FIFA 23 Review: The Great and the Dirty at the End of the Era

YOU may be glad you didn’t know but EA just killed FIFA, its golden goose, with little fanfare. Unable to reach an agreement with football managers over the rights to the name, EA forfeited the rights to the FIFA name.

IFA 23 is the final entry in the blockbuster franchise that began three decades ago. It has represented all that is great about football while at the same time becoming a grubbier with each passing year, its FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) mode has prospered through a pay-to-win card pack mechanism.

Of course, EA won’t let this cash cow die, and this game – or something like it – will return next year under the new EA Sports FC rebrand. Meanwhile, the organization FIFA claims rather ridiculously that they will fill the void with a game of their own creation. Good luck with that. Without a doubt, a slightly altered Pro Evo Soccer – himself going through a recent crisis of confidence – is the most likely outcome.

But back to FIFA 23. Like almost all installments of this annual franchise, the changes range from inconsequential to controversial to subtle but welcome.

Looking at the front of the box, you’ll notice Chelsea forward Sam Kerr maneuvering her way alongside Kylian Mbappé, signaling that EA is finally admitting female players. You only get to play as the stars of the top British and French women’s tournaments – with the promise of a World Cup mode soon – but at least it’s a start. Do not expect women to be in Ultimate Team, because the list of female players is not much.

Elsewhere, it’s a game of two halves, split between the enormity of FUT and every other mode. The old game was no longer short of money, encouraging players to spend real money to build a formidable squad to go online against human opposition.

But a new concession is the launch of a series of offline challenges called Moments. Short, simple scenarios – for example, stringing together, passing the ball, scoring a goal – serve as both a guide for newbies and a way to reward several packs of cards for success. These mini-sized soccer games won’t keep veterans for long but they do ramp up the early hours – although skeptics might say it’s just to get you hooked on the dopamine rewards when open package.

Elsewhere, FUT rotates the buttons a bit by reducing the impact of player chemistry – a process that requires you to match your team to the same nationality or club – while streamlining the interface somewhat. It’s still horribly addictive and barely detracts from the overall feeling you’ve been devoured by a giant slot machine.

If you can resist FUT, the rest of FIFA 23 offers a more palatable pitch. While the street football mode known as Volta feels as indispensable as in previous years, the same cannot be said for the pure fun of casual matches. EA continues to refine its ball animations and physics so that this year’s football is a bit faster and smoother than FIFA 22.

Perhaps the upcoming patches will change the pendulum again. But for now, it’s thrilling to catch up to the new fast-paced pace of certain stars while enjoying the unpredictable realistic nature of player touches or ball behavior. A video-game touch crept in through the addition of a power shot, trading a long animation to create a burst of explosive speed on the ball. It doesn’t guarantee a goal, but if you make good use of the space and control the timing, the results can be spectacular.

So bye bye FIFA 23. You are playing on a peak where you get more right than wrong. You’re not reinventing the football game – as much as EA Sports FC is unlikely. Maybe next year will be the year EA does the right thing and makes FUT’s microtransactions its own free-to-play game. Then the unadorned fun of its football festival can truly be enjoyed in its own right.

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Fry Electronics Team

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