FIFA 23 review - Hits and misses

fifa 23 review

fifa 23 review

Thanks to the Qatar World Cup, this season is a truncated one. The launch of FIFA 23 is as you’d expect though. The new game is once again launching at the end of September with some gameplay changes with fancy names and a few more meaningful changes to the menu content.

There are still some issues, as always, and some of the bigger changes don’t work flawlessly, but I’m enjoying FIFA 23 more than 22 thanks to a couple of vital gameplay improvements.

From the inclusion of Hypermotion 2.0, which makes player interactions more realistic, to the addition of new power shots, FIFA 23 has a fair few new features that can be felt in every single match.

Gameplay is mostly improved

FIFA 23 is a drastic improvement on FIFA 22 when it comes to gameplay. It’s a little slower, the whys and results we’ll get to, but the passing is so much more accurate and satisfying.

For the most part, gone are the days of players with 90 plus passing hoofing the ball thirty yards in front of where you aimed it for no reason, or having the option to place a through ball 10 yards either side of a defender but choosing to pass it right at them inexplicably.

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Passes are now pretty accurate and are quick across the ground, allowing you to counter-attack swiftly and maintain attacking pressure in equal measure.

The reduced pace of the game makes passing all the more important too. Players are lethargic on the ball, often taking a little while to get it under control, and left-stick dribbling isn’t the useful skill it used to be. In fact, it’s mostly useless if you’re not using Vinicus Jr, Neymar, or someone with similar dribbling stats. Therefore, keeping the passing slick and fast is important to building an attack.

The strength of quick passing and through balls does bring us back to something all FIFA players will be familiar with. Pace is vital in FIFA 23, more so than in the last couple of years.

Expect wide formations to be king this year as running in behind is a more viable tactic thanks to improved attacking runs from the AI.

Pace is also key because manual defending has been improved. It’ll be the go-to way for getting a little bit more space. Tackling with defenders with high defensive stats will see you come away with the ball more often and the new physics changes see players use their bodies more to win the ball. Frequently, they’ll shoulder barge a player to regain possession or jostle to get in front and come away with the ball without actually making a tackle, which is wonderfully rewarding for anyone who defends in a more aggressive manner. It also means aggression, strength, and interceptions stats are more important in FIFA 23 than in recent years.

Don’t expect instances of the ball ricocheting four times after a tackle before falling a you opponent’s striker’s feet to be completely eradicated, but the changes are a step in the right direction for the promotion of manual defending over holding L2 and jocking your CDM from one side of the pitch to the other while relying on the AI.

In attack, the type of goal scored also seems pretty well-balanced so far. Shots from inside the box, going across the goalkeeper, are certainly a little overpowered, but near post shots, finesse shots from further out, and cut-backs are still quite easy to score from.

That may be because goalkeepers act as if they’ve lost both hands at times, as they often do at the start of a FIFA game cycle, but the variety in offensive options makes for far more engaging matches, both when attacking and defending.

For now, FIFA 23 is a pleasant surprise on the pitch. Yes, we may be back to the all out pace days, but the improvements to passing make for a far less frustrating time. I'm just holding out hope that upcoming patches don’t ruin the fun this year.

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Chemistry switch up

Away from the pitch, it is Ultimate Team that’s seen the biggest changes. Surprise, surprise. The biggest of all, and one of the biggest changes the mode has ever seen, is the overhaul of chemistry.

The green, red, and orange lines are gone, replaced by a system where a player can have the maximum of three chemistry and a team can have up to 33. Nation, league, and team links are still the way to build chemistry, but players can now link across the pitch. For example, a Portuguese GK and a Portuguese ST will now aid each other’s chemistry.

Playing around with team building is the best way to learn it - it’s not as complicated as it looks. Once the weekly promos add more players to the game, the new chemistry system will make designing interesting teams much easier. As is the point of the change, we shouldn’t see the same teams over and over again in FIFA 23. A little bit of variety is refreshing.

Each player having their own alternate positions, getting no chemistry boost if played out of them, will also make for unique team composition. There’ll be no more Ronaldo at CM to link to Cancelo at full-back before changing it around once the match begins.

Where the new chemistry system doesn’t work so well is in Squad Building Challenges (SBCs). It’s nice that some challenges, such as early player ones and basic upgrades, don’t have chemistry requirements, but those that do have been made frustrating to complete. Since, for example, a CAM gets zero chemistry at CM if they don’t have it as an alternate position this year, the choices you have for players that work for the requirements is limited massively.

As more challenges are released, players will need specific items to complete them, which will inevitably lead to massively inflated prices for short periods of time. I’m not confident the supply of cards will match the demand at times due to how pigeon-holed players will be. How big of an issue that’ll be will come down to how EA Sports manages the requirements fairly. Ensuring there’s a balance between challenge and affordability will be key.

The renewed focus on untradeable rewards and the buggy menus don’t help things either. The focus on untradeable SBC prizes early on is clearly an attempt to keep the market alive early on in FIFA 23, which didn’t happen in 22. Without an untradeable duplicate storage system of some kind, as we had in FIFA 18’s World Cup mode, so many cards are wasted.

Before release, I’ve also had SBCs populate automatically with my main squad before crashing the game, certain positions not count for chemistry at all, and changes to squads not save unless you quit the game and restart. FUT has become a menu-centric mode, so issues with navigating them are a pain.

Moments mode has potential

The final big addition to Ultimate Team this year is Moments, a mode in which you earn stars by completing short challenges with specific aims. Score a penalty, recreate this iconic goal, that sort of thing.

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It’s an interesting mode with a lot of potential. Re-enacting some of your real-world team’s best moments will be brilliant, and Moments offers bite sized chunks of gameplay that don’t require the commitment of a whole match.

However, the rewards on offer at launch simply aren’t worth your time. You need 16 stars for one Premium Gold Pack (7.5k pack) or 64 for a 50k pack. You’re limited with how many you can earn and getting 16 will take at least 30 minutes. With so many other ways to earn coins in FIFA 23, Moments simply aren’t value for time. If you’re playing for the fun of it, great, but don’t get sucked in if you’re only after increasing your coin balance. Either way, it’s more rewarding than playing Squad Battles.

Little love for the other modes

Elsewhere in FIFA 23, Career Mode is the only one to be given any significant love. Pro Clubs, which I still think has the most potential of any mode in the game, doesn’t make EA as much money as FUT does, so it has been largely ignored once more.

In Career Mode though, there are new cinematic cutscenes for instances like players being sold or loaned, a new personality system for Player Career which makes developing your pro into the perfect player for your team easier, and you can now play as real world managers, even if Super Mik Arteta looks nothing like himself.

You can even play as Ted Lasso and AFC Richmond, which is great. Real Madrid offered me 19.5 million for Jamie Tartt just days into the start of my career. I hope this is just the start of the crossovers we’ll see once the EA Sports FC era begins next year.

It’s also brilliant that the Women’s Super League teams have been added to FIFA 23, on top of the national teams. Next step, add them to Ultimate Team.

I’m enjoying FIFA 23 more than 22 already. The new features away from the pitch are quite underwhelming, but the gameplay improvements ensure the overall package is a step forward.

More reliable passing, improved defending, and balanced attacking options mean FIFA 23 is a lot of fun to play. It’s an improved overall package, even if FUT’s main additions are underwhelming and the other modes have been given little love once again.
7 out of 10

We reviewed FIFA 23 on PlayStation 5 with code provided by the publisher.

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