This year’s FIFA focuses on the fundamentals of the sport, bringing with it much needed changes in the way the game plays. It’s not always perfect, but a bigger focus on moment-to-moment action, the Women’s game and a complete rework of Ultimate Team makes FIFA 23 easily one of the best in the series in years.
Like the Ignite Engine all those years ago, current-gen exclusive Hypermotion 2 technology feels a bit like a revolution for FIFA. It scrapes away a lot of the rustiness in animations seen in previous entries and has brought with it a slew of new ways to play the game. As a result, matches look and feel more like the real thing, with defenders expertly cutting out through balls with well-timed slides and more predictable outcomes happening when players jostle for the ball.
Acceleration has seen a shake up as well, with recovery speed of defenders playing just as important a role as an attacker’s pace. Because of this, spamming your team with pace merchants isn’t as viable as it once was, with defenders now making a marked effort to chase players down to get a challenge in. Of course, there are still moments where pacey players will rinse defenders (and this will depend on stats, position on the field and how the ball is played), but the fact defenders now have some chance to get back and recover well makes for a more accurate depiction of the real thing.
Hypermotion 2 led to a change in the way I’d attack, too. Rather than playing risky through balls, the game rewards smart build up play through the middle. Keeping hold of the ball and slowly building up an attack worked wonders, especially when I was in the final third. Shots from outside the box have been dialled down significantly due to the introduction of the new power shot mechanic, as well, which gives you manual control of a shot with a bigger wind up.
Power shots are extremely useful if you have the space to pull one off, as it puts a lot of pace behind the ball which can lead to a potential fumble from the keeper or an outright goal. It’s all about risk versus reward, though, as there’s a lot of time for a defender to cut you off if you’re in a crowded space.
Women’s football has finally received some attention in FIFA 23. The raft of new animations included in Hypermotion 2 allows the women’s game to feel significantly different when compared to playing men’s football, and it’s great to finally see a bigger focus on it. The addition of two major women’s club leagues in the FA Women’s Super League and the French Division 1 Feminine are also welcome, though I hope this is just the beginning of a major focus for the team. Aside from kick off and tournament modes, there’s not much else you can do with the aforementioned club teams so there’s still some way to go. It’s a big step forward, either way.
Career Mode aficionados will be disappointed to hear not too much has changed this year. A new menu makes the player and manager career modes feel a bit more fresh, but the actual fundamental changes underneath are very minor. You’re finally able to play as a real manager in the latter, with the selection of accurately recreated managers across leagues fairly impressive for a first outing. As well as this, you’re now able to play out the major highlights in a match, which I enjoyed to a degree but felt the balance was consistently off. Some games would give me more attacking opportunities than defending and vice versa. As such, if I was already down by a goal or two it’d be near impossible to make a comeback.
Player career introduces personality types and a range of extra curricular things to do throughout your career. The money you earn in your player career can be put towards things like booking dance classes and donating to animal shelters, while decisions pop up every now and again depending on the results on the pitch. Every activity you do, as well as your performance on the field, will allot points towards your player’s personality. That said, the Maverick, Heartbeat and Virtuoso personalities have very little impact on the mode itself, giving you a couple of extra points in your player’s stats. Because of this, it becomes fairly lacklustre as you progress and see similar options pop up every couple of weeks. There’s just not enough backbone to it to keep the mode interesting.
In contrast, FIFA Ultimate Team has seen its biggest refresh ever in FIFA 23. The entire chemistry system has been redone, with a bigger focus on being able to create more varied teams that aren’t hamstrung by stringent chemistry links. The result is a more fluid system, which looks at what league players play in, their clubs and their nationality and combines it into a three tier system. Rather than individual links, tiers come together to build chemistry across the entire team. As a result, it gives players better building blocks to create strong teams with great chemistry.
Further to this, the addition of FUT Moments is a nice nod to players who don’t want to duke it out online all the time. In this mode, players need to complete certain objectives in each game within a specified time limit in order to earn FUT Stars. Objectives range from combining a range of passes to performing skill moves. Accrued FUT Stars can then be redeemed for a range of rewards, like loan items and card packs.
While it’s a nice deviation from the tried and true modes across FUT, I felt myself becoming a bit bored after running through a handful of these challenges. And as per usual, I felt tired of FUT’s insistence on heavily pushing microtransactions and gave up on it pretty quickly. If you like FUT, you’ll appreciate the range of changes in FIFA 23. If you don’t, there’s not much here that’ll bring you in.
Unfortunately Pro Clubs and Volta Football haven’t seen too much in the way of radical changes this year, and languish as relatively forgotten modes in the overall scheme of things. Your avatar and some items move across both modes this year, with shared progression the key highlight. Other than that, don’t expect too much in the way of improvements. I feel like I say it every year, but Volta’s potential, in particular, has been completely squashed over the last few FIFA entries and it’s a damn shame.
Finally, cross-play has arrived in FIFA 23 and my time with it has been fairly seamless. Xbox Series, PC and PlayStation 5 players can play against one another, while Xbox One and PlayStation 4 players can go up against each other across a range of the main modes like FUT and Seasons. Ultimately it’s something we’ve wanted to see for a long time and it’s nice to finally have it in the game, though it’s a shame co-op modes don’t have it available as of yet.
The introduction of HyperMotion 2, a refreshed FIFA Ultimate Team and notable improvements to women’s football make FIFA 23 a strong entry in the long-running footy sim, and one the team can work from in next year’s EA Sports FC. It’s a shame about Volta and the lack of real invention in the game’s career modes, but there’s certainly enough here to sink your teeth into.
This year's FIFA is a comprehensive package for football fans thanks to HyperMotion 2, big reworks to FIFA Ultimate Team and the introduction of the FA Women’s Super League and the French Division 1 Feminine.
HyperMotion 2 is fantastic
Women’s club teams… finally!
Well needed refresh to FIFA Ultimate Team
Cross-play finally arrives
Lack of improvement across Career Mode, Pro Clubs and Volta