FIFA 23 review: “Legacy headaches hurt, but the series still bows out on a high”
FIFA 23 distinguishes noteworthy because of four phrases that its community never dared to imagine. They. Changed. Ultimate. Team. The whole method you create a fantasy squad has been pulled out, bringing EA’s final FIFA in line with that other major worldwide football game obsession: FPL. You are no longer penalised for wanting Mbappe, Son, Tomori, and Courtois in the same starting lineup. Similarly, outmoded methods can no longer be used to morph two midfield powerhouses into all-conquering attackers. Both authenticity and enjoyment are considerably boosted with a single dose.
Despite earlier announcements, EA has decided to keep the chemistry. But it’s not what you recall. Instead of 100, the highest allowable ‘chem’ is now 33. Players are still rewarded for having team-mates or fellow countrymen in their Ultimate Team lineup – they simply don’t have to be next to each other. And, while chemistry offers a small stat increase, there is no penalty for using a player on zero. In an otherwise all-La Liga side, Son is lethal down the left. Nick Pope stays obstinate behind a totally French back four. Your ideal XI now seems both unique and limitless.
CHANGE AT THE PALACE
When EA introduced the updated Ultimate Team chemistry system, I was worried that it would diminish the intellect necessary for team-building, but it’s really refreshing. For example, one of my first chores each year is to put together a Crystal Palace squad from the past and current. Steve Mandanda and Jose Fonte have been banished to the bench in the previous three FIFA games owing to their harmful chemical effects on an EPL-focused XI. They now fit together perfectly.
It’s a method that provides both simplicity and intricacy. Particularly noteworthy is the decision to change Position Modifier cards such that they may only be used to transfer a player to his real-life secondary or tertiary position, rather than shunting him up and down the pitch in FIFA 23. Tick, tick, tick.
Division Rivals matches are the lifeblood of FUT, and they are a nice surprise – for the time being, at least. Human opponents provide tactical variation, and the efficacy of sitting deep to counter with two pacey attackers is reduced, but this is the one area of the game where scoring is impossible on opening weekend. As elite players discover out the meta, super cards cause power creep, and patches come, online matches will take unexpected turns. So I’m happy to applaud the internet performance, but only with a ‘watch this space’ caveat.
Moments is the most interesting FUT update in FIFA 23. Complete sequences of fast fire offline activities – goals from Kylian Mbappe’s Monaco years, Jurgen Klopp’s management highlights from Mainz and Dortmund – to unlock a tiered variety of prizes. Its bite-sized nature causes you to squander minutes, hours, and evenings in the thematic climb for prizes like gigantic player packs. If there’s one niggle, it’s that you have to return to the Moments menu between each challenge, rather than skipping from one to the next like you can in the Madden games. However, the disjointedness should not detract from an excellent contribution.
You can now choose a real manager (or Ted Lasso)
You may now play as a real manager (or Ted Lasso, depending on how real you deem him to be) in Manager Career, but there’s not much to do other than gawp at the uncomfortable cutscenes unless you want to cosplay as a silent Jason Sudekis or clothe Eddie Howe in a gorgeous sweater vest. The time spent importing AFC Richmond for its brief novelty value might easily have been better spent on, say, putting Women’s Club Football into Career Mode, which is still not featured. It’s a pity, because the women’s game is such a fascinating demonstration of the power of EA’s HyperMotion motion-capture technology, with genuine animations that ratchet up the intense suspense.
The microtransaction-ridden Ultimate Team is flush with additions.
Beyond the in-game action, FIFA 23 inevitably concentrates on the mode that makes EA the most money. The microtransaction-laden Ultimate Team is brimming with new features, but Career Mode and Volta Football hardly receive a mention, which speaks something about EA’s long-standing attitude for both modes, particularly in this ostensibly decorative last FIFA-branded edition. It’s the same complaint we have about Madden NFL 23 and NBA 2K23: despite how much we despise how they tilt the playing field in favor of whoever pays the most, enough people are playing and spending money on it that EA just keeps doubling down on it rather than the more fair and balanced modes we prefer.
FIFA 23 Screens
FAMILIAR YET ALIEN
Clearly, I’m also so engrossed that I’ve forgotten where I was three paragraphs ago. So, that’s how FIFA 23 works. It’s still familiar, but my many hours copying Stevie G emphasize how much the on-field improvements are appreciated. FIFA’s overall speed decreased last year, and the addition of HyperMotion 2 in FIFA 23 reduces it even further. Unless they are facing a strong press, my midfield combo of Tousart and Jones have time to think and move, which is one of the delights of original Pro Evo that FIFA has never completely matched. Defenders make me feel smarter, which is why I adore Ginter and Gunter. Killer speed is still lethal, which is one of the reasons I signed Daka.However, athletes like him perform best in the Corporal Hicks style: short, controlled blasts. Powering onto a perfectly timed through ball is far more effective than gaining control on halfway and attempting to sprint past every dangling leg.
Surprisingly, the finest two new additions to EA’s sim are clearly arcade. Power shots, initiated by holding R1 and L1 together before pressing the shoot button, cause the camera to zoom in with a slo-mo effect before thundering the ball into the goal. It’s ridiculous, and more akin to SNES-era International Superstar Soccer, yet there’s no better method to score in FIFA 23. Similarly, the new set-piece approach of placing a cursor over the ball to determine where you strike it appears insane at first, but gives a plethora of diversity and nuance as you grasp all it can do.
So, lots of encouragement. However, two legacy issues dampen prospects for a higher grade. The first is the age-old FUT problem of pack transparency: the chances of finding Mbappe, Son, or Benzema (top dog on the FIFA 23 ratings list) are still purposely obscured. Those pay-to-win catcalls aren’t going away. Furthermore, there are still far too many instances of created drama in which player control feels undermined. Be it Squad Battles in which trailing teams become like 1970s Brazil, online encounters in which the leading side suddenly can’t pass water, or an oversupply of 90th minute goals – not to mention that Werner sickener – Still, FIFA 23 sees the series end on a strong note, and presents positive hints for EA Sports FC’s launch this time next year.
FIFA 23 was tested on the PlayStation 5 using a code given by the publisher.
FIFA 23 is a dramatic farewell song for the franchise (at least under its current name), with a welcome emphasis on theatrical flare. FUT Moments, action replays, and viral-friendly gameplay updates such as Power Shots make it a more thoughtful, memorable game of simulated football with deliberate defending and plenty of drama and goals. However, EA’s Spartan attitude to non-profitable modes guarantees that FIFA 23 is an all-too-familiar beast from past years, and Ultimate Team’s aggressive focus on microtransactions continues to sap much of the pleasure from it.