FIFA 23 REVIEW: This is the closest it gets to playing the beautiful game

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The FIFA franchise is arguably the most popular sports video game series on the planet – but it’s largely been a victim of its own success.

This is a system seller – many people buy a console just to play FIFA – so the pressure to produce a quality title each year is massive. Since it’s inception in 1993, the question of how developers EA Sports can continue to top itself is its biggest challenge. This year with FIFA 23, it’s more of the same – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

So how do you judge a FIFA game? It depends what kind of player you are. Are you a career mode addict? Are you obsessed with building your dream squad on Ultimate Team? Or do you just love playing your mates on Kick-Off and Seasons? The chances are, fans of Fifa will find something to enjoy in this finely tuned and evolved iteration of the biggest football game.

FIFA 23 is here and while it doesn't reinvent the wheel, evolved motion capture technology and small updates provide a swift and satisfying gameplay experience

FIFA 23 is here and while it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, evolved motion capture technology and small updates provide a swift and satisfying gameplay experience 

WHEELS IN HYPERMOTION 

Every year fans are looking out for new features that their hard-earned money (£70 for digital edition on a PS5 and Xbox and £54 for physical copy) will get them – but on that front there’s not a lot of new content here. Instead, developers EA have tweaked the formula to make realism take centre stage. 

Their new game engine HyperMotion2 is the talk of the town this time around. We already had HyperMotion last year – which used motion capture to mimic the movement and behaviours of players – and this goes a step further, adding a new layer of authenticity to the game with more realistic dribbling, turns, flicks and tricks. 

You certainly notice this when taking touches as you weave your way in and out of tackles in tight areas, especially when controlling flair players like Neymar, Vinicius Jr and Kylian Mbappe. 

Fans will certainly notice the game's HyperMotion2 engine - which learns from players' real life behaviours - when controlling flair players like Kylian Mbappe

Fans will certainly notice the game’s HyperMotion2 engine – which learns from players’ real life behaviours – when controlling flair players like Kylian Mbappe 

You'll be able to perform more flicks, tricks and skills than ever and notice subtle details in player movements

You’ll be able to perform more flicks, tricks and skills than ever and notice subtle details in player movements 

Most big name stars have their unique play styles stamped on the game and it enables you to do more skill moves and showboating than ever before.

The new realistic behaviours also bring an authentic experience while defending. Your tackles will be much meatier and aggressive, you’ll feel a lot of shirt-pulling and the timing of your challenges is pivotal – just like in real life. 

The new HyperMotion also includes a new instant replay with detailed stats about how far out your goal was, how fast the ball was travelling and the xG for that situation.

Facial animations are top notch… for the most part. 

Arsenal fans will have rightly been outraged this week after seeing Mikel Arteta’s design looked absolutely nothing like him. There’s a handful in the game that clearly haven’t had much TLC – which is surprising given most stars are scanned into the system.

Mikel Arteta on FIFA 23 looks nothing like the Arsenal manager

Arsenal fans have been left baffled with the attempt to recreate the Spaniard on the video game

Facial animations look impressive… for the most part – though Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta looks nothing like the version EA have created for him (left)

SET PIECE OVERHAUL 

Another big change you’ll notice is that dead balls have been given a makeover.

In the last few years, a lot of players have become increasingly frustrated with set pieces – and almost given up on them entirely – because they were just too complicated and too difficult to pull off. In FIFA 22 and a few editions beforehand, you had to use your reticle to place where you wanted the ball with one analog stick, and with the other decide what kind of shot you wanted.

Now, all of that is gone. Now, a simplified system allows you to line up your set piece with a field of vision and an arrow showing you what direction the ball is set to travel in. To change this, you only need to decide where you want to hit the ball – and it will tell you what kind of shot you’re about to take. 

It might be a knuckle ball, it might be a right foot curler, it might be a low shot. There are so many possibilities that come with this – which applies to corners too – and it made me want to spent a lot of time in the practice arena with Cristiano Ronaldo trying out various scenarios. 

One including me leaving De Gea absolutely gazumped as I smashed in an outrageous fizzing, dipping shot that moved in about three different directions after selecting an outside of the foot shot. It’s safe to say the ball physics on this are impressive.

The game - which introduces women's club football for the first time - has also tweaked set pieces to allow a simpler and more effective way to take free kicks and corners

The game – which introduces women’s club football for the first time – has also tweaked set pieces to allow a simpler and more effective way to take free kicks and corners

MANAGE YOUR MANAGER 

The beloved career mode has been in need of a revamp from the ground up for some time. Over the last few years, Fifa has been drip feeding updates into it – but none have truly revolutionised it and given fans the shot in the arm they desire. 

We’ve had the transfers overhauled into quite a complex system, animations for transfer talks introduced and the ability to ‘sim’ your games like Football Manager introduced. Still, career mode continues to feel stale and is nothing like the joy we got out of the original story mode The Journey from FIFA 17.

This year it’s another small update for career mode – but they’re both welcome at least. First, the highly requested ability to take control of any manager and put him into any club. 

Career mode allows you to take control of a real life manager - meaning you can take Pep Guardiola (second left) and place him in charge of Barnsley if you want to

Career mode allows you to take control of a real life manager – meaning you can take Pep Guardiola (second left) and place him in charge of Barnsley if you want to

I had a lot of fun with this by briefly exploring the hilarious fantasy of having Pep Guardiola manage Barnsley, and you could even take Ted Lasso – scanned into the game from the popular Apple TV+ show – to Manchester United if you wanted. His fictional side AFC Richmond are also playable in the game – and for the first time, women’s club football is introduced if you wanted to control Emma Haynes’ Chelsea and star player Sam Kerr.

I eventually opted to cash in on Newcastle’s billions under their new owners and decided to bring in Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone – embarking on a heavy outlay to sprinkle the squad with quality. 

In came the likes of Luke Shaw, Lyon’s Houssem Aouar and Milan Skriniar, with each transfer given a rating judged by how much value for money you got or how your performed in negotiations. I have to say, I was left slightly baffled when my relative bargain of £40million for Barcelona sensation Gavi was given a big fat F.

Ted Lasso - the fictional American manager from the hit Apple TV+ show of the same name - has also been scanned in for FIFA 23

Ted Lasso – the fictional American manager from the hit Apple TV+ show of the same name – has also been scanned in for FIFA 23

Career mode also lets you play 'highlights' of games, plunging you into various attacking scenarios to make matches more exciting

Career mode also lets you play ‘highlights’ of games, plunging you into various attacking scenarios to make matches more exciting

Everything else on career mode is pretty much the same as last year. The ability to handle and play out training sessions, hiring and allocating your team of scouts, managing finances and speaking to unhappy players. 

There is one new feature that isn’t a game changer, but certainly spices things up a bit. Recently you’ve been allowed to sim games and ‘jump in’ when you want – now you can choose to just ‘play highlights’. This throws you into various scenarios – it might be a counter attack, a chance to cross or a 1 v 1- which make the game go much faster for those of us who get fatigued playing 45 matches across a season. 

For me, this certainly whetted my appetite to play Forest Green in the Carabao Cup with my reserves when it only took me four minutes and meant that every moment was exciting. It also makes games much more tense. You might only have three or four chances to make an impact, so each one is crucial.

ULTIMATE TEAM IS STILL A HIT

If FIFA stopped making their traditional games and just rolled out Ultimate Team, they would probably be just as many players. That’s how successful it has been, and needless to say EA haven’t messed with it too much this year. 

Nothing quite beats the joy of starting from scratch on FUT and building a squad of superstars, customising your stadium, kit, pitch line paint and style of grass – even what song plays when you score.

Ultimate Team is as popular as ever but has overhauled its 'chemistry' feature, making it much easier to assemble your team of superstars

Ultimate Team is as popular as ever but has overhauled its ‘chemistry’ feature, making it much easier to assemble your team of superstars

The only iteration for this edition relates to chemistry – which is quite significant for veterans of Ultimate Team. In previous years, you couldn’t just assemble a team of Messi, Ronaldo, Pogba, De Bruyne and Benzema – you needed to have enough players who either played at the same club, league or nation otherwise your team would suffer. 

It’s the same story here – but the formula has been tweaked. Normally you need to have those players lined up next to each other to link them – but now the game accounts for the amount of players in your team who have good chemistry. 

You could have three players from one club in three different positions and as long as the rest of your team have good chemistry, your rating shouldn’t be affected too much. You’re given a total out of 33 and a useful key tells you how close you are to going up a grade. In addition, each player on your lineup will have a star rating out of three to determine how well aligned they are in your team.

Make no mistake, this is the most authentic football simulation and the best one out there

Make no mistake, this is the most authentic football simulation and the best one out there

VERDICT

Is FIFA a game changer this year? It’s not going to blow up any trees and doesn’t add a huge amount of new features, but there’s enough additions to existing modes that will keep players entertained. 

The authenticity – with the ability to play in licensed competitions like the Premier League, Champions League and World Cup to follow later this year – is unmatched.

Player technique, movements, and animations are more realistic than ever and little tweaks to the match-day experience keep things fresh and make this feel like a step up from FIFA 22. Purely judging it on the minute-to-minute gameplay, this is the best football simulation out there.

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