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Fifa 23 review: This swansong gaming title offers very little

Fifa 23, the last version of the Fifa football gaming title, has nothing new for you. It's evident that EA hasn’t put a lot of work into it

Sam Kerr of Chelsea as seen in Fifa 23. (EA Sports)

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Fifa 23, the 2022 edition of the football simulation game from Electronic Arts (EA) is known for one thing above all — the fact that it’s the last of the lot. Fifa 23, as it is called, is the last game that will use the world footballing body’s name in its title as EA has lost the rights to do so. The next version of the game will instead be replaced by the title EA Sports FC.

It’s no surprise then that EA hasn’t really put a lot of work into this last iteration of the popular gaming title. There are some new things, like power shots, new sprint mechanics, and some useless cutscenes, but that’s about it. I know at least one person who tried to get their money refunded off Steam after playing Fifa 23 for a day or two.

Making a new Fifa game

I said this in last year’s Fifa 22 review too. Football games may have peaked, and no matter how much Fifa wants to sell ‘hypermotion’, the gameplay itself has no change whatsoever.

EA may have hooked up motion capture cameras on 22 real footballers, but my simulated men still don’t look and feel significantly different. In fact, Fifa 23’s ‘hypermotion 2’ is perhaps an even bigger farce, since it really only seems to mean that replays of certain goals will be accompanied by statistics, like distance to goal, etc.

It looked intriguing the first time a replay showed up like that, but it takes no more than a few of these to realize that they really don’t add anything to gameplay, and instead take more time. Press ‘A’ to skip.

The gameplay does have some changes though. For instance, you can now press LB+RB+Shoot (on the Xbox) to execute what is called a ‘power shot’. Which, as the name suggests, means your attacker will really put their might into the shot they’re taking.

For football fans, this is perhaps the only way to reliably score screamers – the way Trent Alexander-Arnold scores for Liverpool in real life. It’s a decent addition, and mastery over it can lead to some nice goals too, but I daresay it will get boring fast (just like finesse shots), once a player figures out the right points from where goals are all but guaranteed.

Speaking of guaranteed goals, another change is how passing works in this game. You press the same buttons as before but Fifa 23 seems to require more precise directional targeting and power selection. Passing too hard can lead the ball straight out of play, and a weak pass will be intercepted by the opponent. Through balls are also slightly more difficult to make as compared to Fifa 22, even in comparatively easier difficulty modes, like professional mode.

But all this really brings us back to square one. The overall gameplay in Fifa 23 is not new. EA hasn’t even tried to increase the number of players that look realistic. Headliners like Cristiano Ronaldo (currently of Manchester United and Portugal) or Kylian Mbappe (who represents France and Paris Saint Germain) look real for sure, but even someone like Liverpool’s new signing Darwin Nunez hasn’t been updated to ‘needing a real face scan’ status.

That said, it seems nigh impossible to make big improvements to gameplay anyway. Fifa could scan a few more players and make their faces look more real, but will that change how we play this game? Definitely not. The answer instead is to focus on game modes, etc.

Which is why bugs in Career Mode are one of the many disappointing elements of Fifa 23. For instance, I saw one where Marcus Rashford scored for my England team, but the news screen said ‘Rashford scores to give Manchester United victory over Wales’. Really?

It’s not exactly bug riddled, and career mode is definitely playable, but it’s just a reminder that Fifa doesn’t care for users who buy the game to play this mode. To the extent that EA hasn’t even bothered to make realistic faces for all managers offered in the Career Mode’s headline feature this time, which gives you the ability to play as a real manager. Managers like Jurgen Klopp look fine, but United’s Erik Ten Hag or Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta look nothing like their real selves.

Instead of refining these elements, EA chose to add new cutscenes to career mode, which get old really fast and actually make little sense in terms of realism too. They’re just tired simulations showing the player walk into a club, shake hands with the manager and pass their medical. Perhaps a few of the other players will pop into a cutscene if the player you bought was among the world’s best.

There’s also a new grading system for transfers. The game gives you a grade (F-A) for each transfer, and tells you how much you could have saved or earned on a specific transfer. As far as I can tell, it seems to have no bearing on how a club perceives their manager, and hence, it loses relevance pretty fast too. It has bugs as well. For instance, I’m not sure why failing to save 470k on a $20 plus million deal would lead to a transfer grade of F.

Like the overall gameplay, career mode has some superficial changes, but nothing that will have lasting impact or make the game worth buying. It’s sad that EA gave up on a story mode in career, and with Ultimate Team being the real money maker, it hardly feels like the company will ever care about career mode players like me ever again. Especially now, since losing Fida’s support may increase licensing fees, even if just a little.

Speaking of which, the micro-transaction riddled Ultimate Team will likely continue to be one of Fifa’s most used features. I’ve personally never been a fan, and like many others, I too believe that allowing game makers to sell digital items inside games should be closely regulated.

This year’s FUT (Fifa Ultimate Team) has a new “FUT Moments” feature that offers small challenges to players, as an alternative to always trying out new players in full-fledged matches. The chemistry system has also changed, allowing greater diversity in teams, but at the very core, nothing changes the fact that those who spend more money will do better in FUT.

Should you buy it?

In the end, the conclusion is inescapable. If you bought Fifa 22 last year, or didn’t buy that one because you were happy with the version before, Fifa 23 really has absolutely nothing new for you. The only reason to buy this game is the same that drives Fifa games every year, players just want the newest teams, newest player ratings, and so on.

Fifa 23 is a fitting swansong to one of the biggest video game brand names ever, but I daresay that EA needs to listen to players more if it wants to give the upcoming EA Sports FC the same legacy as Fifa games.

Also read: ‘FIFA’ at 25: For the love of the virtual game

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