Football has been full of memorable partnerships over the years — from Pele and Garrincha in the great Brazil teams, to Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez for Barcelona in more recent times.
In the gaming world, EA Sports and Fifa have been working in tandem for almost as long as Messi has been alive, but, like great teams and their player partnerships, things have to eventually come to an end.
And so, Fifa 23 is the final kickabout between EA and the governing body (it will be called EA Sports FC from next year), and, thankfully, they have almost conjured a man-of-the-match performance.
First, there’s the all-important action on the pitch, for which EA has been criticised over the years by regular players for not evolving sufficiently.
It isn’t a major divergence from Fifa 22, and it’s actually difficult pinpointing exactly what has changed — but there is something. There’s a little more smoothness in the players’ actions, which are now subject to what EA calls Hypermotion 2 technology with new motion capture and animations.
It feels like a more physical match, with rugged tackles and player collisions creating a more unpredictable encounter. At first, it seems slightly clunky, but once you get used to the responsiveness, you’ll be carving open defences like in any other Fifa game.
The players now have three different running attributes rather than the previous two, making their movement more individual.
Shooting has a new addition in the form of a power shot. This requires time and space to allow for the full animation to play out, and while it’s a move away from Fifa’s promise of “ultra-realistic gameplay”, it is fun, though I haven’t managed to score one yet.
Set pieces have been overhauled, meaning more spin and curve can be added when taking a corner. It’s a bit fiddly initially, but a welcome addition.
A final word on the on-pitch action is the graphics, with the whole visual experience proving, as usual, fantastic. It has the greenest football pitch I’ve seen on a video game.
During the first 5-10 minutes of gameplay with FIFA 23, many users may miss the impact of HyperMotion 2, but I found the more I played, the more of an appreciation I gained for the engine improvements.
Machine learning–a major portion of what makes HyperMotion a potentially attractive piece of tech in all sports games–still has its limitations. After all, there are only so many instances that can be captured in a series of 11-v-11 matches.
Translation: there are still some wonky instances where the animations don’t match the situation. However, when it works and there is an on-pitch scenario that is captured accurately, it delivers some gorgeous sequences from the beautiful game.
HyperMotion is about one or two iterations from being the game-changing tech it already claims to be, but it is still a clear plus in the overall gameplay experience.
This has been an issue for me in previous FIFA games. I’m far from an expert, but there is something about the tools offered in this year’s game that has made it a bit easier to understand and grasp.
Accelerate movements divided between controlled, explosive and lengthy animations manifest themselves as excellent tools for a higher level of gameplay and offensive control. Protecting the ball against defenders feels more natural in FIFA 23.
Authentic Women’s Matches
EA should be applauded for their inclusion of women’s matches, clubs and stars like Sam Kerr who joined Kylian Mbappe as a cover athlete. To take things to the next level, EA has mo-capped women’s matches to ensure there are nearly as many examples of authentic women’s action as you’ll see in the men’s games.
There’s also the women’s World Cup alongside the men’s version of the event, which adds more value to the overall package.
Presentation is Fantastic
Big matches in EPL, La Liga and other major leagues look and feel outstanding. They offer a TV-style presentation that augment the career mode. Your seasons of play have all the fixings with player and manager personalities.
FIFA still does a good job of adding some life into the experience with an animated news ticker on the mode’s main menu and enough tasks to link you to your team’s journey and your virtual world of football.
FUT is Deeper Than it Has Ever Been
The two biggest additions to Ultimate Team this year are the FUT Moments that carry some solid rewards while you play through historic moments from the careers of Jurgen Klopp and Mbappe.
FIFA has followed the lead of MLB The Show’s Diamond Dynasty which has long used its collector mode to tell stories from historic moments in baseball. The presentation and setup for the moments are strong, and it weaves in nicely with FUT’s built-in chase for top cards and rewards.
The other major add is the chase for a top chemistry grade for your club.
The number 33 is the objective as FIFA’s in-game chemistry metric might take some time to fully grasp. However, it helps this year’s version of FUT accomplish what every collector mode should aim for, and that’s to add a bit of intrigue and challenge within the primary goal of building a strong fantasy squad.