‘FIFA 23’ review: EA’s last dance defines their football legacy
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Featured Image Credit: EA
It’s an odd feeling to play FIFA 23 knowing it's the final instalment in EA’s football game dynasty. I’ve played the series on and off since FIFA 2000, so it’s one of my longest running gaming relationships, as stupid as that may sound. So, the question on my lips before playing was would the series end on a high?
See the trailer for FIFA 23 here
Upon loading the game, I’m met with the choice of Chelsea’s Sam Kerr or PSG’s Kylian Mbappé as to who will lead the tutorial section of the game. It’s a nice example of how far the series - and, indeed, football as a sport - has come in recognising how the beautiful game appeals to a wide range of people.
I went straight into career mode, opting to be manager of Bavarian giants Bayern Munich. Normally, I pick a side who aren’t favourites, but Bayern have an excellent squad and I really wanted to see a dynamic team in action, and it didn’t disappoint.
Playing on the professional difficulty setting, the ease at which I was stringing together passes was a sight to behold. Being able to identify players like Jamal Musiala, Leon Goretzka and Sadio Mané simply by the way they move never stops being impressive, and the sound of the ball hitting the crossbar on its way in after striking from 25 yards feels better than in any previous FIFA title.
Now these improvements could be because I played FIFA 22 on Xbox Series X, while I’m now playing FIFA 23 on PC, but either way I’m fully immersed in the action of career mode. Even the transfer business, which is basically the same as in last year’s offering, is fairly engaging, although virtual David Moyes looks a bit too ‘uncanny valley’ for my liking.
Next up, I hit Ultimate Team. For the uninitiated, this mode lets you build your own squad, chiefly for competing online. Sticking with the Bundesliga theme, my squad was built with a German foundation, featuring the likes of Kevin Trapp, Mahmoud Dahoud and the aforementioned Musala. Other stars of German club football rounded out my starting XI, such as Alphonso Davies and André Silva.
Diving into my first match, it’s clear FUT hasn’t changed too much. It’s still a challenging online mode, with matches feeling more nerve-wracking than I’d care to admit. You have to defend with your whole team and take your chances when they come up. At least, that’s what I advise but having begun my latest Ultimate Team run with a 3-0 and 2-1 loss, you should probably seek guidance elsewhere. All I’m saying is, I’d get sacked faster than Scott Parker.
I moved onto Volta and it’s here I found my new favourite online mode. There’s a Pro Clubs version of Volta, where humans play as one individual team member in five-a-side matches. This chaotic, arcadey option is simply fantastic. Along with the showy backflip and overhead strikes, there’s plenty of opportunity to showcase your fancy footwork while running through enemies, and it never gets old.
Traditional Pro Clubs returns, too. Playing as an individual member of an 11-player side, this mode feels the most satisfying to win because you can go substantial periods of time without even touching the ball,, especially if you play on the wing like I do. There’s also an option to switch between all the AI players, but it’s still a team game at its core, so remember to play to everyone’s strengths.
So, is FIFA 23 a positive step forward for the franchise? In short, yes, it is. The gameplay improvements from 22 to 23 could as much be down to my shifting from Series X to PC, so I’ll ignore that, but the inclusion of features like cross-play for certain online modes is a huge boon.
As well, it’s great to see women’s football clubs being added. Finally, Leah Williamson is present in Arsenal’s iconic red and white, and it feels great to be able to play as these club sides, especially in a world where the Lionesses brought it home over the summer.
The game also just feels more user-friendly than past iterations. The career mode menus are more responsive and better organised than in FIFA 22, and dropping into Pro Clubs matches is smooth like butter, to quote K-pop stars BTS.
While the negative side of FIFA is still present, from the way world-class-difficulty AI opponents never miss a shot, to how pace is still a potentially game-breaking attribute, it’s fair to say the good easily outweighs the bad. As EA’s time on this series comes to a close, FIFA 23 is a reminder of why this series is so huge, in more good ways than bad.
Pros: Improved gameplay from last title, more user-friendly, women’s football clubs
Cons: Higher difficult AI is almost broken, pace still an overly dominant strategy
For fans of: FIFA franchise, football, sports sims
FIFA 23 releases September 30, 2022, for PC (version tested), Stadia, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Code provided by the publisher. Find a guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.