FIFA 23 Review: Barely Even Trying

You don’t have to care when you’re the monopoly.

FIFA 23 Review: Barely Even Trying

Photo Credit: EA

Manchester City's Chloe Kelly in FIFA 23

Highlights
  • FIFA 23 release date is September 30 worldwide
  • Available on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X
  • FIFA 23 India price starts at Rs. 3,499 on PC

FIFA 23 — out now worldwide — is the last football game from EA Sports to bear the FIFA moniker. With the global footballing body demanding a pretty penny for renewing the licence, Electronic Arts has decided to tear up the contract altogether. But as it was going to expire in late 2022, around the time of the Qatar World Cup and in the middle of FIFA 23's run, EA and FIFA have had the common sense to extend it for several more months. This ensures that the new (and last) FIFA game won't be rebranded midway through the season to the awkwardly and laughable choice of “EA Sports FC”. That's still set to happen next year, starting with FIFA 24 — I mean, EA Sports FC 24 — so be prepared for the memes to follow. For now, there's calm and consistency.

FIFA 23 review: graphics

New-gen is also pulling away from previous-gen when it comes to visuals. While the graphics are basically the same as FIFA 22 on PS4 and Xbox One, there's more detail in the pitch on FIFA 23 with PS5 and Series S/X in comparison to FIFA 22 on the same platforms. That said, the daylight grass feels over-sharpened — almost as if the texture and sharpness have been turned up to 11.

FIFA 23 review: gameplay — powering across generations

And not just in the title — there's consistency on the pitch as well. (I played FIFA 23 on a PS5 and an Xbox One X.) There's very minimal difference between FIFA 22 and FIFA 23, as long as you're comparing on the same platform generation: PS4 + Xbox One, and PS5 + Xbox Series S/X. Unless you're on PC, in which case EA has upgraded you (after ignoring PC gamers last year). While FIFA 22 PC was clubbed with PS4 and Xbox One, FIFA 23 PC is now on par with PS5 and Series S/X.

The differences from previous to new-gen are more pronounced though. Thanks to HyperMotion 2, “machine learning”, advanced match capture, and a bigger pitch size, the new-gen FIFA 23 has pulled away even further from previous-gen FIFA 23. The AI in particular defends better on new-gen, fast-paced players don't feel as overpowered, and the ball moves across the surface and in the air in a more believable manner.

Everything You Need to Know About FIFA 23

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Real Madrid's Vinícius Júnior in FIFA 23
Photo Credit: EA

That said, there's consistency in play — on both the new and previous generation — even when it's undesired. On FIFA 23 just as in FIFA 22, high overall value players, from Real Madrid's Luka Modrić to Paris Saint-Germain's Kheira Hamraoui, can easily deposit long shots in the top corner. These include breath-taking outside of the boot flicks. Others of their ilk routinely spin off impossible curlers, which swerve and dazzle through the air, lobbing the goalkeeper in mind-boggling fashions, before rippling the back of the net.

If that wasn't enough, FIFA 23 introduces a new risk-and-reward shooting system called Power Shot. Taking over the mechanic of Low Driven Shot — that's LB + RB + B on Xbox, and L1 + R1 + O on PlayStation — Power Shot does exactly what you think. To help ensure this doesn't become another overpowered feature, players need more time to fire up a Power Shot. (FIFA 23 ratchets up the drama by zooming in and slowing the game down as a Power Shot is activated. It's all very arcade-y, almost as if I'm playing some cartoonish football game.) This in turn gives defenders more time to position and block it. When you trigger it correctly and manage to get it out, Power Shots do deliver — zooming past keepers, or at least, getting rebounds that you may not have otherwise gotten.

FIFA 23 review: gameplay — set-pieces

If some of those rebounds cross the goal line and go out for a corner, you'll be greeted with the rewritten setup that FIFA 23 brings. EA Sports is moving from the match camera angle into a third-person view, taking us back to the days of FIFA 2005. You move the left stick to decide where the ball will go, with a trajectory line giving you a preview of the first few yards. The right stick decides what part of the ball the player will strike, which controls curl, elevation, and kick style. It's not the most intuitive of setups, more so when you've spent years with the older one. I'm still getting a hang of the direction control several hours in, and I wager it'll be a while before I master it.

FIFA 23 Gameplay Trailer Reveals HyperMotion 2, Women Clubs, and More

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Barcelona's Ansu Fati taking a corner in FIFA 23
Photo Credit: EA. Screenshot by Akhil Arora/Gadgets 360

Speaking of set pieces, free kicks and penalties have also been revamped on FIFA 23. Free kicks behave more or less like the new corners. From a defending perspective, you can now have one of your players lie down behind the wall.

With penalties, all the old stuff is gone. You don't need to hold the left stick anymore, and you can't make use of Timed Finishing either. This is a bit annoying, if I'm being honest. EA tells you to learn a new mechanic, only to pull it a couple of years later. Aiming penalties on FIFA 23 simply requires you to move your left stick in the direction — and then let it be. You can't see where it's going, but don't worry, EA's got you covered there. What you need to worry about is the new Composure Ring that encircles the ball. If you press shoot when it's smallest, you've got a win. Hit the button when it's largest, too bad.

FIFA 23 review: gameplay — defending

Of course, getting a penalty in the first place is the challenge. FIFA 23 allows AI and players to be more aggressive than feels natural. The complaints I had with FIFA 22 still stand. Obvious fouls are not given, more so off the ball. And a new tackling mechanic could make matters worse. FIFA 23 is introducing Hard Slide Tackles — R1/RB + O — that are designed for “urgent situations” where you don't care about keeping the ball in play. I've already been in situations where I've gotten away with a hard tackle from behind with no yellow card, and I'm sure this mechanic will break in FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) once the 95+ cards enter the fray.

For what it's worth, sliding tackles are a rare occurrence in FIFA anyway, more so in the higher levels of competitive modes. Crowding, positioning, and standing tackles usually do the job. And EA has now taught the AI too. On FIFA 23, at least on new-gen, the AI does a better job at taking away your passing options, while simultaneously encircling the player on the ball. It's quite effective, and I found it harder to manoeuvre in tight spaces on FIFA 23 versus FIFA 22.

Check Out the Official Soundtrack for FIFA 23, Out Now on Spotify

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Manchester City's Chloe Kelly tackles Chelsea's Sam Kerr in FIFA 23
Photo Credit: EA

FIFA 23 is giving players another tool to help as well: Partial Team Press (double tap and hold R1/RB). While the Team Press mechanic — hidden away in the in-match D-Pad menu — has been neutered over the years, it's still an overly aggressive choice. With Partial Team Press, EA Sports is hoping to provide an alternative. Partial Team Press sends two of your players to closely mark the opponent's passing options. It's not crowding the player on the ball, but rather making it difficult to keep possession. The problem here is that you can't use Teammate Contain (hold R1/RB) in conjunction with Partial Team Press, unlike with Teammate Contain and Team Press.

On FIFA 23, AI defenders are also more proactive in cutting off air through balls. They track opponents better than they did on FIFA 22, which means it's now tougher to send attackers romping behind defenders. (It's even tougher in competitive modes, where semi-assisted lobbed through passes is the new mandatory setting.) Even with Manchester City's 80 defensive depth value, I didn't face many 1-on-1 situations with the attacker clear on goal.

FIFA 23 review: cross-play

The biggest change to FIFA 23 off the pitch is the — very, very belated — introduction of cross-platform play. That means matchmaking can now happen across PC, Stadia, Xbox, and PlayStation. It's great news, but it's still depressingly limited. The big obstacle is that FIFA 23 cross-play is restricted to 1v1 modes only. That's funny, given how EA makes so much about football being for everyone. If you are trying to be inclusive, maybe don't ignore everyone who has a friend.

In FIFA 23, friends can only play against each other in Online Friendlies and FUT Play a Friend. That means there's just one casual way to play with your friends. Volta cross-play? No. Champions League cross-play? No. House Rules? That would be a no as well. Being in the same room as your friends allows you to play in a thousand different ways — be it FUT, Kick-Off, Career, Seasons, or Tournaments — but if you're in different places, FIFA 23 has barely anything to offer.

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Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappé in FIFA 23
Photo Credit: EA

In fact, because of that stupid 1v1 rule, none of FIFA 23's co-op modes support cross-play. That includes Online Co-Op Seasons, and anything to do with Co-Op in FUT including Squad Battles. That's bizarre. If EA had to limit cross-play to two players (1v1 = 2), why couldn't it allow us to engage in Squad Battles (2vAI = 2). Meanwhile, Konami may not know how to make a football game anymore, but its eFootball — erstwhile Pro Evolution Soccer — offers cross-play as it should be.

For what it's worth, cross-play in FIFA 23 was largely a breeze when and where it worked. We did have issues with party chat during one session (it worked fine for me, but not for my friend), and one match died on us in between (“you are no longer synced to online match”, it said).

But if the point of including cross-play is to broaden matchmaking and allow friends across platforms to play with one another, then FIFA 23 is massively failing on one of those accounts. And it doesn't score full points on the other either. Because FIFA is two games now — one for previous generation (PS4 and Xbox One), and another for PC, Stadia, and the new generation (PS5 and Series S/X) — matchmaking is limited across generations. A PS4 player cannot be matched with one on PS5.

EA is billing FIFA 23 as the first FIFA with cross-play — not only is that a lie, but I would also put a huge asterisk next to that.

FIFA 23 review: women's leagues, and Ted Lasso

Seven years on from the introduction of women football players, FIFA 23 finally gives us women's leagues. That said, though there's only two right now: the English and French premier divisions. But more annoyingly, EA refuses to put women's teams and players on par with men's. For one, women's teams can't play men's teams in any of the game modes. I understand their exclusion in competitive modes, but what's stopping EA from allowing them in Kick-Off and Online Friendlies?

I would argue that women's teams and players should be allowed everywhere. Let them inside FUT, let them play Champions League, let them be in Career mode. Why not? Two leagues are enough for Career, I'll be happy. A Women's Champions League already exists, so get out of here. And FUT is anyway the most ridiculous thing to exist. If players from the Saudi Pro League can get nonsensical 90+ rated Team of the Season cards in FUT, then there shouldn't be any talk of women's players upsetting the “balance”.

Honestly, it doesn't matter. I mean, this is FIFA — when did EA start caring so much about realism anyway?

Watch the Trailer for Ted Lasso's Arrival in FIFA 23

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Jason Sudeikis as Ted Lasso in FIFA 23
Photo Credit: EA

After all, this is the same game that's introducing Marvel-themed heroes, and an entirely fictional men's team in AFC Richmond. In an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the Emmy-winning Apple TV+ comedy series Ted Lasso, FIFA 23 brings Jason Sudeikis' moustachioed coach and his players — from Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) to Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), and from Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh) to Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernández). You can take AFC Richmond and push them into any league in Career mode, or have Ted Lasso as the manager of your favourite club. It's bonkers, and I welcome it.

If non-existent managers and footballers can play in real-life men's leagues in FIFA 23, why can't actual women's teams go up against them? EA, there are no excuses.

FIFA 23 review: Career, FUT, Volta, and Pro Clubs

Speaking of Ted Lasso in Career mode, the biggest introduction to Manager and Player Career on FIFA 23 is also bonkers. In a bid to give you another tool to progress through seasons quicker — it's fun to play every game early on, but that lustre fades as you push deeper in — EA has concocted Playable Highlights. This turns the 90-minute match into bite-sized moments, like a solo run, counter-attack, defending a corner, or taking a long-range free kick.

EA claims these are calculated based on the strengths and weaknesses of the two teams in question. But in my time on FIFA 23, be it with Premier League winners Manchester City or the middling Eredivisie club RKC Waalwijk, I saw the same situations occur over and over. No matter what team you face or what team you're playing with, there's always one solo run, one counter-attack, one corner, and one free kick. That makes no sense — who's going to factor in the varying tactics of the teams involved?

Playable Highlights might make big matches easier, especially if you're playing with a small team. But there's no football left in it anymore. As much as I hate the broken Quick Sim — it doesn't take team form, or their respective strengths and weaknesses into play — I'll take my chances with it. Because Playable Highlights is the biggest joke I've seen in FIFA for years.

New FIFA 23 Trailer Offers a Deep Dive Into Career Mode

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A Playable Highlight example in FIFA 23 Manager Career
Photo Credit: EA. Screenshot by Akhil Arora/Gadgets 360

FIFA 23 bugs

I ran into two bugs while playing FUT Moments on FIFA 23. On one occasion, the pre-match flag displays and pitch coverings were still visible after kick-off until I scored a goal. In another case, a FUT Moment asked for a flair goal, but refused to recognise goals scored with rabonas, bicycle kicks, or outside of the boot shots. Is EA okay?

Speaking of FIFA 23 bugs, after finishing a match in Pro Clubs, I couldn't get back to the lobby and had to force quit the game.

Hilarious bite-sized action is coming to Ultimate Team too in FIFA 23. Dubbed FUT Moments, the new single-player experience offers a variety of scenarios and challenges. That could be doing a trick, pulling off a cross, or scoring with a flair shot. Some are time-limited “journeys”, taking you through the careers of cover star Kylian Mbappé, or Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp. It's a bit like the real-life-inspired scenarios in 2006 FIFA World Cup the game.

But there are three problems here. One, most of the FUT Moments take longer to set up than complete. Every time you complete one, you're thrown back out to the FUT Moments menu. EA would have done better to just throw us into the next one. Two, unlike the 2006 game where you were handed a squad to play with, FUT Moments makes use of your FUT squad. Some FUT Moments need specific formations or players, which means you'll need to spend coins to play them.

FIFA 23 FUT currencies

Ultimate Team in FIFA 23 carries over two in-game currencies. “Coins” can be earned by playing, and can be spent to buy packs, or players from the transfer market. “FUT Points” can be bought with real-life money — going from Rs. 89 all the way up to Rs. 5,999 — and can be used to buy packs from the in-game store. “Stars” is now a third FUT currency, which can be earned by playing FUT Moments.

And three, FUT Moments introduces a new currency, Stars, that can help unlock rewards and packs. From an early glance, the demands are high. You need a lot of Stars to unlock some measly packs that are undefined lootboxes. FUT Moments feels like a lot of grind for very little reward, which is essentially the definition of FUT.

FIFA 23 review: verdict

Of course, the biggest problem is that EA Sports doesn't really care about any game mode except the moneymaking FUT. Volta has been slowly trimmed over the years — the story mode first dropped off, then the real-world players, and now even Volta Battles is gone on FIFA 23. With Volta left with just one game mode now, its progression is being merged with Pro Clubs now. On surface, that seems like a good thing, as FIFA 23 players won't need to invest double the time. But it's also a sign of EA's neglect.

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Manchester City's Jack Grealish in FIFA 23
Photo Credit: EA

Cross-play could have the best thing in ages to happen to the 11v11 Pro Clubs — I've already been in situations where I can't play FIFA 23 with my PC and PlayStation friends at the same time — but sadly, we're stuck with a game and a developer that refuses to pour resources where they are needed. Instead, everything is funnelled into FUT. EA's ignorance of all other modes also results in a lack of players in both Volta and Pro Clubs — at least in the early-access days — with players ending up where attention is being paid.

But the thing is, EA doesn't have to care because there's no competition. eFootball remains in a terrible state despite a yearly update. Other pretenders have no concrete timeline for release, and no track record either. And though it's getting its brand name back, FIFA the footballing body is years away from producing a console-quality football game — it hasn't even made a commitment so far.

EA Sports barely has to try in this kind of environment. In a monopoly, you are the default choice. That's great for FIFA 23, but football fans are paying the price.

Pros:

  • Better, more equipped AI (new-gen only)
  • Cross-platform play
  • PC on par with new-gen
  • Volta, Pro Clubs progression merged
  • Allows five substitutions

Cons:

  • Impossible long shots, curlers
  • Cross-play is frustratingly limited
  • Women's teams can't play men's
  • No women players in FUT
  • FUT pay-to-win behaviour ignored
  • Power Shot feels arcade-y
  • New corners, penalties unintuitive
  • FUT Moments brings third FUT currency
  • Playable Highlights are a joke
  • Five substitutions not allowed in Online Friendlies

Rating (out of 10): 6

FIFA 23 released Friday, September 30 on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Stadia, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X.

Pricing starts at Rs. 3,499 on Steam, EA Store, and Epic Games Store for PC, Rs. 3,999 on PS4 and Xbox One, and Rs. 4,499 on PS5 and Series S/X.

EA Play members get 10 percent off the sticker price. You can also get FIFA 23 on PC with the EA Play Pro subscription that costs Rs. 999 a month or Rs. 6,499 a year.


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  • REVIEW
  • KEY SPECS
  • NEWS
  • Good
  • Better, more equipped AI (new-gen only)
  • Cross-platform play
  • PC on par with new-gen
  • Volta, Pro Clubs progression merged
  • Allows five substitutions
  • Bad
  • Impossible long shots, curlers
  • Cross-play is frustratingly limited
  • Women?s teams can?t play men?s
  • No women players in FUT
  • FUT pay-to-win behaviour ignored
  • Power Shot feels arcade-y
  • New corners, penalties unintuitive
  • FUT Moments brings third FUT currency
  • Playable Highlights are a joke
  • Five substitutions not allowed in Online Friendlies
Genre Sports
Platform Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (PS4), PlayStation 5 (PS5), Stadia, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC: Windows
Modes Single-player
Series FIFA
PEGI Rating 3+
Comments

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Akhil Arora
Akhil Arora covers entertainment for Gadgets 360, interviewing stars such as Christian Bale and Anurag Kashyap, covering series premieres, product and service launches across the globe, and looking at American blockbusters and Indian dramas from a global socio-political and feminist perspective. As a Rotten Tomatoes-certified film critic, Akhil has reviewed over 150 movies and TV shows in over half a decade at Gadgets 360. When he is not completely caught up with new film and TV releases, Akhil ...More
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