For the last time ever, we provide our cutting insight into EA Sports FIFA franchise, with what is the 23rd and final instalment. OK, “cutting insight” may be giving a little more credit than we deserve, but if you want to know what we think then here goes…

The FIFA franchise from EA Sports has been where it’s at since most were old enough to hold a controller, from those classic diagonal-sweep versions of the 90s right up to today’s next generation uber-real gaming experiences. But with FIFA 23 comes the end. The end of it being in the game, and by it, we of course mean EA Sports, following the official announcement that the game developer will no longer be producing their iconic football franchise under the governing body’s banner. Instead they will move forward under a new EA SPORTS FC brand in 2023. And so it is with something of a heavy heart that we cast our critical eye over FIFA 23, the last version of a truly iconic series.

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Right, enough with the nostalgia and feeling sorry for ourselves, let’s get down to brass tacks: you’re all going to buy FIFA 23 no matter what we say, but we’re going to tell you what we think anyway. Whether you read and value our opinion is on you, but here goes. 

FIFA 23 is a solid end to a solid franchise. By that we mean that you get pretty much what you’d expect, and that’s superb updated game play, a whole host of modes to keep you entertained for hours, days, weeks, months (you get the gist). So, let’s take a look at the “Cutting-edge HyperMotion technology”, which really comes into its own here, making FIFA 23 feel more realistic than ever. 

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To start with, FIFA 23 has changed to give us a slower gameplay, where the player's movement is more important and takes away weight from the use of skills. The new sprint feature, AcceleRATE, gives a more believable adjustment to sprinting and pace. Players are sorted into one of three categories: explosive, lengthy, or controlled. Explosive players are quick off the mark and can gain pace almost immediately, whereas lengthy players take time to accelerate but reach impressive top speeds. Controlled players are a healthy balance between the two.

Pace is obviously an essential criteria in FIFA gameplay, especially in FIFA Ultimate Team, where it can be the deciding factor as to whether to keep hold of a new player or not. FIFA 23 takes a more real-world football approach to how different players adjust their pace, and that’s a whole new angle, bringing an advantage in terms of variety of play. 

Runs from out wide on the halfway line towards the opposition goal feel longer than in tech past, and due to acceleration changes, defenders not blessed with pace can cope with speedy forwards, while slower attacking midfielders can influence the game more with their agility on the ball. It all feels more balanced from a speed point of view.

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Goalkeepers seem more capable, but can now be deceived by shooting early, or can have their vision obscured by other players. It makes them feel like a more active part of any match, rather than just an AI-controlled assist.

The new power shot feature is extremely effective, although difficult to execute as it takes a bit of time to build up. We have to say that having the camera zoom in during the animation is not for us, offering an unnecessary distraction, taking you out of the action briefly.

You’re also going to find short passing a bit trickier than before, with more consideration needing to be given to a player’s body position and first touch. It can lead to some gaffs at the back when trying to clear the lines, playing into higher pressure from opponents, a la Klopp’s Geggenpressing style, although players often collide and the ball will quickly change direction, something we hope will get smoothed out by through the dev team’s fine-tuning tools.

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On to some of the game modes then, starting with Career Mode. Player Career is reminiscent of MyCareer mode in NBA 2K (no bad thing) with more backstory, roleplaying, and social media integration.

Player Personality is a new feature that lets you customise your player’s attributes through their own character type. Attributes are assigned through Maverick, Virtuoso, and Heartbeat actions. A Maverick, for example, might take the game by the scruff of the neck and go for goal, while a Heartbeat is more likely to find the pass to set up a teammate. It ties in with off-off-pitch action and decisions made. A nice progression from last year.

Manager mode allows you to either become a recognised manager or create one, and each league has numerous face-scanned managers ready to choose from.

Making transfers has seen the addition of a transfer analyst, giving the experience a realistic touch. 

Both player and manager Career modes now offer “Playable Highlights”, which let you play small vignettes of a full match. It’s a huge time-saver that still lets you have an impact on the game when you don’t want to play through an entire match. 

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On to Ultimate Team, and the chemistry will allow you to create more and more varied teams than ever before. But there are draw backs, namely in the three advanced Squad Building Challenges, which have been given un-tradable rewards this year, meaning you can’t earn in-game currency by selling the players you get. It’ll be an aggravating step backwards for many who utilised this, as the game encourages players to buy more FIFA points.

In conclusion, FIFA 23 is a solid way for EA Sports to sign off on the franchise as they gear up for EA SPORTS FC. If they can carry what works from FIFA 23 across, while ironing out the creases, then it should be something to look forward to. Meanwhile, FIFA will be seeking a new developer, so the next time we see a game with that title, it will be a very different beast indeed.

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FIFA 23 will be available to purchase on 30 September.