real thrill when you are able to splash the ball to create holes and finally finish the move with the ball placed in the bottom corner. To counteract this, advocates feel smarter about their positioning, and successful interventions often end up taking back your possession. Jockeying is also an effective way to get the ball back, especially when using a stronger player who is able to make great use of his strength, and dealing with slip finally seems viable again.
Despite these changes, FIFA 23 doesn’t look like a huge leap forward compared to last year’s game. It’s pretty much a case of incremental improvements over what was created earlier, so it’s still a good game, but not a particularly new one. In fact, one of the only new additions is the appearance of Power Shots, which sees your player take an exaggerated filter before shooting the ball toward the goal in a resounding fashion. The dramatic zoom feature that accompanies each shooting round makes the power shot feel like it belongs in Mario Strikers or Captain Tsubasa rather than the latest version of FIFA, but there’s no more satisfying way to score a goal in FIFA 23. Most of the time, however, it’s It takes so long to fire one of these shots that you are ejected before the ball can leave your foot. And when that happens, accuracy varies, from specific shrieks flying in the upper corner to wild lashes ending near the corner flag. This creates an attractive element of risk and reward as there may be better and safer options, but nothing beats riding in a shot the net can barely contain.
Other new additions are similarly positive. The women’s game is emerging more prominently than ever, with club football joining the variety of international teams that have been in the game since FIFA 16. There are only two leagues to choose from – the Women’s Premier League and the French Division. 1 Arkema – But finally to be able to play for clubs like Chelsea and Lyon is a long overdue addition. HyperMotion2 has also been used to capture women’s football, so players like cover star Sam Kerr and Arsenal striker Vivian Miedema move as you’d expect and feel distinct from their male counterparts. The only downside is that you can only use women’s teams for friendlies and tournaments, so you can play through an entire season in any division, but you’re limited to one campaign and can’t buy players or participate in any of the other amenities found in FIFA Career Mode.
Speaking of which, the career situation is the same as before. A new feature allows you to take part in the highlights of your playable games instead of having to play the full 90 minutes, ensuring that your impact continues in the matches you simulate. If you choose the player’s profession, you can now virtualize his character to receive buffs for certain traits. Helping a teammate generates Heartbeat points, for example, while holding the ball and scoring yourself will generate Maverick and Virtuoso points. These points will then enhance attributes related to each character style, whether they provide bumps for dribbling and finishing or crosses and ball control. You can also spend in-game money to earn extra points by making a donation to a charity for example or buying an expensive watch. It’s a binary system that uses the word “personality” very loosely, but it’s a step in the right direction, even if it mostly fades into the background and doesn’t fundamentally change the feel of a career situation.
In a masterful PR move, AFC Richmond is also a playable team in FIFA 23. You’ll see Ted Lasso patrol the touchline and come out of the tunnel with a squad that includes the likes of Roy Kent and Jamie Tartt. It’s a fun trick for fans of the show, although it doesn’t really go beyond the visuals. You can pick Richmond in career mode and stick them in the Premier League, but press conferences still use the same generic answers, so don’t expect any Ted-specific lines. Choosing Richmond also puts you in a little hole to start with because the team is so small. The bench and linebacker positions are filled by regular players rather than there aren’t enough characters in the show, but it feels like a mistake there aren’t more of them. You need to spend your first transition buying backups for just about every position, so being able to use Richmond in career mode doesn’t sound particularly well thought out.
Of course, EA’s primary focus in FIFA 23 is Ultimate Team. The annual moneymaker has reworked its alchemy system this time around, with maximum Chemistry your team can now reach 33 instead of 100. You’re still rewarded for having your teammates who share leagues, clubs and/or nationalities , but these players do not need to be adjacent to in order to receive attribute boosts. Crucially, there is no penalty for engaging a player without chemistry. You can install Messi on the winger in a team consisting of players from the Italian Serie A, and his attributes will not suddenly drop due to the lack of players from Argentina or Paris Saint-Germain near him. This turns Ultimate Team into the fantasy football game mode it was initially called. Cards that were previously used by very few people will now be applicable because you don’t have to worry about their ties to other players on your team. Your team has the potential to be more diverse and unique to you, while the decision to edit placement cards is also a positive one. In FIFA 23, these cards can only be used to move the player to his de-facto secondary position, putting an end to teams that deploy five attackers across the midfield without any negative consequences.
The only downside to this chemical regeneration is its effect on team building challenges (SBCs). Previously, you could pin players to any position and achieve enough Chemistry by their shared nationality and other factors to be able to send the team. This is even more difficult now because players who have used outside their normal position account for lack of Chemistry, and requirements for some of these SBCs require you to submit a team where each player’s Chemistry rating is at least one or two. This looks like another move designed to entice players to buy packs in order to get more cards that might be usable in different SBCs. It’s a sure sign, if you ever need one, that the predatory aspects of Ultimate Team aren’t going away anytime soon. The issue of packaging transparency remains a mystery, and those who spend the most real money will end up with the best teams.
Adding Moments gives you at least one more way to get packages without spending a cent. These are small scale challenges that vary in difficulty, tasking you to score a hat-trick with Mbappe or take a free kick from 30 yards away. Its quick nature makes it easy to get rewards after an hour or so, and it also proves to be a decent learning tool for newcomers. The only downside is that you’ll be re-listed for moments between each challenge instead of immediately jumping to the next – like you can do in Madden. However, this minor annoyance is not enough to detract from what is a fun new addition.
FIFA 23 is a fitting end to an era, as it manages to capture the essence of the beautiful game combined with the frustrating practices of the profit-hungry vultures soaring through the sky. It’s as much about greed as it is about screaming recording. A game in which movement on the pitch has been refined with more nimble passing, more effective defense, and countless animations that bring it to life, yet the shadow of gambling looms large. This has been the case since Ultimate Team came out 14 years ago, so none of this comes as a surprise. And with the upcoming World Cup to be held in Qatar – a country known for a sport that has broken its human rights record – everything is on par when it comes to football. The era of FIFA may be coming to an end, but EA Sports FC will likely start out the same way: delivering a great soccer game that has been consumed by grabbing the cash in another way.