The long march to FIFA 23's September 27 release has been quite a bit more compelling than in past years.
Topping the list of intrigue for the juggernaut football franchise is the upcoming name change. After a 30-year run, FIFA next becomes "EA Sports FC" in its next installment.
Not far behind is the news of the spectacular duo of Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappé and Chelsea's Sam Kerr gracing various covers. The latter's regional covers in Australia and New Zealand that are available globally will be the first time a female footballer stands solo on a cover.
Beyond those rather historical points, the usual annual-installment conversations dominate the scene—and in impressive fashion.
FIFA once again leans more heavily into the power of next-generation consoles with this release. Full motion capture shoots of multiple matches and training drills with pro clubs result in more realistic animations and movements than in past games.
That falls under the umbrella of what EA Sports calls the HyperMotion2. So does the inclusion or more variance in how different footballers accelerate when a player hits the sprint button, resulting in different looks based on speed, anatomy and on-pitch situation.
Transitions from dribbling to actual shots get a big overhaul under the new system too, as the game's official website detailed:
"New animations powered by HyperMotion2 allow for more natural transition between controlling the ball and shooting. Combining precision and fluidity, longer high-quality animation creates one continuous motion as players trap the ball, rotate, and strike the ball towards the target."
The result of a shot has been re-tooled too. Boasting new technology that synchs connected players when logical, goalkeeper-header interactions appear to be more fluid as a result.
Corners get a slight rework as well with new camera angles to make things smoother. A new shot mechanic based on putting additional power into the swing presents a risk-reward gamble too, which is sure to be enticing to players while also letting them better emulate some of those huge moments from the biggest of stars.
As for modes, longtime players know the drill.
FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) rolls out FUT Moments this year, a new mode that lets players take part in condensed challenges for difficulty-based rewards.
A rework of the chemistry system that removes older-feeling restrictions simply means more versatility in how players can create their dream clubs in the seasons-based ecosystem.
Over in the career modes, a new feature that empowers players to jump into pivotal moments of a match during a full-match simulation is a fresh new way to play.
Otherwise, one of the most notable changes happens in the player-based career mode. There, players must now juggle personality points directly tied to performances on the pitch and—more importantly, and fresher than in the past—off the pitch and away from the club, too.
In an interesting twist, FIFA 23 also moves to bring the game modes Pro Clubs and VOLTA FOOTBALL closer together. The former typically encourages co-op simulation gameplay while the latter is very much an arcade experience.
But in a push to better reward players no matter how they choose to link up with friends in either of these season-based modes, FIFA 23 offers shared progression, as explained by a developer diary:
"Now, whether you play VOLTA FOOTBALL (Arcades, Squads, and Battles) or Pro Clubs (Drop-Ins, League, Cup and Friendly Matches), you’ll earn Seasonal Points (SP) that contribute towards unlocking new gear for your Virtual Pro. Seasonal Points earned will contribute to the same Seasonal Event Progression system shared between the two modes. Seasonal Events will continue to function in the same way and at the same (mostly) six-week cadence that they did in VOLTA FOOTBALL for FIFA 22. This means every Season, there will be new content dropping for you to earn and unlock for both your Pro Clubs, and VOLTA Avatars."
This is a rather critical upgrade for players, as one won't feel compelled to play one game mode or the other during the time crunch of a season in order to unlock goodies for their avatar.
While that is simply a minor-seeming quality-of-life change, those are the sorts of advances a game with a superb foundation can add on in annual releases to welcome an even broader audience.
That's something FIFA 23 and the series as a whole have earned too, given the wealth of upgrades and progression offered in the upcoming release.