FIFA 23 represents a milestone entry in the long-standing soccer simulation franchise from EA Sports, as it is the last game that will carry the FIFA name. Electronic Arts and the FIFA governing body are parting ways next year and EA plans to continue the series under a new name, while carrying over player and team licenses, which are separate from FIFA itself. Regardless of title, this franchise has impressive accessibility features that you will not find in many games. This, combined with the many ways to play, makes FIFA 23 inviting to a wide variety of players, much like the fanbase of its real-world counterpart.
Onboarding with Training Center
As soon as the game is booted for the first time, players are greeted with one of its biggest new features, Training Center. It is essentially an in-depth interactive tutorial that can stay with you throughout the game, providing feedback and recommendations. The first decision players will make is whether you would like to be coached by a great on the male or female side of the game, in the form of Kylian Mbappé or Sam Kerr. This can be switched at any time, or you can turn off Training Center entirely. Even for those who have played FIFA before, I would recommend leaving this on, as it really does provide individualized feedback and a new sense of progression throughout games.
The initial experience consists of completing skill games and a practice match. The skills walk you through the basics of gameplay, such as passing, shooting and movement. Each game begins with a tutorial splash screen that shows you the controls and the games give you visual and auditory feedback when you progress towards the objective, such as showing you where to aim a pass and beeping when you complete one successfully. It is important to note that you cannot change control schemes or camera angles at this point, but it is possible during the practice match. You do not necessarily need to complete all of these, but I would strongly recommend playing the practice match. This specific game has an adaptive difficulty level that will adjust to your performance. Interestingly, this is the only portion of the game that has this feature and you will need to select difficulty level for anything outside of this initial practice match. At the conclusion of it, your trainer will recommend a difficulty and you can change this at any time between the 6 levels available, ranging from beginner through legendary.
Once you exit the initial Training Center tutorial, you can always return to it from the main menu. Doing this opens up some new possibilities that are oddly absent from the onboarding process. First, there is a series of narrated and subtitled tutorial videos. Additional skill games are available, showing more advanced tactics. You can also opt to leave Training Center on throughout gameplay, such as kick off matches, tournaments and manager career. Doing this provides recommendations in settings menus, personalized gameplay feedback and objectives for you to complete during matches to unlock the next level. For me personally, even as a veteran player of the series, I enjoyed this. It gave me a sense of progression in the game even in quicker modes, which is something rarely felt in sports games. This progression is not required however, and can be turned off at any time, taking away the feeling of having to complete certain objectives during a game, such as a number of passes or shots on goal.
UI and Settings
This year, the menu has even higher contrast than it has had in the past, with the background being a very dark color. The tiles on the main menu are very broad, such as career mode, Pro Clubs X Volta and play modes. What shows up as the main offerings conveniently adjusts to what you are playing most or have played recently. The play modes tile will always be there to bring you to all the major ways to play. The resulting look is very clean and easy to navigate, with button prompts throughout the interface.
As has become the expectation with EA Sports games, the dedicated accessibility menu is available right from the main menu, but this new installment brings an interesting and welcome twist. Regardless of whether you get to it from the accessibility symbol or through the customization section, this menu is now integrated into the overall settings menu of the game. This is a great addition, making it easier to get a well-rounded view of all the options available in one place, instead of having to go to a totally separate section for accessibility. In my experience, there are almost always settings available in the other sections that impact accessibility, so being able to set everything up in one place streamlines the customization of gameplay to your preference.
The accessibility menu itself offers a variety of options to accommodate players with many different types of disabilities. From the perspective of visual accessibility, there are sliders for brightness and contrast, along with three colorblind profiles that overlay the entire game. There is also an option to increase the size of the player indicator, which displays an arrow over the user-controlled player on the field. Speech-to-text and text-to-speech are available for online modes that include chat functions. Subtitles can be toggled on or off, but there is no further adjustment for them. I found that they only show up in very limited instances in the game, such as cut scenes for player career mode and they are difficult to read, given their small white writing against an ever-changing background. Additionally, menu narration can be turned on, but it does not read the descriptions of each of the settings that are conveniently placed alongside images of what they do in each of the menus. I do, however, greatly appreciate the fact that the function of most available options across settings tabs is conveyed in both text and visual form. For those with fine motor disabilities, FIFA is the only game franchise I have seen that allows players to remap bumper, trigger and even right joystick functionality to the left joystick for menu navigation. This allows the entire interface to be controlled with only the left stick. There is a strange design choice that comes into play here though, as bumpers and triggers are still required to navigate menus within specific modes, such as career and FIFA Ultimate Team.
Outside of the accessibility menu, there are several other options offered that could impact ease of use for a variety of players. The length of a half can be adjusted between 3 and 20 minutes and combining this with being able to choose between game speeds of slower, default, or faster pace allows for flexibility of how taxing gameplay will be. The quick substitution system returns to help bring in fresh legs, but it requires a trigger hold. This can also be done via the pause menu. Standard attribute sliders for both the CPU and user teams are available, letting you tweak many aspects of gameplay and fine-tune difficulty. Injuries and different rules can be turned on or off and there is a new option this year to choose the strictness of referees. Keep in mind though that you can also play in specific game modes that are designed with custom rules or no rules at all.
Presentation is definitely a focus for this year’s game, with an increased emphasis on realistic cinematics and the visual and audio options available let every player make the immersion their own. There is a huge variety of balls to choose from, consisting of different colors. Pitch pattern, grass color and line color can also be adjusted, allowing for a more customized visual experience, although some of these can only be selected in the pregame menu. This is complemented nicely by various elements of the HUD being able to be turned on or off, including a score clock drop down and a mini map showing real time positions of all players, among others. One aspect of the HUD that is unique in the sports genre is that you can turn on an input overlay if you would like to show your real time inputs and even include online lag differential. Being able to control some of the busyness on the screen and selecting a camera that works best for you really does impact the ease of following gameplay. There are a number of different cameras and you can select your preference for each mode. Each preset can then be adjusted further by using sliders for elements such as height and zoom. Players can choose the type of audio mix they want to hear during gameplay, using separate slider sections for 11-a-side and Volta matches. I will discuss some distinctions between game modes in the below Gameplay and Modes section.
Unique Controller Customization
The way that the FIFA series addresses controller customization is unlike any other game I have played. Firstly, there are options within this particular menu that you would not normally expect. They include several game assists for all different aspects of gameplay. Some can be set to either automatic or manual, including shots, clearances and flair passes. During my playtime, I found that having shots and clearances on automatic did not work very well with the context of what was going on in the game, but it could be beneficial if you are able to acclimate to how the game itself analyzes situations. There are many assist options that can be set to manual, semi-assisted or assisted. For example, when ground pass or shot assistance is set to assisted, both direction and power will be aided. This means you will shoot toward the goal, regardless of which way your player is facing when you start pressing the shoot button. The timed finishing mechanic returns from last year, adding the option to press the shoot button a second time with good timing to add power and accuracy. This time around, using this is not the default, as the developers have implemented a new power shot mechanic that requires holding both bumpers while shooting. Thankfully, all of these can be ignored though, making shooting much simpler if quick or multiple inputs are challenging. Auto switching on defense can be enabled, allowing you to always control a player close to the action. There is also a setting for how much assistance you get after a switch, which determines how long the player that you just switched to will continue moving in their previous direction before giving you full control.
EA has a visual on field trainer in each of its sports titles, but the implementation in FIFA 23 is the most robust yet. All the overlays have been redone and stand out quite nicely on the field. Returning assists include showing you the receiver of a pass, the aim of a shot, an arrow for the direction of your movement, button prompts near your controlled player and others. New for this year, there are no longer presets for the trainer, but rather each option can be set exactly the way you want them. There are some new indicators that were very useful during gameplay, including showing you when your player is in offside position and a defensive trainer to indicate the area you should be covering. I found the defensive assistance to be not only helpful, but it also makes defense more engaging than it has felt in a long time. Curiously, the trainer can only be toggled on or off from the main settings menu and you have to go into the gameplay pause menu to select which indicators you would like visible.
The control schemes offered are perhaps one of FIFA’s biggest accessibility strengths. While there is no ability to fully customize button assignments, in addition to standard and alternate control schemes that require the use of all buttons on the controller, EA has put in the effort to include both a one and two button option. This makes the game playable literally using the left joystick and one or two face buttons. Developers managed to do this without taking away much functionality and choice from the player, as the buttons do different things depending on what is going on in the game and how long an input is held. For instance, on one button offense, pressing the face button quickly while far away from the goal will perform a ground pass and holding it down while in the box will unleash a powerful high shot. The two button system separates passing and shooting functions on offense. You can switch between schemes at any time and always access a full list of controls in the game pause menu.
Gameplay and Modes
Moment to moment gameplay in FIFA 23 is extremely fluid. HyperMotion 2.0, which is specific to current generation hardware, makes player movement very realistic and more intuitive to control. There is a distinction between male and female matches and players can now take the field as women’s club teams from France and England, as well as participate in an authentic and customizable representation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Set pieces have been completely redesigned this year. Corner kicks now involve using the right stick to determine exactly where you will strike the ball. The lower you hit the ball, the higher its trajectory will be. After determining where you want to strike, use the left stick to aim your corner. There is a distinct line that will show you where the ball is projected to go. Finally, use the pass button to determine the power of your kick. For penalty kicks, there is now a circle surrounding the ball on the spot that fluctuates in size. The smaller it is and the closer it is to green, the greater accuracy your shot will have. If it is larger and closer to red, the strike will be much more erratic and likely to miss. Once you stop this reticle where you want it with the shoot button, you can then aim your shot with the left stick as the player is approaching the ball. I thought this was very nice, since it is really the only time in the game where aiming a shot does not have to be done simultaneously with shooting the ball.
When it comes to game modes offered, FIFA 23 remains largely the same as previous entries, which is not necessarily a bad thing in terms of accessibility. With so many ways to play, each user can find a mode that is best for them. Kick off is without a doubt the most diverse, including everything from classic matches, to various tournaments, to Volta, to house rules with a number of modifiers. These modifiers range from changing rule sets, to having the ball get power ups during the game.
Volta, which is a FIFA Street like style of play, include some particularly intriguing gameplay aspects that impact accessibility both positively and negatively. You can choose between anything from 3-on-3 to 5-on-5 with or without a goalie. Many of the fields made specifically for this have the option to have walls. Despite fewer players moving around on the field and the possibility to not lose the ball out of bounds, I found Volta to be one of the harder modes to play. This is because, for some reason, you cannot use pass or shot assistance. As a result, there is much more aiming required to get the ball where you want it to go. Also, Volta matches take place in various cities around the world and the commentary package will often take the language of the host city. This is not communicated visually and may take away some immersion for deaf or hard of hearing players. This year, the Volta created player experience has been integrated with the Pro Clubs online social matchmaking mode, resulting in less time consuming progression of your avatar. FIFA Ultimate Team makes its expected return as the micro transaction heavy card collecting mode. Although it is largely unchanged, there is now a narrator guiding you through the first few objectives, but subtitles are conspicuously absent.
Career mode can be played as a manager or player. There are tutorials available, but they are only splash screens with no video or audio. You can take control of as much or as little as you like, with options to simulate games or sections of a season. As a manager, you can simulate and still control your team strategy if you want. A nice addition is the ability to take an existing manager and work with any club, or create your own manager and club like in past FIFA games. In player career, there is a new personality system that will give you certain boosts based on decisions you make and the type of player you are on and off the pitch. If you choose to take part in press conferences, you will need to hold the left joystick and press a button at the same time to make your response selection. New for this year, you can just play the highlights of a match and even focus strictly on offensive highlights, letting you jump in and out of the action in short bursts during pivotal moments. This is a great feature alongside the ability to still play a full match.
Overall, FIFA 23 really does offer something for everyone. From the welcoming Training Center on boarding experience, to the customizable play and variety of modes, this title is an example of how a simulation sports gaming development team can go above and beyond to ensure that everybody can take part in the action.
A review copy of was provided by the developer / publisher.