Growing up, soccer was everything in my household. My father and uncle both played at various levels for the Jamaican national team, so you could say it was in my blood. When gaming systems like the NES came along, it was a natural marriage. Playing games like Jaleco’s Goal was my introduction to the beautiful game with controllers, so naturally when FIFA International Soccer dropped on the Sega Genesis I was all-in. It also did not hurt that World Cup ’94 was played on home soil here in the US. Even with its fictitious players, it was a game that cemented its place in sports gaming history as it gave rise to FIFA 95, the first of what would go on to solidifying the series atop the gaming charts. Now that we’re in the midst of the 2022 World Cup, it’s time to see how EA’s latest World Cup iteration stacks up within FIFA 23.
Before we dive into this most recent iteration of EA’s World Cup, let’s take a trip back down memory lane as it’s important to understand how we got to this point.
FIFA 23 World Cup And Its Predecessors
FIFA International Soccer
In its era, this was a groundbreaking release by EA. While there were not any real players, EA modeled some of the fictitious players after real-life players and even some of the developers — you cheeky fellows! Increased level of detail for player models, better crowd detail, and increased responsiveness all on an isometric view were game changing at the time. The game featured nearly 50 countries and allowed for Tournament, Exhibition, League, and Playoffs modes.
A full qualifying mode wasn’t supported at the time, but it’s still one of the most memorable World Cup games (and soccer titles) ever.
FIFA World Cup 98/Road To The World Cup 98
Way back in late 1997/summer 1998, EA was dedicated to the cause. So much so that they released TWO World Cup games, the first being Road to the World Cup 98 and the other, FIFA World Cup 98. EA would oddly skip this two-game format in 2002 but would pick it up again in 2006 for the World Cup in Germany. The Road to the World Cup 98 featured 16 stadiums and 172 different nations as you attempted to lead them to World Cup 98, where all 32 nations that had qualified were featured.
Accurate rosters, a five-a-side mode, and better graphics courtesy of the PlayStation were huge innovations at the time.
FIFA World Cup 2014
The gold standard of World Cup Games, 2014 FIFA World Cup was the best and last of its kind, a true World Cup offering worthy of the biggest spectacle in sports. Featuring all 204 nations, all 12 venues, and fully licensed rosters, 2014 World Cup was perhaps the best soccer game of the PS3 era. Fully equipped with Captain Your Country, Online Play, Story of Qualifying, and of course Tournament Mode, 2014 FIFA World Cup had the best offering of modes to date, perhaps even better than FIFA 23.
Sadly, a lot of folks missed out due to the PS4/Xbox One releasing and the decision to not make this game backwards compatible.
FIFA 23 World Cup
With the action already heating up, so much so that FIFA switched the summer event to the winter to accommodate for extreme heat, EA finds itself in a mercurial situation. After deciding not to renew their partnership with FIFA, this marks perhaps the last World Cup game we’ll see from EA or any major developer — and it shows. Instead of a standalone game like we’ve seen in the past, EA has followed the 2018 path where the game is available to those who purchased the main FIFA game as a free DLC.
Long gone are the memorable moments from World Cups past, Road to Qualification, Captain Your Country, and various other modes. Only two of the official eight tournament stadiums are available, which is a shame because the two that are rendered are really well replicated. All 32 nations that qualified for the tournament are available, as are 15 other nations that missed out. Women’s teams are included, highlighting EA’s commitment to inclusivity and attempt to broaden their player base. Unfortunately, this is where the positives stop.
Once again, licensing takes center stage as it frequently does nowadays. African nations that aren’t represented in the main FIFA game are present in the World Cup DLC but come with generic kits. Roster issues plague the teams with several players omitted. This is inexcusable considering the vast database of players FIFA has at its disposal given the FIFPRO license and the fact that these players are also in the main game. Further issues with rosters and renamed stadiums returning to default settings still plague the game, just as they did with EA’s World Cup 2018 game. Considering that rosters were finalized a week ago, some even two weeks before the tournament kicked off, this is a bad look. Even the knockout stage configuration released with issues, and the number of subs available on the bench is off, something that’s also broken in FIFA 23 for certain leagues.
From a gameplay perspective, it’s more or less the same game, so if you’re a fan of how FIFA plays you will enjoy it. Any gameplay/title update that the main game receives will be carried over into the World Cup DLC so there’s a chance your playing experience can change. I’m of the opinion that FIFA 23 is fundamentally a poor game when it comes to gameplay due in large part to the lack of defensive cover from the midfield, poor marking inside of the box, and horrendous keepers. Thankfully, EA includes a plethora of sliders and there’s a dedicated community here on OS aimed at increasing the realism, but some of the issues remain rooted to poor legacy code.
When it’s all said and done and we’re looking back on what possibly could be the last World Cup game, one can only think of how disappointing this offering is and how a tournament that kicked off this famous FIFA franchise is a shell of its former self.