The football simulation series, which has topped the gaming charts every year since its inception in 1993, is about to end due to a licensing dispute with Fifa. Electronic Arts will reveal its annoyingly named replacement, EA Sports FC, next year, but for now, we can run out on this heavily branded pitch one last time.

The development team was determined to end on a high note, as evidenced by including a slew of critical updates. We can finally play women’s league football, albeit only in the English and French top divisions. Still, it’s so fun to play as the key stars of the recent popular Euro 22 tournament, such as Beth Mead making a mad dash into the box or Wendie Renard marshalling the Olympique Lyonnais defence, and it could be genuinely inspiring and educational for girls who got into the fame sport through that glorious summer tournament.

There is also full online cross-play between relevant consoles of the same generation (PC owners can play against PS5 and Xbox Series X friends) in general seasons and friendlies, as well as Ultimate Team, greatly expanding your competitive base.

How does it work?        

The action moves with a fluidity that contrasts with the somewhat ponderous Fifa 22. It doesn’t have the turbo-charged ping-pong feel of classic Pro Evo, but the top zippy passes and brisk off-the-ball movement allow for genuine sweeping attacks. There is much more granular use of analogue button presses, allowing for well-weighted crosses and accurate long-range strikes. While the set pieces could be better, you can now add spin and immensely bend to the ball with the right analogue stick and utilize a slightly more instructive onscreen pointer to get the apt direction right.

Collisions and loose ball situations are more unpredictable now that the impact physics has been updated. People have seen a through ball hit the back of the target player’s boot, actively sending the ball back, and they have powered in a low cross that spun wildly off a top defender’s shin and into their own self-goal. These erratic little moments give the game an excellent sense of realism and tension. Meanwhile, players now have one of three pace types – explosive, lengthy, or balanced – giving them more options when chasing the ball and outrunning opponents.

Thiago and Traoré can use a burst of speed to pull away from nearby opponents in a blur, whereas Kyle Walker and Luke Shaw will stride the entire pitch length, gathering momentum as they go. When combined, the new additions provide a genuine visual spectacle. If you play long enough, you might see Lewandowski audaciously chip the keeper in a rather crowded box or Bernardo Silva simply volleying a stray ball into the exact top right-hand corner from a top angle so acute that Euclid would shake his head in disbelief.

Visual Moments

Every match has pleasant visual moments: players actively pulling dainty step-overs to change direction, the ball simply spinning up water from a wet surface, and the net billowing wildly as a shot makes contact. Despite the odd Accidental Partridge general moment from Derek Rae after a fumbled throw-out that results in a goal: “And the goalkeeper is desperately hoping, quite essentially, that he hadn’t done that”), the commentary is bearable.

As usual, there is a lot of football on offer here. Quick Play lets you jump into a single match or tournament against friends or online competitors. Skill Games put you to the test in various aspects of passing and shooting. Volta is a type of street football with a lot of flashy moves. In Career, you would take either a player or a manager through their football career, handling all aspects of their rise as a timetable of matches, training sessions, and transfer drama passes.

It may have mostly stayed the same since the previous game. However, the presentation is more pleasant, and you can participate in Playable Highlights of matches rather than watching the entire 90 minutes. It feels tense, fun, and demanding, similar to an exclusive interactive version of Match of the Day.

Then there’s the monstrous Ultimate Team mode, where you buy virtual relevant packs of player cards to assemble a super-squad of heroes while trading swaps and immensely challenging other Fifa owners to online matches. Moments, a whole new set of single-player challenges that allow you to earn currency towards respective card packs and loan players, is a significant addition for me. These could be mini-skill challenges, or you could be tasked with reliving critical moments in the Career of an important player.

New content is added daily, so there’s always a way to get free packs. Fifa 23 may be more so generous with its freebies than previous titles. Still, Ultimate Team remains a fiendish loot box designed to entice fans into purchasing card packs regularly. The dopamine-inducing hunt for elusive star players is as intense as it has always been.

Final Summary

Fifa 23, with all of its controversial player packs, is the culmination of EA Sports’ general philosophy. This series has always talked about good realism, but it was Roy of the Rovers-style authenticity for many years – a penalty in the dying seconds, a superb scissor kick goalline top clearance, a 35-yard screamer bending through the fine air like a misfiring Exocet missile.

Physics, AI, and animation have combined so that even the most ridiculous moments feel naturalistic and pleasurable. The first Fifa on Mega Drive was billed as an authentic experience of real sport, drama, and spectacle. It wasn’t then, but perhaps it is now in this final iteration.