FIFA 23 is a surprise change of pace

Pace is almost everything in FIFA 23. In fact, it was the first thing I noticed, even in — maybe especially in — my first match.

Thought FIFA 23’s HyperMotion 2 system of motion capture and machine-learning is by definition an iterative work, complete with a buzzy marketing term applied to it, it’s not an incremental one. EA Sports is a leading provider of soccer match analysis, capture, analysis, and processing. FIFA 23 As a game in which players have greater control over the ball, or at least more understanding of how their onscreen footballer manages it, this is a great game. While they might be faster than others, players with lower dribbling ratings will have a harder time controlling the ball and will slow down their pace. However, forwards, especially superstars, can put on the afterburners to explode into the clear like no other. It’s exhilarating, but also a little embarrassing, to realize, Jeez, I could have done it all along.

Last week, I spoke with Kantcho Doskov. FIFA 23’s gameplay director at EA Vancouver, and asked him for the four or five things I should notice first in a series whose improvements are frequently subtle. This kind of control and pace, and its differentiation among players, was at the top of Doskov’s list. “There are so many more subtleties in gameplay that you’ll feel over multiple matches, or after a while,” he said. “But that’s the big first one that you’re going to notice.”

He’s right. Even if the game feels slower on the whole, the defense will still swarm you if you’re not thinking ahead to build up your attack. However, a lucky through-ball from your striker can turn the 39th minutes of a game that is 0-0 into a crucial and potentially pivotal moment for either player.

“This is just the fundamental dribbling, basically,” Doskov said, meaning explosive moves are possible on the left stick alone, without using other modifiers or commands on a gamepad. “It’s not just changing directions. […] It’s about changing speeds. We see the best footballers doing this; they start, they sort of slow down, and then they explode into space.”

Three of Scotland’s Celtic FC players, plus the goalkeeper, celebrate in FIFA 23

Image: EA Vancouver/Electronic Arts

The summary feeling I have, after more than a dozen full matches in HyperMotion2, is that players’ strengths and weaknesses are more apparent, whereas in previous FIFAs it felt like their performance was still moderated by the role they played on the field. This makes it more important to make player management decisions, especially in FIFA Ultimate Team. It also gives you the ability to develop certain skills in the Be a Pro single-player game mode.

For all of the oily sheen that FUT’s microtransactions and calls-to-action leave on that mode, it is still a great testbed to learn how the new game performs, before I head off to my “real” playthrough in the career modes, where of course I want to do everything perfectly the first time. FUT is a game where I look at my top 11 players and determine the best formation to get them on the field. The gameplay changes in FIFA 23 now mean that’s not such a great idea. If I have three outstanding forwards or strikers, but midfielders who are lousy-to-meh at getting them the ball or maintaining possession, it might be better to beef up my back line and play a more defensive game, even if their overall play isn’t as flashy — especially for full matches or at higher difficulty levels.

My point here is that HyperMotion 2’s benefits aren’t just on the pitch and in the feel of the gamepad; they make my managerial choices more deliberate and immersive, too. Devotee players may feel the need to spend more to build a team that exemplifies their skill set and play style. But regardless, a streamlining of Ultimate Team’s often-inscrutable “chemistry” system means players can get more value out of the cards they do have in FIFA 23.

In previous editions of the game, chemistry required players to share a trait (such as being from the same country or professional clubs) and they had to be next to one another in the formation. This is no longer a requirement. It lowers the overall level of chemistry (to 33 from 100) and increases the chances that your Ultimate Team club can achieve it.

The chemistry changes also mean that great players like Kylian Mbappé (whom everyone gets on loan for five matches to begin Ultimate Team), who otherwise have zero chemistry with the rest of the club, don’t get hit with a chemistry penalty. That’s actually a consumer-friendly change, in that it lets players use the best players they’re packing. They can add a favorite sentimental player to their club by going to the auction or transfer market without having to buy a lot of other guys.

No. 8 for Croatia’s national team, in their distinctive red-and-white checkered kits, celebrates a goal in FIFA 23

Image: EA Vancouver/Electronic Arts

FUT’s new Moments — bite-size challenges rather than full matches — are also a useful showcase for some of the new gameplay changes, and indeed they are organized almost like a tutorial. One of these Moments highlights the new targeting system for free kicks. Players can choose which part of the ball to hit and whether it is to be thrown around, over, under, or around the defensive wall. There’s a “power shot” challenge, too, which highlights a new, charged-up shooting command (holding both bumpers) that can land spectacular goals from well outside the goal box. That risk-reward capability — you really need to be in the clear to charge up such a shot, as well as to aim it precisely — is another match-one signal that FIFA 23 is a more involved game than last year’s.

All these modifiers, moments and other bells & whistles aside, FIFA 23 doesn’t feel any more given to big plays, or indulgent of players who attempt them inconsiderately. This has been a common criticism in the past, or at least an unfavorable comparison to the more technically precise Pro Evolution Soccer, back when that franchise wasn’t a disaster. I had as much success building my attack as I did bombing forward and launching crosses in the hope that one would land. On defense, there’s a new “partial team press” which brings over more than one defender, but not the whole club. It was used in conjunction with more precise tackling (both standing, and sliding), which led to a few blink-of an-eye counterattacks in Ultimate Team. That’s never been my style of play before, but it is now.

The gameplay changes are the most important improvements among all. FIFA 23’s additions because they serve all modes of play, don’t just give me more things to do, or moves to memorize on my gamepad. By opening up new ways to exploit my team’s strengths, they actually tell me I’m better at soccer — video game soccer — than I give myself credit for. I was amazed at the things that I found in FIFA 23 This might have been the last item in the box. But it was the most important.

FIFA 23 Launched September 30, 2010. Google Stadia, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X And Windows PC; versions that did not include some of the features reviewed in this review were also launched Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One. The game was tested on PlayStation 5 by using an EA Sports pre-release download code. Vox Media has an affiliate partnership. These partnerships do not affect editorial content. Vox Media may be compensated for products purchased through affiliate links. Find out more. additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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