As someone who’s been playing EA SPORT’s FIFA series since 1998, knowing that FIFA 23 is the last game to feature the “FIFA” branding is bittersweet. I could and probably should do a retrospective on the series. I have a lot of stories I’d love to share. But looking at strictly FIFA 23, this is the least hyped game in the series since FIFA 19. After spending over a dozen hours with the game, I’m left unfulfilled.

Players lining up before a Women's French League match from FIFA 23

They’re still in the game

I was working at EA when women’s national teams were announced for FIFA 15. I was super excited, in large part to the fact that the Women’s World Cup was also being held in Canada. But their inclusion never really materialized into something substantial. They never bothered to implement a proper Women’s World Cup mode and the few matches you played in the Women’s World Cup in The Journey felt tacked on.

So, bringing Women’s Club Football to FIFA 23 is a welcomed treat, but again it feels like a half-effort. You only have two leagues: France and England. There are some decent squads here, including Champions League winners Lyon. Unfortunately, there are some missing squads from leagues not in the game, Wolfsburg and Barcelona. The mode is pretty limited in the sense that you can only play a season. Since there aren’t enough teams available, you can’t do a Manager or Player career mode.

I wish they went after the UEFA Women’s Champions League license and secured the 16 qualified teams there, first. Yes, it’s fewer teams, but I think it would be more appealing. I would be fine if they only secured the teams from the season prior instead of keeping it current. Alternatively, I probably would have maybe waited until next year with EA SPORTS FC and made sure there were more leagues, such as Spain, Germany, and Sweden.

An example of the free-kick mechanic in FIFA 23

I don’t see much with the Hypermotion2 Technology

This is our second year with Hypermotion Tech, but I still don’t really see it being “groundbreaking”. The new animations are fine, but they don’t really stand out. Considering all the computing power, this kind of improvement is expected and not something we would call for a reward.

The most notable thing is the new “power shot” mechanic. When you press both shoulder buttons and then shoot, the camera moves in closer and your shooter puts more power into their shot. Because I feel like keepers are weaker this year, properly aiming can almost always result in a goal. However, the slow-down and zoom-in feel jarring and don’t transition really well. It might have been better to just let the animation take place instead of trying to add the dramatic effect.

Another new thing is that some replays now feature a HyperMotion2 overlay. The replay highlights a certain aspect, like a player’s speed or the shots expected XG. It’s similar to the Next-Gen Stats we get in Madden. If you skip replays, you’ll never really watch these unless you want to see just how exactly that goal could have happened.

On the flip side though, I like how you play dead-ball situations. Free kicks remind me of the systems we had back in FIFA 04-06. It’s not about flicking the right stick to perform the shot. Now, you move the right analog stick to where you want to hit the ball, then adjust the left analog stick to determine the flight path. Then it’s all about hitting the right amount of power and hoping for the best. It’s not exactly new but it is welcomed.

A goalkeeper avoiding the ball in FIFA 23

The passing and goalkeeping (still) feels off

For years, I’ve felt that the passing system in FIFA is flawed. On the higher difficulties, you are punished for attempting too many through passes. They will either go where you don’t want them to, or the power you put on the pass is never correct. Meanwhile, the AI will consistently complete 85% or more of its passes, and attempt significantly more.

As for keepers, they play like they are afraid of the ball. I’ve seen the keeper avoid trying to reach for the ball, almost as if he’s afraid the ball might break his wrists. Every post-match stats page shows at least one team having an absurd XG (Expected Goals) tally. It doesn’t make sense, and it just takes you out of the immersion.

Those two factors are why I feel Hypermotion Tech isn’t where it could and should be. I’m guessing fine-tuning the settings might improve the gameplay. Unfortunately, it shouldn’t require you to twist imaginary knobs to get the game to feel more authentic.

An example of the Moments menu in FIFA Ultimate Team in FIFA 23

Moments in Ultimate Team are Fun

One of the new features in FIFA Ultimate Team is the much-needed Moments mode that has been in Madden Ultimate Team for years. These are short little sessions where you need to complete an objective within a set time frame. Requirements can be as easy as passing the ball X times to complicated ones such as crossing the ball and scoring with a header while controlling a midfielder.

These are nice because they typically only take a few minutes to complete a challenge. You might have to do them a few times to pass them, but they are much more enjoyable in comparison to Squad Battles. There is also a ton to complete, with many more added each week.

I also like the reward structure so far. There are your standard gold and gold premium packs to redeem, but it also appears like we’ll get some meaningful reward packs each season. These can’t be redeemed more than once, but they are all reasonably achievable. Plus, these reward packs are tradable, which is what most UT users want with their rewards.

An example of an opponent's squad and chemistry in FUT 23

Chemistry changes are odd while Position Modifiers were much needed

The new chemistry system is interesting, but also a tad complicated until you get used to it. Past Ultimate Team modes, the chemistry system was a numerical value up to 100 where certain factors got a player to have max chem. This included playing in the correct position as their item stated and the players they were linked with (being from the same country and/or league and/or club).

In FUT23, players can earn up to three chemistry points based on playing with others from the same country, league, or club. So, if you have three or more Juventus players on your squad, they’ll each get three points because they have that strong connection. However, if you have a squad that features two players from the same country but from two different leagues, then you won’t get max chem. For them to get more, they’ll need to have another player on the squad that can help strengthen the link.

Meanwhile, they’ve removed the old position modifier items and introduced a simple position change one. In the past, if you wanted to move your LM to be an LW, you needed to obtain the LM>LW modifier. Now, there is just a generic Position Modifier. It can be used to change a player’s position, as long as it’s one they actually play.

A player can only change to a different position if they are listed as having a secondary or tertiary possible position. Now, you can’t take a striker and convert them into a CDM. If they can only play LW, ST, and CAM, then you can only use the modifier in those three places. This is a welcomed addition that should prevent unexplainable situations where someone has a fast striker playing in the CM or CDM position.

An example of a career match moment in FIFA 23

Actually enjoying Career Mode

Even with the new Moments and Chemistry changes, I’m not feeling Ultimate Team. I don’t have the urge to jump in, play, and grow my squad. So much so, I’ve shifted to playing Career Mode more this year than in the past. This time around, I’m trying to take AFC Richmond from the Championship to the Premier League with Ted Lasso making it happen.

Yup, I’m using a fake club and a fake manager from a popular “TV” program and seeing what I can do. This isn’t anything groundbreaking. You could create fake teams and managers in the past. This year though, they’ve included more real managers from across the world for you to play as.

Outside that, the only other new feature I could tell is the ability to play highlighted moments for your matches. So, during the course of a match, you will periodically jump into a situation. It’s pretty limited from what I can gather. I’ve only been able to do crossing scenarios, counterattacks, dead ball situations (penalties and some free kicks), and solo runs, either as the offense or the defense. If you’re the offense, the moment you lose the ball the play ends. On defense, the moment you win the ball, it ends.

I like that it’s a quick way to play, but the moments often feel weird. One time, I was given a counterattack that began with my attacking player facing backward. By the time I’d turned around, the defense managed to get back into position, effectively ending the counterattack. It feels like this needs a bit more fine-tuning, otherwise, it’s a welcomed addition.

The computer celebrating a goal although being down by seven

It’s the little things that bother me

With how much EA like to boast about authenticity and the match day experience, there are aspects I still don’t know why they haven’t addressed. There are two things in particular: shadows and celebrations. Both of them need addressing immediately.

Regarding shadows, I blame the old Frostbite engine this game is still built on. You can play an afternoon game and the shadows in the stadium will not change. Considering 90+ minutes is a lot of time, the sun should move to cause a change in the shadows it casts. In some stadiums, if it’s sunny, you can actually have a hard time seeing certain things on the pitch. It can be a benefit or a crutch depending on how you’re playing.

As for celebrations, I like how they added dramatic celebrations when you score last-minute winners or tie goals. But why are players celebrating when their team is down two or more goals? I will play a game that I am comfortably winning only to see the losing team score and celebrate like they’re leading. In a real match, players don’t celebrate like that. If I’m leading by three or more, there should be no celebration. Just an acknowledgment and let’s get the game restarted.

A replay showing a player about to score a goal

Let’s see how they handle the World Cup(s)

Between now and next August, we will have two World Cups, the men’s in November and December and the women’s in July and August. At launch, FIFA 23 has nothing for either, but we’ve been promised content is coming for both. I’m eager to see what that entails. I’m guessing for the men, it will be a FUT update and a basic tournament. This is what was done for World Cup 2018. For the women, it will probably only get a tournament mode featuring all the participating countries.

Right now, there is a lack of national teams for both tournaments. Also, none of the stadiums are in the game, so I’m a little worried about how much extra content they’ll be able to stuff into FIFA 23. I need a proper World Cup mode, so I can help both Serbia and Canada win in Qatar. Then, help Canada win in Australia next July.

I really miss the dedicated World Cup games. We’ll never get those unless FIFA recruits a developer to make them for 2026 and beyond. From a development standpoint, it doesn’t make sense for EA to recruit a team for a once every four years game. On the other hand, the World Cup is often more approachable for the casual sports fan who might just want to win one of the most recognizable trophies in the world.

A close-up of Ted Lasso in FIFA 23's Career Mode

That’s all for now

I’ve burned out on Ultimate Team. After spending hundreds of hours in the mode across FIFA 21 and 22, I require something new and different. I’m enjoying career mode, but I’m not in any sort of urgency to play it. For me, I can lay off FIFA 23 for now until the Men’s World Cup update happens within the next two months. As for this being the last EA SPORTS game to have FIFA in its title, I’ll miss it. Whatever EA SPORTS FC is, I hope it can breathe some new life into the sport I love so much.