FIFA 23, the final game in EA’s long-running football franchise as we know it, is finally here and millions of players have passed through the turnstiles already. Although some of the series’ recurring problems are here in full force, FIFA 23 is a fitting testimonial with some of the best on-pitch action you can experience without lacing up yourself.
Following the very public breakup between EA and license holders FIFA, I was as interested as I was apprehensive about dropping into FIFA 23 for the very first time. Would this be a loving end to an era stretching back nearly 30 years, or would it simply be a developer fulfilling a contractual obligation with one eye on the future as EA SPORTS FC?
Well, after sinking dozens of hours into everything that FIFA 23 has to offer, I’m happy to report that despite some returning frustrations that hold it back from Icon status, the series is bowing out on a high with the most addictive recreation of the beautiful game I’ve played in years.
Any football game lives and dies on the pitch, and for whatever shortcomings it has elsewhere FIFA 23 has absolutely nailed it in this department. FIFA 22 veterans won’t notice anything too revolutionary when they first hit the turf, but a number of subtle changes introduced thanks to HyperMotion 2 give this year’s game a more authentic feel.
The speed of matches is much slower than we’ve seen before, and players have real weight to them. Passing requires more skill and consideration, while defenders are imposing powerhouses that can quickly shut down a loose ball or careless run with a crunching tackle.
That’s not to say there isn’t pace in FIFA 23, it’s just that it takes more work to fully release them. Explosive players like Salah or Vinicius Jr. can be deadly if your opponent dares to leave too much space in behind, but defenders have more tools than ever to deal with them, such as the new acceleration types which give them a greater opportunity to catch up when chasing back.
When you do finally break through the lines, the new shooting animations and net physics make for some incredibly satisfying goals as the ball flashes past the goalkeeper and ripples the net.
The new Power Shot is a bit more hit-and-miss, as the amount of time and space it requires to pull off is hard to come by, especially in online matches. However, it does make for some tense encounters as defenders desperately try and close the player down as they wind up for a screamer.
Ultimate Team doesn’t have full Chemistry
Ultimate Team is still the FIFA franchise’s golden goose, so it’s no surprise that FUT 23 is where most of the off-the-pitch changes can be found. The most noticeable is the new Chemistry system, which now allows all players in the starting 11 to offer links to the rest of the team regardless of position.
While it definitely takes some time to get used to, I quickly found that it offers more flexibility while also presenting a welcome challenge to get my dream team up to the maximum of 33 points.
A less successful update is the revamped position modifiers. On paper, these should add an extra layer of realism to squad building by letting players move into totally different positions they have taken up in real matches.
Sadly, baffling omissions like Lionel Messi being stuck on the right, as well as the inability to change certain midfielders from CM to CDM, make the system feel undercooked and occasionally more of a hindrance than a benefit.
The new FUT Moments is also a tad underwhelming. Although these bite-sized scenarios are fun little time-fillers, the rewards on offer are too stingy to make it feel like an essential part of the weekly grind.
It’s hard to talk about Ultimate Team without touching on its microtransactions, and they’re back with a vengeance in FIFA 23. Player packs can still be bought with in-game coins or paid FIFA Points, but in the early weeks of the FUT season, EA have relied mainly on untradeable packs as SBC rewards, which pretty much forces you to open your wallet if you want to make coin profits.
FIFA 23 benches other modes
There’s no denying that Ultimate Team is the marquee mode, so if you’re coming to FIFA 23 for one of its other offerings, you might be left wanting more.
FIFA 23 Career Mode does come with some new features that fans have been calling for, such as a transfer analyst and more life-sim elements in Player Career. Unfortunately, while these do hint at a bright future that will hopefully see more NBA 2K-inspired additions to Career Mode, they mostly feel superficial in FIFA 23.
Meanwhile, the criminally under-supported Pro Clubs still appears to be fighting for the devs’ attention. Reworked progression and end-of-match accolades are nice touches, but the lack of crossplay support and meaningful changes once again hold it back from achieving its true potential.
FIFA 23 commits many of the same fouls as its predecessors. Fan favorite modes like Pro Clubs and Career Mode remain underserved compared to the money maker that is Ultimate Team, which still relies too heavily on loot boxes to be a football-lovers dream.
But all this being said, where FIFA 23 really excels is on the pitch. As someone who had grown tired of the end-to-matches where pace was the only stat that mattered, FIFA 23’s slower, more realistic gameplay is a welcome breath of fresh air that I’m still finding hard to resist dozens of games later.
It’s hard to know exactly what the future holds once the EA SPORTS FC rebrand takes effect, but one thing’s for sure, FIFA is retiring at the very top of its game.
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