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FIFA 23 review: A final dance that synchronizes itself harmoniously with the tunes

FIFA 23 has brought some welcome changes though lot of work is left to be done (Image via EA Sports)
FIFA 23 has brought some welcome changes (Image via EA Sports)

FIFA 23 is one title in the gaming football franchise that sparked a lot of discussion in the community before its release. Everyone knew that EA's licensing deal with FIFA was expiring, and nobody was sure what the game would be called. For me, the first big question that popped into my head was relatively simple: "Will the upcoming game be able to capture my attention if it indeed undergoes a name change?"

For one last time, the soccer series has returned with the iconic name of a franchise that fans have known and loved for over two decades. The FIFA games have seen their fair share of competition from other developers, but the series has outgrown all of them.

While there has never been any doubt concerning the franchise's popularity, its titles have had their fair share of issues. FIFA 23 isn't without its cons, either. For instance, its launch has been rocky, thanks to poor optimizations in specific areas as well as bugs.

Nevertheless, 10.3 million players logged into the game in the opening week to make it the most significant FIFA release of all time. A large part of this success could be attributed to the franchise's popularity, but there are bigger reasons than that.


FIFA 23 is EA Sports' attempt at one final swansong before franchise is rebranded

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In the middle of 2023, new players will pick up EA Sports FC and play against each other or AI. But this year, all the attention goes to FIFA 23 and what it has to offer.

Expectations have been high since the first set of trailers and teasers for the title started appearing on YouTube. While FIFA 23 has retained the positives of previous releases, it has added a few new tricks. For example, a unique feature to be included in the game is World Cup mode, which has now been confirmed. But since the mode isn't in FIFA 23 yet, we won't discuss it. Since the title is more extensive than those offered in the last few years, there's a lot of other things to talk about.


Gameplay

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It didn't take long for me to realize that the average gameplay speed in FIFA 23 is slower than last year's title. This doesn't mean footballers move like tortoises or that it doesn't take minutes to pass the ball. The average pace of the game is just frantic.

This year, a key differentiator rewards patient build-up much more than the franchise traditionally does. Going for an overtly-rapid play can cause loss of possession and end up putting you in dangerous situations. Don't get me wrong; unnecessarily holding the ball will result in you losing it and even conceding a goal. However, taking passing and player movement seriously during the build-up is paramount.


HyperMotion 2.0 and machine learning

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The change in pace seems to be the result of the new HyperMotion 2.0 and the improvements made to machine learning within the game. Machine learning is prevalent these days, considering its ever-expanding applications in various fields, and video games are no other. Its most significant advantage in this title comes from dynamism in the overall gameplay, irrespective of the level and type of opponents.

I couldn't test this game on older-generation systems, but it would be safe to say that many of these features won't be available on them. This is not a surprise, given the limitations of aging hardware. But on my current-gen system, the title's full potential is apparent.

When HyperMotion was introduced last year, the difference was quite precise regarding gameplay. The changes not only affect player movements and ragdoll effects, but teams also move much more as a "team" and maintain their formation better. This doesn't mean players won't have to rely on their skills, but the gameplay feels much more realistic compared to previous FIFA installments.


Meta

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What is a FIFA game without its meta, after all? So far, the gameplay has left me frustrated, having to rely on counterplay, using fast cards, and going for unbelievably long passes. It doesn't radically change compared to previous iterations in the series; however, it offers some slight tweaks that make things better.

EA Sports has added a new system called body type, and one, in particular, is on the lips of many. Clearly, "lengthy" players have a natural advantage that makes matters quite interesting. They're taller footballers who are harder to tackle in the game. They aren't broken by any means; the meta just treats them well.

Pace is still essential in the game, especially for wingers and attackers. However, its impact has been lessened to some extent, and the same applies to the power of dribbling. This is due to the enhancements made to defensive abilities. Features like last-ditch tackles have empowered defenders in the game in previous years. While there's room for more balance, the new mechanics should feel better, especially for beginners.


Game modes

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Once the World Cup mode arrives in FIFA 23, it will have the highest number of options seen in recent titles in the series. In the meantime, gamers won't have a lack of existing choices. Depending on the player's preferences, Ultimate Team and Career will be the two main modes to play.

Career mode and Volta have received some beautiful additions, with the former enabling players to play as real-life managers. While this mode offers a more immersive experience than its predecessors, the core elements are the same. I loved playing Ted Lasso, of all people, and who would have seen that coming? I didn't expect a sea of changes, but more should have been made to this mode.

Instead, the emphasis is clearly on Ultimate Team, and it's easy to see why. FIFA 22 generated massive revenue for EA, and Ultimate Team was its backbone. It was not difficult to predict that FIFA 23 would do the same and perhaps go even further. A new Moment has been added to all the new game modes. Though the mode still feels limited, it seems promising.


Crossplay

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After successfully testing the feature earlier this year, EA Sports has introduced crossplay across all applicable game modes. Barring Pro Clubs, players can enjoy crossplay matchmaking in all forms of online matches. This includes friendlies, co-op, and Ultimate Team mode. There are some limitations, however, as older-generation system users can't play with current-gen console owners or vice-versa.

Nevertheless, the crossplay feature has been a significant change for me as regular matchmaking takes a long while at times. With crossplay, this problem is gone, and matchmaking is much quicker.

As for issues regarding connectivity, there are minor instances of network instability, but nothing that can't be managed. I expect the server-side problems to improve as EA Sports continues to work on its latest release.


Graphics

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This is an area where I expect more to be done, at least when it comes to current-generation consoles. Changes have been made in the graphics department, and the atmosphere and fields look much more realistic than they used to. Earlier, EA Sports showcased how there would be more wear and tear to the pitch.

While the atmosphere stands out, player modeling could have been better. The difference in models between FIFA 22 and the recent release doesn't come across as very distinctive. Given the work that has gone into other games like the NHL 23, I certainly had higher expectations for this title.

My biggest disappointment is that players like Rodrigo De Paul and Darwin Nunez are yet to have their original faces in the game. I certainly hope that post-launch patches will add genuine and scanned faces of them.


Optimization

Over my 30 hours of gameplay in FIFA 23, I didn't notice any stuttering or optimization issues. While I did use a VRR-enabled monitor, the frames per second were consistent throughout all game modes. That said, there have been some significant concerns regarding the PC platform. FIFA 23 may be available on the Epic Games Store, along with Origin and Steam, but numerous problems affect the title when playing on a computer.

FIFA 23 issues range from Origin not detecting controllers to the anti-cheat not allowing the game to run. Had this review been done after playing the game on PC, it could have also affected the scores. That said, two title updates have solved some of the problems, but not all of them have been fixed.


In conclusion

FIFA 23, to a large extent, offers what's expected of it: a no-nonsense football simulation experience that improves in some vital areas. While EA Sports has ticked some checkboxes and dealt with concerns from last year, much work remains to be done. While optimization might not be an issue, problems related to the anti-cheat and Origin launcher are.

The game modes in FIFA 23 offer a lot of variety to players with different tastes and choices, but more enhancements should be provided for the non-Ultimate Team modes. Coming to the Ultimate Team mode, it's the same experience. But EA Sports has increased the chances of earning more rewards, with the Moments section offering some good resources for beginners.

Overall, FIFA 23 won't surprise you in any way and bears several similarities to past releases in the series. However, the balance in terms of in-game meta feels more relaxed, and the reliance on pace has been reduced. This could be a curse for some, but overall, it will be advantageous for many who might be playing a FIFA title for the first time.


FIFA 23 review score

Scorecard (Image via Sportskeeda)
Scorecard (Image via Sportskeeda)

Reviewed On: PlayStation 5 (Review code provided by EA Sports

Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Windows, Google Stadia

Publisher: EA Sports

Developer: EA Sports

Release Date: September 30, 2022

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Edited by Soumyadyuti Ghosh
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