FIFA 23 review: The last FIFA game is the most realistic ever
FIFA 23 was always destined for the history books, as the final chapter in the world’s greatest football video game series, and it is definitely the most immersive sports title EA has ever made.
It all started in 1993 with FIFA International Soccer on the SEGA Mega Drive. The players looked like something from Roblox, the ball wasn’t really a circular shape, and the animations were essentially a virtual replica of table football. That might sound terrible, yet it was the opening of a landmark era in gaming innovation.
Historic additions to the FIFA series have followed. Hundreds of teams have been officially licensed, with thousands of players and managers face-scanned. A game that used to be a split-screen only, offline experience, now comprises Ultimate Team, VOLTA Football, Pro Clubs, Create A Club, Kick-Off, Seasons, and multiple options for Career Mode.
30 years on, Electronic Arts have delivered an experience that is closer to the beautiful game than ever before. “Cutting-edge HyperMotion technology” may have just sounded like buzzwords to the average player previously, but it’s starting to pay in dividends now.
FIFA 23 key details
- Developer: EA SPORTS
- Price: $59.99 / £59.99
- Release date: September 30, 2022
- Platforms: Xbox, PlayStation & PC
Gameplay is more realistic than ever
FIFA 23 is as realistic as it gets. Players have unique running styles and shooting actions crafted exactly for their profile. A portfolio of thousands of new animations makes everything appear more natural and less predictable. Utilizing the latest version of last year’s HyperMotion technology, FIFA 23 feels closer to a simulator than an arcade experience.
The pace of the game is also more realistic and balanced. Making inroads from a wide position on the halfway line towards the opposition goal feels to be a longer sprint than usual, and due to acceleration changes, defenders not blessed with pace can cope with speedy forwards. Slower attacking midfielders (take Bernardo Silva or Alexis Mac Allister, for example) can influence the game more with their agility on the ball. It all feels more balanced from a speed point of view.
Long shots are thankfully harder to score and close-range efforts have fair success rates. Goalkeepers seem more capable, but can now be deceived by shooting early, or can have their vision obscured by other players. It makes them feel like a more active part of any match, rather than just an AI-controlled assist.
The new power shot is extremely effective, although difficult to execute as it takes a moment to wind up. Despite this, having the camera zoom in during the animation is distracting, almost like a mini FIFA street game-breaker. It feels too gimmicky.
Short passing in midfield, in particular, is not as fluid as it has been in previous games. You will have to consider your body position and first touch much more than usual to retain possession. This definitely isn’t a ‘me issue’ either, as my opponents online struggled similarly. Pass spamming when trying to clear your lines causes chaos.
From a pressing standpoint, players will often collide and the ball will quickly change direction. These are minor things that the dev team’s fine-tuning tools can smoothen out.
In Career Mode, simple changes will really resonate with the single-player audience. Player Career has shades of the uber-popular MyCareer mode in NBA 2K, with more backstory, roleplaying, and social media integration.
Player Personality is a new feature that lets you customize your player’s attributes through their own character type. Attributes are assigned through Maverick, Virtuoso, and Heartbeat actions. A Maverick, for example, might take the game by the scruff of the neck and go for goal, while a Heartbeat is more likely to find the pass to set up a teammate.
This is tied to off-the-pitch actions like visiting an injured teammate or buying a new car, and while it feels like a solid progression from last year, it still lacks the pizazz of an NBA 2K style career path.
In manager mode, I decided to play as Unai Emery and take over at Brighton & Hove Albion. That’s something you can choose to do this year or create your own gaffer. Each league has numerous face-scanned managers ready to choose from.
The transfer experience adds a realistic touch with the addition of a transfer analyst. While this is retrospective, it gives you more information on player values, tips on how to improve transfer strategy, and can save you money with learnings on each move. Crucial and important signings will be met at the training ground by your staff. Your biggest sales will also be met with a goodbye cinematic, as well.
Matchday production levels are at a series high. Some games will be given a pre-match showreel, showing both managers celebrating previous results and building hype for kick-off. There are also more camera angles for corner kicks, goal kicks, and goal celebrations – all nice touches. New “distance from goal” and “expected goal” overlays on match highlights are smart additions, too.
Both player and manager Career modes now offer “Playable Highlights”, which let you play small vignettes of a full match. It’s a huge time-saver that still lets you have an impact on the game when you don’t want to play through an entire match.
Ultimate Team monetization takes a step backward
A pain point for many Ultimate Team players is always monetization. FIFA point pricing has changed to allow some tiers to include more points with a matching price rise. For example, the second highest tier in FIFA 22 was 4,600 points for $39.99. That has since been changed to 5,900 for $49.99. Two of the lower tiers were also scrapped, so there are fewer cheaper options in FIFA 23.
Ultimate Team has new FUT Moments challenges where you can earn FUT stars, which can be spent on various packs.
The three advanced Squad Building Challenges (Hybrid Leagues, Hybrid Nations, League & Nations Hybrid) have been given untradeable rewards this year, meaning you can’t profit in-game by selling the players you pack. While the change does give better pack prizes, cutting one of the most popular ways to earn in-game currency is a step backward. Now that you can’t build up early wealth using these SBCs, you can easily see a world where people are tempted to buy more FIFA Points.
FIFA 23 review score: 8/10
FIFA 23 makes history as the most realistic football simulator in the series and with HyperMotion technology getting increasingly more impressive, the future looks bright for EA SPORTS FC. Some gameplay fine-tuning is needed to streamline things and the SBC change in Ultimate Team won’t be a welcome one, but there’s no denying this is a fun game to play.
Reviewed on Xbox Series S