Few things in life are absolutely certain. Being born, dying, taxes, and the inevitable yearly sports games such as FIFA. And yet, that’s about to change, as this is the last game by EA Sports with the football federation name’s branding before they move to the new EA Sports FC title. With the franchise about to change its skin, this year’s installment presents a lot of noticeable paradigm shifts to the core of the football that we know and love in FIFA. We tested the game thoroughly on Xbox Series X, so here’s XboxEra’s review for FIFA 23!
Kicking in the name of
This year’s football bonanza by EA Sports is certainly a transition game of sorts, changing a lot about how the sport feels on the pitch thanks to brand new physics, a lot of new broadcast options and plenty of changes to how the player interacts with the ball. In many ways, it feels like the biggest evolution in the franchise for many years, yet it also seems like a prelude to what’s the come, with many evolutions likely only materializing in next year’s title. Somewhat surprisingly, the menu system is virtually identical to FIFA 22’s, with really only the background graphics, the colour schemes and the game logo’s number going from 22 to 23 being truly noticeable. The game modes, the career, the online haven’t seen much change, and the much remembered (by me, at least) The Journey story mode is still not coming back. Yet, as soon as the player hits the pitch, it’s a new football.
As it seems to happen every couple years, the physics engine has been completely redone. Pushing aside all the marketing speech about how it’s more realistic and engaging than ever, the way the ball bounces off from the various body parts, the bar and such certainly feel more consistent with reality. The biggest change, however, is how players finally get a level of ball control on free kicks, penalties, corners, etc. that they’d normally only see in pool games. For every place kick in fact, the player can choose exactly which point of the ball they want to hit and then dosing the power of the hit, giving the player complete freedom on where to send the ball and what kind of swerve it should take once in the air. It takes a little bit of getting used to, and I slightly miss doing the same couple of effective free kicks via muscle memory, but the freedom and variety the new system gives is truly a great change to the formula.
There’s various handy improvements to attack and defense as well, from no-look passes, physical tackles, and even risky “power shots” joining the already large roster of tricks the players can use to better their opponents. As always, it’s hard to properly judge how balanced these changes are without the playerbase at large putting in hours into the game’s online, but most of the additions feel promising. Perhaps my favourite change in player behaviour is the new AcceleRATE system. As any FIFA player can tell you, speed is almost always key. Historically, keeping slower and technical players like Andrea Pirlo or Angel Di Maria may have been useful when it came to free kicks, but their low speed made them ineffective for everything else. This sort of “max speed focus” is partially gone in FIFA 23, with players presenting different kinds of speed, affecting their initial sprint, their stamina on longer runs and so on. This finally helps rebalancing things to favour owning more technical players as well instead of having your front-end consisting of 5 siblings of Usain Bolt.
I like to move it
The players’ movement and control feels smoother than ever somehow, and it’s partly thanks to the brand new motion-captured and AI-analyzed movements of thousands of players throughout the last season. This tech is called Hypermotion2. While it may not be all that noticeable in actual gameplay, the game presents brand new close-up replays after goals that not only handily showcase these much improved animations, but also show the players a lot of cool stats about the shots, such as their angle and speed. This sort of “live data” keep popping up all around the play: free kicks show the percentage of goals usually scored from such a position, match statistics use AI-calculated “expected goals” indicators to show how many goals this sort of play would statistically generate, and so on. Neat info that goes hand in hand with how real football also uses AI data to analyze strategies and weak points.
License-wise, there’s plenty of football fans that should rejoice. Various teams, such as my beloved Juventus, are finally back from the Konami exclusivity and appearing with their correct names and colours in FIFA 23. Funnily enough, even Apple’s hit comedy show Ted Lasso has its fictional football team AFC Richmond available, alongside with the Ted Lasso the coach. And perhaps most ambitiously, tons of female clubs and nationals join the field, with the ladies getting a lot more visibility in general as the game’s tutorial already proposes a female football scenario as an option, female referees can rule matches, and so on. Even last summer’s Women’s World Cup can be replayed both with the actually qualified teams or the ones of our liking, allowing players to rewrite or confirm the history of England’s historic trophy win. And lastly, speaking of licenses, expect the usual barrage of popular and catchy songs from artists such as ODESZA, Nas, San Holo, Stromae, or Cryalot, whose voice a lot of gamers may recognize from the band Kero Kero Bonito, who had a song in FIFA 22 already and of course in Bugsnax.
In terms of game modes, FIFA 23 really doesn’t have a lot of new to offer, with my expectation being that these may be revamped for next year’s installment with the new EA Sports FC branding. Career, quick matches (including the hilarious house rules), online tournaments, 11v11 matches and so on come back with little to no changes, and naturally so does the equally hated and beloved microtransaction-laden Ultimate Team – or FUT. The most noticeable change in this viral mode seems to be a completely redefined chemistry system, which no longer requires players who are familiar playing with each other to stay in the same positions, with a general level applying regardless of their location on the pitch. There’s also a handful of bite-sized single player scenarios called “FUT Moments”, allowing players to overcome a few specific challenges like coming back from a two goal disadvantage or completing a set amount of passes. These are quick challenges and they’re rewarded with pretty good packs of cards, so it’s worth pushing through them even though they’re hardly all that exciting.
Behind the scenes
FIFA 23 finally joins the ranks of other online games like Fortnite, Call of Duty and Rocket League, once and for all jumping into the exciting world of cross-play, though the existence of various versions makes it a little more complicated than it needs to be. In short, “true” current-gen platforms like Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, PC and Stadia can play together – although, as you may have heard in the gaming news, the Stadia servers will be shut down in January. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 owners can only play amongst them, with no access to the next generation consoles’ player pool. And of course there’s the lonely Legacy Edition on Nintendo Switch, which is a years-old version of FIFA with essentially only roster updates year after year – predicatbly, this version can not play with other consoles’ players. It would be nice if all platforms could play together – after all, even games available on mobile like Fortnite managed to get over the hurdles of vastly different hardware. Maybe one day we’ll get there. Another negative side effect of this confusing cross-gen model is that the game is not part of the Smart Delivery program on Xbox, and the Series X|S version bundles in the Xbox One version as well, conveniently hiding the increased 70 USD/80 EUR launch price that more and more publishers are adopting sadly.
Players of the various FIFA games by now are fully aware that these games are essentially fully customizable in terms of gameplay and rosters. Each team and player can be edited individually all the way down to their clothing, the player can create absolutely ridiculous fantasy transfers in their save files to propose, for example, the hilarious Ronaldo-Messi-Mbappé attacking trio at Leicester, of all teams. Difficulty and assists can be fine-tuned on individual sliders going from 0 to 100 to define the players’ and AI opponents’ reactivity, speed, attacking precision and many more aspects. If you don’t have a save to carry over from the previous FIFAs, chances are you’ll need a lot of tweaking to reach the optimal experience for your playstyle.
There are, truth be told, a handful of technical hiccups that break the game’s otherwise buttersmooth 60 frames per second gameplay that characterized the franchise for a long time now. A lot of close-up shots, free kicks, etc. can lose a handful of frames due to the much better assets visualized from that distance. There is also a fairly annoying issue on the new Hypermotion2 replays – if you’re eagerly trying to skip them by continously pressing A, chances are that you already passed the ball off to someone else since the visuals of the slow-motion seem to disappear slightly after the game restarts. Whereas the first issue is something that’s been present in the franchise for some time, the latter can hopefully be fixed with one of the patches around launch.
Another year goes by
In short, FIFA 23 makes a lot of great additions to the core gameplay, making the actual football feel smoother, more realistic and tactically more diverse, with the new AcceleRATE system in particular ensuring that fast players no longer dominate the online sphere. Tons of behind the scenes changes like a new physics system, a revamped AI, and the long-awaited cross-play make this year’s installment of EA Sports’ eternal franchise the most fresh experience it’s been in years. On the flipside, aside from adding women teams and tweaking a few game modes, content-wise the game has very little new to offer compared to FIFA 22, to a point that casual players may barely even notice most of this year’s changes. A transition game of sorts before next year’s name change, making a lot of important changes under the game’s hood, without really reinventing or adding any standout feature. Whether these changes are essential enough for a buy or not largely depend on the way you play FIFA.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available on||Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, PC, Stadia, Nintendo Switch (Legacy Edition)|
|Release Date||30th September 2022|
|Rated||ESRB E for Everyone, PEGI 3+|
FIFA 2369,99/79,99 EUR | 59.99/69.99 USD | 59.99/69.99 GBP (Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S respectively)
- The experience on the field improved a lot
- Rebalanced AI, speeds and tactics
- A lot of important technical upgrades
- As always, virtually unlimited and fully customizable content
- Finally cross-play!
- Messy cross-gen approach
- No new game modes or major tweaks to existing ones
- A few technical hiccups