Now the end is here, it’s time for FIFA to face that final curtain. It’s true, the licence EA Sports holds for the FIFA franchise is coming to an end as FIFA 23 marks the final instalment of the series. Before the major rebranding occurs though, let’s see whether FIFA 23 can deliver a football experience that excels and convinces the masses to be excited for the present as much as the future.
The core of any sports title that’s worth its salt is the gameplay and FIFA 23 has perhaps received the biggest overhaul in this department. In years gone by, pace abuse and ‘ping pong’ passing has been prevalent, which often diminished the enjoyment factor. Now though, multiple facets have come into play, potentially nullifying them. It’s a breath of fresh air.
I love the way body movements feel more natural, with agility hugely important for making swift turns on the ball. While it may lead to someone like Harry Maguire being a tad weighty to control, another new feature ensures these taller and stronger people in defence are no longer getting rinsed so regularly on the counter. It’s because of the acceleRATE mechanic, enabling the lengthy players to begin slowly but cover long distances fast enough to catch anyone. Meanwhile, the short folk explode from a standing start and possess incredible acceleration, before tapering off. There’s also the controlled types with a normal acceleration style, creating a good balance all-round.
And speaking of balance, should a player be unsteady on their feet or facing the opposite way to which you wish to direct the next ball action, it tends to go awry. Therefore it’s slightly more realistic as passes and shots tend to be inaccurate when rushed, while often underpowered too – as they ought to be. Shots in general do come across as quite dynamic, with every hit feeling different from the last. Another new addition in this department is the power shot, which is simultaneously utterly ridiculous and brilliant, for it zooms in close as you wind up to give the ball a good whack. Due to the time it takes to pull off, and having to manually aim it, the risk/reward factor seems about right.
The next major change almost reverts things back to how they once were, with set pieces allowing you to aim, choose a part of the ball to hit, and hold the relevant button to power the manoeuvre. It allows you to increase and decrease the amount of curve as well as loftiness on corners and free-kicks. Experimenting with different players and techniques ensures enjoyment when the opportunity arises.
The majority of the gameplay enhances the overall experience, but the goalkeeping is a rather contentious issue. Reaction saves and such are excellent to witness, with better animations in place. That said, howlers appear a little too often. Whether it’s diving the totally wrong way or palming the ball into their own net; some of the goals conceded are laughable. I get it to a degree, however the frequency means the mechanics need altering.
Moving on though and, fundamentally, the game modes on offer will be familiar to anyone who’s played FIFA in recent years. There are a couple of notable improvements and changes at least. This is never truer than where Ultimate Team is concerned, which – to no surprise – reaps the benefits the most as FUT Moments are introduced.
FUT Moments are fascinating new scenarios providing a real variety of challenges to partake in. By completing the objectives during these scenarios, FUT Stars are rewarded, which can be swapped for items in a special store. What’s great is how easy they are to jump in and out of, taking up small amounts of time to complete each one. Objectives range from making a certain number of passes and retaining possession, to attempting various shot types and scoring goals.
Having squad requirements to meet in some of the themed offerings means that it’s sure to encourage you to use specific players or formations too. As seen elsewhere with FUT, like Squad Building Challenges and FUT Friendlies, EA Sports will refresh the FUT Moments in the long term – here’s hoping it helps with longevity. Realistically though, given how most players have acquired crazily high-rated teams already, the novelty of FUT as a whole is likely to wear thin soon.
Other than a reworked Chemistry system that takes a while to grasp, there’s nothing else noteworthy here. The Career mode doesn’t bring a whole lot of additions either, apart from shaping the personality of your chosen player in the Player Career. Depending on your training efforts, performances and social activities, you will earn attributes related to three personalities – Maverick, Heartbreak, and Virtuoso. It’s not groundbreaking, but a nice enough feature for those who indulge in that mode in particular.
My favourite pastime in almost every FIFA instalment of the last decade is playing Pro Clubs; an 11vs11 mode for friends to gather in their masses that’s often overlooked and underutilised. The brand new ability to garner XP from skill games is not what anyone anticipated nor requested. Being coupled with the FIFA Street wannabe mode VOLTA, sharing items for your Virtual Pro avatar between the two, is also something unexpected. It’s fortunate that Pro Clubs is reliably entertaining regardless of these pitiful ideas.
In isolation, VOLTA is weird because you’ve got street style football combined with special abilities. Despite the slightly silly Arcade mini-games, the physics and mechanics are the same as the other game modes. Hence, there’s no actual commitment to realism or zany arcade gameplay, leaving it stuck in the middle to the satisfaction of very few.
And then there’s the women’s side of FIFA 23. Upon the announcement of Chelsea’s Sam Kerr becoming a co-cover star, my expectations elevated in regards to EA Sports stepping up to provide more of a purpose for the women’s teams. Alas, I feel utterly disappointed. While the inclusion of squads from the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and the top division in France is a welcome one, you’re still quite limited in their usage.
Let’s be honest, who really wants to play as their female idols in the likes of Kick-Off modes and one-off tournaments? Not me. Especially when there are more fulfilling options available. Surely these players could be integrated into FIFA 23’s flagship offering, Ultimate Team, or an actual Career mode, to put them on a more even footing. As it stands, it falls short of representing women’s football to a decent standard and really needs to invest in building a larger pool of teams.
Whilst there are areas of FIFA 23 that still need improvement and some modes are stagnant, the gameplay is the best it’s been for a few iterations. The excitement and dynamism is present in each and every match, with good football mainly winning the battle against exploits. Dribbling, passing and shooting are more refined, with the HyperMotion2 tech really shining during animations.
Could FIFA 23 be better? Undoubtedly, but the quality gameplay should be enough to see you out on the pitch ready to kick off.
FIFA 23 is available via the Xbox Store
- Improved and excited gameplay
- FUT Moments
- A great selection of game modes
- A few game modes are stagnant
- Still lacking on the women’s offering
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - EA
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, PC
- Version Reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 30th September 2022
- Launch price from - £69.99