FIFA 23 Review

Matt Lorrigan

I’m not sure what I was expecting for EA’s final FIFA game. With the game rebranding as EA Sports FC for next year’s entry, following a rather public falling out between EA and FIFA, this feels a bit like the end of an era. Booting up FIFA 23, however, you wouldn’t really know it. There’s no fireworks, no explosion of new content to make this not only the latest, but the greatest FIFA game. Just the expected iterative update, and even then, it’s a tad disappointing.

Let’s get one thing straight, though - FIFA 23 is an improvement over last year’s entry. There was a time when a new FIFA game had a 50/50 chance of introducing more problems than solutions, but for the past three years, it’s been evolution rather than revolution at EA Sports, and FIFA 23 continues that trend, building upon what’s come before, while improving it ever-so-slightly in most areas. Goalkeepers, having yo-yoed in effectiveness over the course of several updates in FIFA 22 following an overpowered launch, appear to be better balanced in this year’s entry, and defending has once again received a boost, with tackles feeling crunchier, and defenders more effectively able to bully forwards off the ball, given enough time and space.


Man on, son.

These areas, however, had also been overhauled in last year’s FIFA, and that seems to be the general trend with FIFA 23 - when listing this year’s improvements, I feel like I’m repeating observations from my FIFA 22 review. HyperMotion is once again responsible for powering the player animations, rebranded as HyperMotion2,and, again, the result is a somewhat more realistic game of football. But where in FIFA 22, HyperMotion resulted in a lot of brand-new animations that could take even seasoned FIFA players by surprise, in FIFA 23, it's not all that noticeable.

HyperMotion2 has brought one welcome addition, however, having been used to capture animations for the women’s game for the first time in FIFA 23. This is part of EA Sports’ long-overdue overhaul of women’s football in the FIFA games, having seen no new additions since FIFA 16 added women's international teams, before quickly forgetting about the women’s game. This year, we get women’s leagues introduced for the very first time. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty modest offering, with the English WSL and French D1 the only teams available at launch, but more leagues have been promised as updates further down the line. As it stands, we’re nowhere near getting a Women’s Career Mode, but it’s a start, at least, and particularly welcome if you’ve been following women’s football for a while now.

Again, evolution not revolution - that appears to be the mantra for FIFA 23 in almost every department. VOLTA and Pro Clubs play almost exactly as they did last year, but progression and some select cosmetics have now been shared across the two modes. Player Career has introduced some interesting new mechanics, allowing players to make decisions and spend their wages, both of which impact their personality, which has a knock-on effect for your pro’s attributes. But this does little to change the core gameplay of Player Career, and serves only to have you stuck in more menus than before.


Manager Career remains the most overlooked mode in FIFA 23 by far, which wouldn’t be quite as galling had it not also been the case in FIFA 22. Again, I feel like I’m repeating myself. The biggest change to Manager Career is a UI overhaul, bringing it more in line with modes like Ultimate Team, but almost nothing else has been changed. For long-time Career Mode players like myself, even small changes, such as more variation to the stats that Youth Players can have, would have been welcome, but unfortunately it all seems the same, bar some fancier cutscenes that you’ll almost immediately start skipping after you’ve viewed them once. Playable Highlights, an alternative to simming or playing full games, is the one standout addition, and it’s just not enough to warrant a new purchase if you’re only interested in Manager Career.

It should perhaps come as no surprise to discover which mode does feature FIFA 23’s one instance of revolution. FIFA Ultimate Team has, for a very long time now, been the ill-gotten jewel in FIFA’s crown, extracting wads of cash out of players’ wallets long after they’ve paid full price for the game. And for years, the experience of building a team has been the same, with the main additions being new modes to surround the core experience. FIFA 23 makes a big ol’ change, though, and has massively reworked how player chemistry works.


Lads lads lads!

No longer do players need to be adjacent to one another to benefit from their chemistry boost. The lines are gone. In its place is a far more open system, with room to experiment and move players around in true fantasy football style. It’s undoubtedly a big improvement to what was already FIFA’s most-played mode, and because of this, FIFA 23 has been the first FIFA game in a long time where I can feel the grip of Ultimate Team tightening around me, urging me to play just one more game, or maybe two, so I get enough coins to open another pack, and maybe get an upsettingly strong Team of the Week player in the process. It’s clearly still the same exploitatively addictive experience as it's always been, perhaps even more so, now that the fundamental gameplay has been improved. It’s immense fun. But it also makes me clench my jaw so much that it hurts. It’s Ultimate Team.

The most annoying part of all of this is that the gameplay, on the pitch, is still probably better than it has ever been. There’s greater fluidity, but the midfield has also made a triumphant return, after going missing in FIFA 22 following a few patches. Games will more often feel scrappy, with defensive midfielders breaking up the play and intercepting wayward passes, giving a wonderful tug-of-war feeling to each match, where neither team can quite put their foot on the ball and slow things down. The Power Shot is one of FIFA’s most fun gameplay introductions in years, letting you fire an absolute cannonball at the keeper at the expense of accuracy, and with a ludicrously long run up, which can be easily interrupted. And corners and free kicks finally feel good again, after last year’s strange experiment with set pieces. When you simply sit down to play a few games with a mate, FIFA 23 is fantastic. But it's also asking full price for minimal improvements across its ever-growing roster of modes and ways to play.

It’s a shame to see EA’s longrunning FIFA series go out in this way - not with a bang, or with a whimper, but more of a shrug and a genial wave. FIFA 23 is more FIFA, which maybe was never in question. But it would have been nice to have just gotten a little bit more. Maybe EA is saving the best stuff for the launch of its new-but-not-really-new EA Sports FC franchise next year, but in the meantime, FIFA 23 is technically a better game than FIFA 22. If you didn’t pick up FIFA 22, then this is the best FIFA game you can play. But if you’ve been playing FIFA 22 for the last twelve months? Well, whether it’s worth the purchase or not, is up to you.

FIFA 23

FIFA 23 is the best FIFA game that you can play right now. But unless you’re an Ultimate Team diehard, FIFA 23 might not do enough to convince you to upgrade from the mechanically similar FIFA 22.

Form widget
77%
Audio
75%

Commentary is nearly identical to last year’s FIFA, and is overdue for an overhaul. The music continues to be great, however, with plenty of new tracks to discover.

Visuals
80%

FIFA 23 certainly looks great, but you’d be hard pressed to notice much improvement from FIFA 22 at a glance.

Playability
85%

The best playing FIFA game since, well, FIFA 22. Improvements to defending and keeping, alongside the return of the scrappy midfield game, are much appreciated, and result in a more balanced playing experience that’s less reliant on pace. Hopefully it stays this way, even after a few patches.

Delivery
70%

Outside of an Ultimate Team overhaul, the number of additions and improvements across FIFA 23 are disappointingly low, with Manager Career Mode in particular getting criminally overlooked.

Trophies
40%

FIFA lists are never great, but this year’s is particularly egregious. A huge number of trophies have been copy and pasted from FIFA 22, and some are considerably more of a grind, given changes to progression and systems. Disappointing.

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