If you’ve been keeping tabs on EA’s hugely popular football franchise, you’ll have heard that FIFA 23 marks the end of an era. As the final game to carry the FIFA licence before EA parts ways with its partner of 30 years, most multiformat sites have been discussing FIFA 23’s importance as the finale of a long-running series, at least in terms of branding.
For Switch owners, however, this is old news. People can harp on about the end of an era all they like, but as far as Nintendo players are concerned the FIFA series died half a decade ago. What we’ve been getting since then is the video game equivalent of ‘80s comedy Weekend at Bernie’s, with EA propping up the corpse of FIFA 18 on a stick and jiggling it around in the hope that people will believe it’s still a living, breathing entity.
If you read through our reviews of every FIFA game on Switch (all of which were handled by the same long-suffering reviewer), you’ll see a pretty clear example of the stages of the grieving process in action. With the first game, FIFA 18, we were very much in the denial phase. Sure, the game was missing a lot of features that were present in other versions of FIFA, but EA had said that this was because they didn’t want to overwhelm Switch players with too many features at once, and while that claim stank more than Brendan Rodgers’ current season, we went along with it anyway.
When FIFA 19 was released the following year, we moved on to the pain phase, along with anger and bargaining. Progress had been minimal at best, and while we understood that it wasn’t really practical to replicate Xbox One and PS4 gameplay on the Switch, we pleaded with EA to step things up a gear and work quicker towards at least giving Switch players something that should have been possible: full feature parity with other systems. As this was followed by the practically unchanged FIFA 20, 21, and 22, we reached the depression stage, where it had become clear that our prayers weren’t going to be answered.
Now, with the release of FIFA 23, we’ve moved on to the final few phases: our sadness has turned to acceptance, and we’re now at peace with the fact. Simply put, FIFA on the Switch is dead, it has been for a long time, and when it appears again every year, just a few weeks before Halloween, that’s just its ghost popping up to give unsuspecting customers another cheeky, overpriced fright.
That's why the new Ultimate Team Moments feature as seen in the Xbox, PlayStation, and PC versions of the game is nowhere to be found here (or indeed any of the other Ultimate Team features introduced in the past five years). It’s why cross-play is nowhere near the table: after all, how can a game that is essentially built around the Xbox 360 version of FIFA 17 seriously ever hope to interact with a ‘proper’ modern FIFA title? That wouldn’t be cross-play, it would be a seance.
It’s why the Volta street football mode, which has been present in other versions of FIFA since FIFA 20, is still absent on the Switch. Why would you buy a new dress for a skeleton? And as for whether the World Cup and Women’s World Cup modes, which are coming to the other versions later as a free update, will be coming to the Switch too? We’d be very surprised, but for now EA hasn’t even given us so much as a "¯\_(ツ)_/¯" message.
It’s why the revamped set-piece system that greatly improves free kicks and penalty kicks in other versions this year hasn’t been implemented on Switch. After all, the system it replaces wasn’t on the Switch either, so why bother suddenly pretending it’s worth fixing a mechanic that’s numerous iterations out of date?
It’s why, when you go to the FIFA 23 website and head to the page where you can buy the game, the Switch version isn’t listed at all. Even the Stadia version is still on there, despite the fact you can’t buy it anymore because at least Google knows when to stop pretending and actually pull the plug on something to put it out of its misery. The Switch version is truly the Sixth Sense of video games, in that according to the official website it doesn’t exist, even though we can all see it.
And it’s why, if you were to take the Switch version of FIFA 19 and put it side-by-side next to FIFA 23 on Switch, with the exception of kits, rosters, menu images, and the soundtrack you are essentially playing exactly the same game four years down the line with no changes whatsoever to any of the gameplay mechanics or game modes.
Indeed, the sole new feature present in the Switch version of FIFA 23 is presumably only in there because it involves the least amount of effort. The introduction of women’s club football, which adds the English and French top-tier women’s leagues, is undoubtedly a welcome one given the huge boost in popularity the women’s game has seen this year in particular. But since international women’s teams have always been in the Switch version, it’s likely that the addition of club teams doesn’t require a great deal more development resource than the typical roster update the rest of the game gets every year.
Speaking of new teams, you may have seen all the buzz about the fictional team AFC Richmond and its manager Ted Lasso (from the Apple TV series of the same name) being added to FIFA 23. You can probably already guess where we’re going to go with this, but just humour us here...
Okay, never mind, we’ll just kill the suspense: they aren’t in here.
You may be surprised, then, that this review isn’t our usual annual rant aimed at EA for once again delivering a woefully inadequate ‘update’ to Switch players who have once again been treated as third-class citizens. It’s just that, now that we’ve reached the acceptance stage of the grief process, we’ve come to terms with the fact that this series hasn’t just flatlined recently on Switch, it’s been dead for half a decade now.
The only people who should have a valid reason to buy this game are those who only own a Switch, are massive fans of English or French women’s football, and have always wanted to play a game based on one of those two leagues. For that very specific purpose, FIFA 23 on Switch is an acceptable purchase. For literally everyone else, for whom what’s on offer here is virtually unchanged for the umpteenth time, we instead ask that you join us in paying our respects to the memory of the FIFA series, by leaving it to rest in peace.
This is the fifth time Switch owners have been asked to pay at least $40 for little more than updated kits and rosters, and the fifth time we urge you not to reward such disrespect with your hard-earned money. FIFA 23 still plays a good game of football but so did all the other identical ones, so if you absolutely must have a football game on Switch, track down a cheap copy of FIFA 19-22.