FIFA 23 is a farewell of sorts as the football powerhouse undergoes a transition not dissimilar to the series‘ ongoing move to next-gen consoles.
While the series will continue after this year’s release, it will do so under the fresh EA Sports FC banner as EA’s 30-year partnership with FIFA comes to an end.
Evolution is perhaps a better word as Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappé shares the various covers with Chelsea star Sam Kerr, with the latter making her debut alongside Women’s Club Football debut.
This is one of the many new features and upgrades planned for FIFA 23, and the overall package has raised the hype-filled hope that this is far more than a standard annual upgrade.
Long-time players will feel the changes that a FIFA 23 game brings from the first whistle.
The game throws many of the upgrades under the HyperMotion2 umbrella, crediting extensive motion capture and machine learning technology for the changes to on-pitch interactions, physics, and more.
A wealth of new animations enriches the experience. The big highlight is the great variance and better control over the transition between dribbles and shots. The end of a shot, whether it’s a header, a goalie or something else, feels more natural than in years past when everything felt like pre-made animations.
Pre-release material also trumpeted improved physics, affecting how individual limbs affect the ball. These new quirks are noticeable, especially in goalies, depending on whether they interact with a ball using their arms, legs, torso, etc.
Even something as small as the different ways footballers are now starting a sprint and hitting top speed is impressive. How that happens now depends on the pull of the trigger, the defenders, and the individual animations baked into each player’s screen.
Dribbling also feels significantly overhauled, as the player’s character is more responsive to the defender’s position. Another small – but pretty big – tweak is better camera angles and functionality when cornering.
The arrival of Power Shots is a nice addition. But the risk/reward ratio for a highlight-worthy game might be something players just want to avoid unless they’re largely alone on the pitch.
It’s clear that bevy of new set pieces and more realistic behavior from the enemy AI play a big part in making this game feel very different than last year.
But it also excels in the fundamentals, often in response to long-standing player feedback. A great shot meter really helps players see where a try is going, and new passing options help offset the improved defense. There are also new fake shots, which can cause problems, especially for human opponents, if used well.
All of this makes FIFA 23 feel distinctive and improved in many ways. There is a bit of a learning curve that has even veteran players eyeing lower skill levels, at least temporarily, but that’s a small price to pay for a better soccer experience that’s mostly fun with solid balance and pace.
graphics and presentation
FIFA took a big step forward in immersive presentation last year, thanks in large part to the more powerful technology behind the new consoles. This included highlights like the impressive physics behind things like jerseys, nets and hair.
But the series also used innovation to drive the experience. The prime example was the refreshing new camera angle that allowed for a better view of certain fast lanes and fresh names in the announcement booth.
FIFA 23 capitalizes on that foundation with a push towards atmosphere that works really well. Something as simple as all-new audio paired with pre-game cinematics outside of the stadiums fits in well. The audience in the stadium is also significantly upgraded, with more realistic mannerisms and an emphasis on showing a greater variety of NPCs with less repetition.
The presentation also takes a step forward in terms of gameplay. A revised replay system not only shows cool angles and the impressive graphic details. It also takes the opportunity to include new overlays that provide interesting, if not useful, information on distances, shot powers, and probability percentages.
The playing field itself is also a bit of a star among the new changes. Not unlike the wear of a racing game’s track over the course of an event, the playing field will now noticeably wear down over the course of a game, particularly in places where players were sliding or being attacked (or even throwing a slide celebration).
Career, FUT and more
FIFA 23 won’t surprise players as the usual game modes remain the suspect.
The career, be it the player-based path or the manager-based path, features attention-grabbing updates to enhance and deepen the experience.
On the Solo front, last year added a ton of personality and RPG-like skill trees to put in the time. That makes another organic move that feels like it by introducing a personality engine.
The succinct summary is that players must make choices on and off the field to better align with one of three personality archetypes. Doing so and earning points in these areas will earn you more upgrades and bonuses. It’s a nice touch, as in the past players have had to project themselves a little onto their created characters, while this reduces some of that in favor of more choice for players in the game.
This year there are more ways to play, such as the new playable highlights.
The name says it all: during a simulation, the game prompts the player to jump in and play a key moment of a game. Impressively, it’s not just “Hey, come over and take that shot” either. There’s a robust number of different highlights to play, like solo runs, free-kicks, corners, throw-ins, etc. And for purists who don’t have the time to actually play a full match, it’s nice to take that route, play a key role, and still have realistic full match numbers for career mode.
Players also have the option to take control of a real manager as opposed to a created one, which is another nice step in giving players more control over their experience and international football as a whole.
After all, this career mode builds on a strong foundation and brings back all those deep systems from games past. The result is two quite different modes that could capture all of a gamer’s attention despite many other modes to try.
One of them is of course FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT). Collect and build mode returns with a couple of very important changes in the name of improving the gameplay experience.
FUT Moments is a fun, if unpredictable, addition as it’s similar to career mode. It’s a single player experience that offers quick gameplay moments and is kind of a nice tutorial. In a nice twist, the rewards fit well with the difficulty level chosen, so it can be fun to go back and re-run as a player improves. It’s also comforting to know that more will be coming with future updates and seasons.
But even this solid addition feels tiny compared to FUT’s big change – the chemistry system overhaul.
Gone are the days when only certain stars with certain positions could form chemistry. The game drops the restrictions significantly, allowing all positions to form chemistry. It doesn’t stop there either, as Stars now boast multiple secondary positions.
It’s a major step in the right direction for the game mode as it opens up dramatic club building opportunities. We’ll see how this plays out on the mode’s online side, but having more freedom in building dream clubs in a game that advertises it as such is never a bad thing.
However, a new “stars” currency still feels dour, and even these changes are unlikely to win over players who just don’t like these types of modes.
However, what should improve the overall experience is the introduction of crossplay for head-to-head modes on same-gen platforms. That should only help player numbers, plus the transfer portal remains a very populated market across all platforms.
Women’s Club Football is finally making its debut, playing in English Women’s Super League and French Division 1 Arkema clubs to great effect, with all gameplay and presentation upgrades in place. It’s certainly a nice start for a mode that should progress quickly from here.
Pro Clubs and VOLTA FOOTBALL, the co-op modes of simulation and arcade variety respectively, return and don’t feel fundamentally overhauled, although VOLTA offers new arcade games to experience.
More notably than flashy headlining elements, these co-op modes are closer than ever with this release thanks to the introduction of shared progression. This is a boon for players who found previous iterations too tricky, and a smooth way for players to work on their created avatars in new ways.
Finally, a new Training Center mode acts as a strong onboarding process for new players. There are helpful tutorial videos to watch before class, as well as exercises and challenges to complete. It’s a mode that other sports games should frantically emulate, as it’s a breeze to get new players on board and then enjoy the series for a long, long time.
As in years past, there’s a borderline overwhelming number of options for players to freely customize, whether it’s basics like general settings, difficulty modifiers, downright strategic deployments, and more. The game runs well and gives players more freedom than most as they expect.
A quick judgement? It’s hard to call FIFA 23 a mere standard annual release.
There’s just too much going on around and within the release to classify as such. If last year was the first truly next-generation football title, this is the updated sequel that sets the bar.
This is the result of a game pushing for even more player action, smoother player onboarding, and a steady, organic evolution of both the gameplay and its various detailed modes.
More important than anything else, FIFA 23 is a great thing on the field for both veterans and newcomers alike, and the game feels particularly fresh in those areas due to the use of this next-gen technology.
Overcoming the hurdles of FIFA 23 isn’t easy, but topping the best sports title of the last year is arguably the most impressive achievement. For another year, there isn’t a sports title that quite matches what FIFA 23 is doing here, and it’s impossible not to be excited to see where the series goes next, whatever the name.