Tom's Guide Verdict
FIFA 23 brings some great gameplay changes, but the sins of its predecessors still drag the game down.
Vastly improved defending
Great match audio and soundtrack
Real changes to Ultimate Team (finally!)
Years-old bugs still present
Why you can trust Tom's Guide
Platforms: PC, PS5 (reviewed), PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Google Stadia
Release Date: September 30, 2022
FIFA 23 is, in many ways, business as usual. In others, it’s the end of an era, serving as the final entry in a franchise that has been running for decades. Many fans had hoped that FIFA 23 might finally fix some of the series' pernicious issues, and there are indeed brief glimpses of greatness here. Unfortunately, though, FIFA 23 cannot entirely step out of the shadow of its predecessors. Dodgy microtransactions, legacy bugs and glitches, and a lack of innovation once again drag things down.
If you’ve played a FIFA game in the last four years, you’ll know the drill by now. There are several flashy new mechanics, which attempt to plaster over the cracks from last year’s game and cover the whole thing in a shiny coat of paint. FIFA 23 does at least make some decent improvements to gameplay, particularly when it comes to set pieces and defending mechanics. It isn’t enough — not even close — but the game can admittedly be a lot of fun once you learn to look past the usual issues. Read on for our full FIFA 23 review.
FIFA 23 review: Gameplay
FIFA 23 excels in its gameplay. EA has finally made a decent attempt at switching up the pace-dominated metagame from the last couple of entries, opting instead to slow things down and beef up defending. It’s a stark difference, and will probably be the biggest adjustment for returning players. It’s not that pace (a player's running speed) is gone completely. Instead, EA has diversified the stat, and each player now has a slightly different ramp-up to their speed.
FIFA 23’s slower pace is a masterstroke, adding weight and tension to the proceedings. The game still feels fast; this is FIFA, after all. But no longer will you concede goal after goal to lightning-fast strikers, whom your plodding defense simply cannot catch.
There’s a new shot mechanic in town as well. Power Shot is heaps of fun, albeit a little bit shallow. Holding down the back buttons and firing off a shot makes the camera zoom in before the ball goes screaming toward the goal. It’s not the most effective way to score goals, but it is the most fun by a long shot.
Defending has received the largest improvements this year, and I’m happy to welcome back manual defending to the FIFA series. It’s tougher, for sure, but manual defending gives you so much more control over your back line. Your defensive players make fewer game-ruining mistakes. I’ve also noticed that tackles seem much more brutal this year, the game dials up the level of injuries. Compared to the more automatic defending mechanics in FIFA 22, I’ll take FIFA 23’s approach every time.
Surprisingly, most of the new features this year work well, adding to the game rather than introducing new problems. It’s a shame, then, that they’re layered on top of the same old glitches and bugs that have plagued the series for years. Switching players while defending is still a complete nightmare; difficulty settings are unintuitive; and goalkeepers remain deeply inconsistent. FIFA 23 simply cannot outrun the missteps of its predecessors, resulting in some disappointingly uneven gameplay.
FIFA 23 review: Modes
Once again, EA has given the Ultimate Team mode the most love this year. The Volta and Pro Clubs modes have also seen significant changes, but these remain niche ways to play, at best.
The headline here is that yes, EA has finally tweaked Chemistry in Ultimate Team. Instead of having set links between players, a team’s Chemistry depends on the individual Chemistry ratings of its players. The difference compared to FIFA 22 is night and day. This new approach to squad-building encourages experimentation.
Moments is another great addition to Ultimate Team. This new mode serves up bite-sized challenges based on historic moments in football. You can chart the rise of Kylian Mbappe, for example, and will earn Stars which you can then exchange for rewards, such as player packs and loan players. There’s a lot of potential here for some fun jaunts through history. I just hope that EA continues to add more scenarios in post-launch updates.
However, the same genuinely concerning microtransactions and pay-to-win mechanics loom large over FIFA 23’s flagship Ultimate Team mode. It's still disheartening to make players spend $70 up front, then see the game demand more money from them at every turn. FIFA 23 hasn’t even been out for a week yet, and I've already faced teams that won due to money, rather than skill or in-game experience. It’s frustrating every time, and extremely unlikely to change. Until EA overhauls its attitude toward monetization in Ultimate Team, the mode will continue to drag down future sports titles.
Elsewhere, Career Mode has once again received little in the way of new features, but is still a solid way to play FIFA 23. You can bring in real-world managers this year, and a few subtle changes to the mode's UI have helped streamline seasons. Career Mode is my bread and butter, and I still have a great time with it, despite the lack of meaningful updates.
FIFA 23 review: Visuals and sound
FIFA 23 makes subtle-but-welcome improvements to the series' visuals. Namely, pitches now accrue wear and tear over the course of a match. Sliding in hard will leave the surface scarred and rough, as will frenzied jostling before a corner kick whips in. Player faces have never looked better, although there is still a massive discrepancy between well-known players and League One staples.
Sound is another area where FIFA 23 surprised me. Each stadium has its own signature ambience, chants and acoustics. I generally play as Brighton and Hove Albion in-game, and the intermittent chants of "Seaaagullls!" put a smile on my face every time. You’ll hear players cry out after taking heavy hits and referees calling for order, much in the same way you would while watching a football match on TV.
Chants and crowd sound can vary wildly, depending on the time played and the score. At times, you’ll win the ball back and hear the stadium erupt in cheers around you. Other time, you’ll receive a cacophony of boos from the opposing crowd. It’s genuinely thrilling.
However, FIFA games don’t generally launch in pristine states, and FIFA 23 is no different. Even after the day-one patch, the game remains glitchy. Expect to see keepers standing motionless in the face of a shot, frenzied piles of players twitching and writhing as they fight for possession and so many ignored inputs. Generally, EA does a decent job of ironing out issues like these over time, but we’ll have to wait and see.
FIFA 23 review: Verdict
FIFA 23 is far from being revolutionary. But compared to the last few entries in the series, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
The problem is that while the shiny new features are indeed beneficial this year, it’s all built upon rotten foundations. Ultimate Team continues to be one of the most predatory modes in the mainstream gaming space, and you’ll regularly bump into gameplay and technical issues that have been present in FIFA games for years.
Hopefully, EA can use FIFA 23 as a turning point. As the publisher carves out its own path without the FIFA license, there’s a real opportunity to take stock, and push forward by emphasizing the good parts of the franchise. Something needs to change, and FIFA 23 is only a small step in the right direction. Still, for all its faults — and there are many — FIFA 23 sure does offer up a solid game of football.