Like my Liverpool fan over the past 20 years, I am happily obsessed and bewildered with FIFA. Like Liverpool, when FIFA acts like a well-oiled machine, playing on the field is graceful, clever, and excites my football-loving brain with a dopamine hit. However, FIFA 23 sounds a lot like FIFA 22, which was similar to FIFA 21, ranging from mildly impressive to invigorating.
FIFA has focused on one aspect of football for years: the attack. It’s almost like arcade when you feel like the players change speed from dribble to sprint so quickly and easily. Cross-field balls behind defenders are exhilarating for a winger. The much-loved trick stick is hard to master, but even a few flicks can launch an audacious stepover or the famous Maradona spin to defeat a defender.
EA’s HyperMotion 2 technology enables more natural animations between dribbling and shooting, but it’s also barely noticeable during replays. Most of the goals look similar to the goals scored in FIFA 22, which isn’t bad. It’s just that Hypermotion 2 doesn’t revolutionize presentation, making it feel like just another annual update that’s a little bit smoother.
A positive addition this year is the ability to play “Moments” in Ultimate Team. Reminiscent of the global challenge mode of the FIFA 2006 World Cup, you play different scenarios, such as overcoming a two-goal deficit with a penalty kick in the 70th minute of the match. These scenarios reward stars for unlocking cards such as Ted Lasso and Beard, his right-hand coach for Ultimate Team. It’s a fun and quick way to grind for cards.
Chemistry in Ultimate Team gives your players a stat boost if you assemble a team with the right position and players of the same nationality or league, and it stacks up differently this year. Players can earn up to three Chemistry points, but this time, you can get the maximum number of Chemistry points, for example, an English attack and a La Liga backline, allowing for more satisfying and creative team building.
This year the career mode is stronger, which is fun for those who want to go through the season alone with their created avatar or a real-world player. Players must meet set goals in the game to please the manager, but it still feels like just being in position and completing passes, rather than just scoring and assisting your rating. Adding playable highlights throughout your player’s or manager’s career amps it up to a great extent.
You take control during playable highlights to try to score or prevent the opponent from putting the ball behind the net. These funny little snapshots of the match let you turn a simulated 2-0 result from 4-0, but it makes it harder to achieve your avatar’s goals because you’ll mostly be controlling the others on the team. Off the pitch, you can sign investment deals and participate in activities to increase your stats or earn points in the Maverick, Virtuoso, or Heartbeat personality types to earn money. Each unlocks different skills for your player, such as stamina or volleying ability, depending on whether you prefer dribbling, passing or shooting.
Adding women’s club football is long overdue, but it doesn’t bring the attention it deserves. You have a small number of national teams, as well as professional French and English leagues, for use in classic matches, seasons and cups. However, they are not on Career or Ultimate Team, which means that if you were hoping to pair Alex Morgan and Jordan Payfolk to your FUT squad, you are out of luck.
Former footballer Gary Lineker has a famous saying that “Football is a simple game – 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes – and in the end, the Germans always win.” I’d like to give a similar assessment of EA’s annual soccer game: FIFA 23 is a good game — it’s engaging, fun to play, and has tons of modes — but in the end, you realize it’s mostly the same game. Who you have been playing for years.