This year's installment gives a glimpse of what the future might hold, and while it doesn't go far enough with some of the newer features, it's a solid send-off for the franchise. FIFA 23 brings a number of enhancements, particularly to the next-gen version of the game, thanks to the Hypermotion 2 engine. The gameplay feels faster and slicker, and collisions feel more punishing, especially mid-air jostling for a lob pass that sends a player crashing head over heels to the ground. There's also a tighter sense of balance between the offense and defense in this year's game than before, especially at higher difficulty levels. Defenders are quicker at shutting down passing lanes to prevent strikers from having easy shots on goal, while well-timed crosses from a winger to a midfield can catch opposing players off guard and set up the perfect attack. In many ways, this year's game is more about knowing the strength of your players and how they best contribute to your squad than ever before. Some of the older issues, like players delaying the movement of the ball, running offsides, or not consistently rotating over to make a play on defense still crops up at times, but these aren't as frequent as they were in last year's game. In fact, the delay on movement sometimes feels more like a chosen tactic to get opposing players off balance before going forward, which feels better.
Beyond the on-pitch play, there are a number of additions that are worth the time to check out, though many of them feel like they should've been included before or expanded upon. The Training center adds a nice section of tutorials for newbies to the franchise, providing hints and guidance about how they should approach certain situations or look at responding to different scenarios during games. Even veterans with the series can use this as a nice refresher of some of their skills. Having the option to be taken under the wing of Kylian Mbappe or Sam Kerr is a nice addition, and this is one of those features where it feels like it should've been included for a few years instead of as part of the last game in the series. The MyCareer mode also has an intriguing twist with the addition of personality points to boost your created athlete. Selecting to be a Maverick, Virtuoso, or Heartbeat for your team can help your created player accomplish their dynamic goals for a game, and can help define your player as you start to move from the bench to the starting 11. Unfortunately, it doesn't go far enough, and feels like a shadow of what it could be. Players can choose to be an egotistical Maverick, but your teammates never take exception to your choices, or have these personality decisions impact fan and club perception of your player. The same could be said for the activities that are presented to you, which can affect your personality as well. Purchasing a stereo or investing in an app, for example, is a nice addition for off-field play to develop your athlete, but these items feel tacked on rather than a believable expansion of what a player's life would be. Finally, it's great to see some tweaks to FUT – the adjustment to chemistry feels more natural to the focus on knowing your players rather than just tossing players onto a squad and hoping for the best because of team or league affiliation. Similarly, the addition of Moments feels like a fresh spin on the puzzle solving elements that the Ultimate Team mode presented in its squad building challenges. It's one of those things that you do wish had an option for unlocking or acquiring more Team of the Week players or Icons by completing these challenges rather than simply acquiring loan players or packs that could be gained through the store. If anything, it makes it feel like there's more of a focus on microtransactions to get the athletes you need to build your perfect squad rather than gaining them through play. Overall, there may be a lot more incremental adjustments rather than a major overhaul, but FIFA 23 still presents an enjoyable installment of the beautiful game.