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Gameplay and Matchday Experience

Part 2 of the soccer gaming series focusing on FIFA 23

EA have put a heavy focus on upgrading their product through improved gameplay changes and added a little polish around the edges. A new game engine is nothing to sneeze at as this fundamentally changes how players interact on the field. New animations in specific situations have been added which looks quite compelling based on the trailers EA has released so far. The intention is to produce a more "realistic" experience in soccer gaming.

(Image: EA Sports)

The bread and butter of soccer gaming is the gameplay. We now have details on the new gameplay changes as well as the matchday experience. I'll break down the new features and share my thoughts on what it all means.

Gameplay Changes:

New HyperMotion2 Game Engine- Twice as much real world motion capture. High volume of data through training and real matches. This created new animations feeding the AI system. Over 6,000 new animations were captured to build the new engine. The way players interact on the field is going to look and feel much different now.

Women's Club Football- For the first time ever, women's soccer is available at the club level and not just the national level. The new game engine included a revamp on how female players striker the ball, their running style, movement patterns and more. Female officials have been included in the game this year and not just for women's matches but men's matches as well.

(Image: EA Sports)

Attacking- Technical dribbling is different. More responsive, interrupting dribble animations is much easier. Elite dribblers feel much different in game. There's a new power shot which is a high risk, high reward mechanic. Requires more precise controller ability. Take the power shot off the dribble or first time. This provides a unique opportunity and feel to power shots moving forward. You can slam a volley into the ground and it will bounce high into the air (this actually didn't happen previously). Shooting in general has a new feel and will require more manual skill to pull off the harder shots. Composed ball striking is a new feature as well. One touch to control the ball, and then strike it. Think, a chest touch for control and then striking it off the half-volley. You can actually control this feature now.

AcceleRATE is a new system for next-gen systems only. There are three different archetype of players when accelerating; explosive, controlled and length. Length is strong physical players who have long, powerful strides. Agile players who are not necessarily pacey can fall into the explosive category. Controlled is what most gamers would call the meta. Specific star players have their own unique running style captured, including Vinicius Jr and Christian Pulisic.

Finally, set pieces and penalties have a new shooting mechanism. A composure bar replaces the old system of holding your left stick to the corner every time. Do that now and you'll miss wildly. And yes, you can now lie down behind the wall while defending set pieces.

Defending- In defense, several improvements intend to balance the game out including more aggressive defending in general (and success!). The change I'm a big fan of is the hard slide. Send the ball far away in a hard tackle. Elite defenders have new animations like backheel tackles and more efficient shielding with your body. A new jockeying system on defense is now more effective. Nothing different in terms of what you do with your controller but simply a different response by the player in game when jockeying. Blocked shots have a new physics systems which match real life soccer much better.

Goalkeeping- Brand new animations have been captured including finger tip saves. When attacking a cross, the keeper will react to the position of the attacker and vice versa. Attackers could duck away from punches. Keepers will also have their vision blocked now, be it by attackers or there own defenders. So, they'll react in the same way you see in real life based on the keepers vision.

New Skill Moves!- Several new skill moves grace the pitch. New explosive fake shots (inspired by Kylian Mbappe), strong foot featured when doing skill moves and the heel fake to ball roll. You can also use left-footed skill moves for the first time. Super flicks allow players to take a big touch to knock the ball over or around defenders and then run into space. Stutter faints are new as well.

Matchday Experience:

The new matchday experience provides a more realistic presentation style. The grass on the field gets a big revamp. As players slide and interact with the grass, you'll see the divots and damage done to the field over the course of the game. As one of EA's developers said recently, it "feels like a living, breathing piece of the environment". Greater detail on shadows, especially in players faces, also make it feel more realistic.

(Image: EA Sports)

Pre-match build now up includes hype videos! Cinematic scenes of events going into the stadium (fans singing, waving scarves etc), drone shots of the stadium, flashback moments from on the pitch and manager interactions as well. Makes is feel more personal when you go into each match. The flashback moments in these hype videos one of my favorite new additions and a fantastic idea.

Scoring goals feels much more special now too. When scoring a power shot, you get an augmented reality view which shows advanced stats like xG, speed of the shot and more. It's a more dynamic and compelling moment when you score now. The netting got a revamp too. Real 3D geometry was used which means the net animates and reacts to light.

Post-Game Review:

Taken on the whole, there are significant and meaningful changes ahead. As much as we all enjoy some of the shiny new things, the meat and potatoes are more important. Gameplay has to be top notch and this promises to improve on previous iterations. With a new game engine, it will feel different when you pick up your controller and launch FIFA 23. Changes to how you shoot, how players move on the field, improved jockeying and hard tackles on defense, new keeper animations and new skill moves are all welcome.

An updated presentation style with attention to detail will make the game feel more alive and help endure a long game cycle. The pre-game hype video is something that will really cater to Career Mode fans but something anyone can enjoy. Big picture, I think these changes are outstanding and exciting. If you're into soccer and gaming, this feels like a no brainer if you ask me.

FIFA 23 officially releases on Sept 30 but if you purchase the Champions Edition or EA Play, you can access the game on Sept 27. Upcoming articles in this series include a deep dive on Career Mode, Ultimate Team mode and any other forthcoming news on the new FIFA 23 game. Happy gaming out there soccer fans!

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