For the fifth year in a row, Electronic Arts has released a compromised version of FIFA for the Nintendo Switch. But is FIFA 23 Legacy Edition really that bad?
Look, I know this isn’t an argument easily won, but stay with me.
Every year EA releases its officially licenced football game across PC and console. And every year, there’s some new feature, mode, or gameplay innovation. From FIFA 17 to FIFA 19, it was FIFA’s first story mode, The Journey. Volta street football debuted in FIFA 20. And FIFA 23‘s publicity trumpets HyperMotion2 Technology, a gameplay improvement guaranteed to make our lives one million per cent better.
Meanwhile, on the world’s best-selling video game console, Nintendo Switch owners can enjoy FIFA 23 Legacy Edition, the fifth copy-and-paste edition of the game in a row.
FIFA 23 Legacy Edition features cosmetic changes, roster updates, and the welcome addition of the Women’s Club Football – but precious little else. There are no gameplay improvements, no Volta football, and no HyperMotion2. (Not even HyperMotion1, sob!) And with a stripped-back feature set and event calendar, it’s also a bust for FUT fans. It was a bare-bones version of FIFA in 2018 and is even more so in 2022.
Despite the annual outcry from fans, EA continues down the Legacy Edition path, citing the Nintendo Switch’s incompatibility with the Frostbite engine. Nonetheless, there must be a business case for these half-baked releases. Despite the outcry, someone must be buying them.
Erm, yeah. That will be me.
The simple reason is that being a football fan means you often leave common sense at the door. I vowed not to buy FIFA 23 on Nintendo Switch this year, but then the new Premier League season began.
My favourite team – West Ham United – invested heavily in players this summer, and after a shaky start, they are starting to come good. Italian striker Gianluca Scammacca is a formidable and skilful player who is building a promising partnership with Brazil’s Lucas Paquetá, another new signing. Lower-profile players – like the industrious Flynn Downes – are also making a good impression.
Rosters are important to supporters, and even if that’s the only update, the desire to play a football game with your team’s current squad is hard to deny and harder to resist. It makes little difference on the pitch. It makes no sense in my head. But it also makes every bit of sense to the part of me conditioned over 40 years to follow an average (but wonderful) football team.
Annoyingly, FIFA 23 on Switch is also not the worst game of football you’ll ever play. In my review of FIFA 20, I said it was a “creditable take on the beautiful game, albeit one that is more arcade-like than its PlayStation and Xbox cousins.” That holds true, I suppose. It still plays a fun, fast-paced game of football, and although it lacks the complexity of modern FIFA titles, there’s nothing egregiously wrong with the ageing on-pitch action.
Given its age, it also looks decent. It’s a sharp game that displays at a crisp 1080p and runs at 60fps. I’d rather that than a stuttering, fuzzy build of the PlayStation 4 version.
Another crumb of comfort to foolish customers is that EA sells the digital version of FIFA 23 at a 50% discount to owners of FIFA 22 or FIFA 21. That’s a tidy £17.50 in the UK – putting it in DLC territory – and a quarter of the price of the Xbox Series X version. (There’s an argument that annual releases – which are little more than roster updates – could be DLC anyway, which would save everyone the bother, but that’s not how EA rolls.)
So why not play it on Xbox or PlayStation? The reason is straightforward. All I want to play is a handheld football video game. I want a digital version of my favourite sport to pass the time while back-to-back episodes of Bling Empire take over the TV.
You’d think the Steam Deck would offer the answer, but no. FIFA 23 doesn’t support Valve’s portable PC due to EA’s “Anti Cheat” requirements. Getting the game to work on Steam Deck requires installing Windows 10. It’s not the most onerous task, but it’s a step too far. And not just for me, even God of War god Corly Barlog feels the same.
Is it really too much to want a good game of football in the palm of your hand?
So that’s why I open up my wallet every October. Every year I give EA money and encourage them to stay the course. I am defending the indefensible, but we football supporters often lack sound judgement. I’m not part of the problem. I am the problem.
Ultimately, EA’s Legacy Editions will leave no legacy other than one of disappointment and missed opportunity. At least this is the last time. Next year’s game will arrive under the new EA Football Cub moniker and I can pretend it’s a whole new experience.