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This is the FIFA World Cup, but not as we know it. FIFA (the organization) announced a desert World Cup in a now-confirmed corruption scandal. As well as a scandal around migrant worker deaths, LGBTQ+ rights are non-existent, and there aren’t even any beers for traveling fans. The USMNT has already expressed its solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community with displays in their press room.

If we do what FIFA wants us to do and separate the host from the football itself, then it’s fine, because FIFA 23 has a lovely free World Cup mode for us to get into over the next month. EA Sports have already predicted Argentina will win this World Cup.

Now playing: the Qatar World Cup

Memories of the full-fat, standalone EA Sports World Cup games, like South Africa 2010, feel very distant (enjoy a nostalgia trip with the trailer here). The casual, Kick Off-style tournament offline is proper couch FIFA with friends. Where it cannot be faulted is the matchday presentation, as expected from a FIFA title. Broadcast-level immersion is available – even with just two of the eight stadiums included.

The audio is missing that distinct ‘flavor of the tournament’, of samba in 2014 and vuvuzelas in 2010. Still, commentators Derek Rae and Stewart Robson have plenty of references and anecdotes up their sleeves about each World Cup team. They’ll reflect on past victories, heartbreak, and historic rivalries.

With the further emphasis on Pro Clubs and VOLTA avatars in FIFA 23, it’s somewhat surprising that the ‘Captain Your Country’ mode is missing, last seen in the standalone 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil game. I know I’m not the only one who has happy memories of building a player with crazy hair and crazier stats, and I think I’d use VOLTA more if I’d formed an attachment with my player throughout this World Cup.

Now that the tournament has kicked off, World Cup Live allows players to play fixtures live, and as matchdays roll past, take the reins of games to rewrite history or progress from the standings that day. I took the chance to replay Qatar vs Ecuador, and art imitated life as I won an early penalty before winning the fixture 3-0. If your team has a particularly terrible performance, you’ve got a game to cheer you up, at least.

Tournament Mode - Dreams Fulfilled

And so I take to the classic Tournament Mode in pursuit of world champion status. 1966 winners England were my choice, led by captain Harry Kane. Given the size of the FIFA 23 database, I was frustrated to discover that I couldn’t modify my England side to swap players in the final squad. All the players are in the game, and Ivan Toney deserved his place in Qatar.


My England team squeaked through the group stages with two wins and a loss, finishing second before facing the Netherlands, Argentina and Brazil en route to the final. Thankfully, I hadn’t had to use the redesigned penalty system for a shootout in any of my knockout games (England have a terrible record). In the big game, we faced old enemies France for a shot at glory. My tactic? Pacify superstar Kylian Mbappé for as long as possible, and use the pace of Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling to deliver solid final ball to the not-very-meta Harry Kane to finish.

In the end, it was Foden who opened the scoring with a still-OP outside of the foot shot to take it to 1-0 in the 58th minute, and I conservatively played the time out to secure the W, and the famous trophy, for England. “Championes, championes, ole ole ole!” rang out around the Lusail Stadium as my England stars celebrated. This, I feel, is as close as England will get to winning the 2022 World Cup, and I’m buzzing.

The replayability of this seems low unless you support multiple nations or challenge yourself to take the lowest-ranked team, Ghana, all the way. A qualifying process for the tournament, present in previous games, is a sad omission, but it’s great to see that certain unqualified nations, such as Italy, can be switched into groups to play through.


Online Kick Off Tournament allows you to face players from around the world with your selected team in a knockout run for the cup. Whenever I’ve logged on to this, there has been little over 1,000 players available to matchmake with, so I’ve had little luck in making it all the way to the final, and it’s put me off. Again, in the standalone era, friends would gather around an Xbox 360 and play for hours and hours on this. We didn’t have FIFA Ultimate Team to distract us.

FIFA Ultimate Team - World Cup Content Overload

Most of the World Cup-themed effort has, of course, gone to FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT), where most of the FIFA player base dwells these days. There’s plenty to dig into for fans of the live-service mode, and I’m enjoying myself.

Players collect red WC players like Panini stickers during this extra-long in-game event. They may seem useless as EA will remove them from your club on January 4, 2023, but there are ten levels in the World Cup objectives. As you progress you earn rewards, including coins, packs and picks at the end of the promotion. This is in addition to the regular, battle pass-esque season progress from the XP earned in game.

You can earn World Cup players until December 23, and the live Season Two content runs until January 4, 2023. Complaints have rumbled about the point of these time-limited cards, but I’m enjoying the experience of collecting more, as I would in the sticker collecting tournaments of my childhood. A virtual sticker album to place them in would’ve been a nice touch and a visual indication of progress. EA are you listening?

In the bizarre Marvel x EA Sports collab nobody predicted, World Cup Heroes came to life. As if we don’t have enough Marvel content already. Saying this, the meta in FIFA 23 has made more of the Heroes usable in game. We’re also getting new Icons during the middle of the World Cup promo, with a rating between their mid and prime versions.


The World Cup Path to Glory promo cards see each World Cup nation getting at least one live card available in packs, SBCs and via objectives. These cards get boosts at every stage their team progresses in – with some tantalizing results in store for cards which make the final or win it all.

  • Progression to the Round of 16 and Quarter Finals will each earn a +1 In-Form Upgrade
  • Progression to the Semi-Finals will earn player items 5* Weak Foot
  • Progression to the Finals will earn player items 5* Skill Moves
  • Winning the FIFA World Cup™ will earn players another +1 In-Form Upgrade, along with three select traits tailored to that player’s position

This live promo is a great start to the World Cup hype and we’ll probably see Team of the Stage boosted players for each round that follows, as we got in FUT Russia 2018. In FUT 22, we had the following fairly average promotions for special cards: Numbers Up, Black Friday, Team Of The Group Stage, and Versus (Fire and Ice). Hopefully, the super popular Winter Wildcards will return before the big Team of the Year drop in January.

I praised the addition of FUT Moments in my FIFA 23 review, and the World Cup additions to the flash game mode are great. Daily World Cup match day Moments will be available to play through, along with flash challenges and iconic periods in World Cup history. I’ve been using some downtime to earn a handful of stars per game session, to earn some of the heftier packs before the season ends.

World Cup Swaps aim to get players to use cards from around the world. I’ve enjoyed adding new nations to my team and building specific game plans around objectives to maximize return per match played. As an avid collector, I haven’t had an issue with playing out Squad Battles to earn extra swap tokens as I grind towards the top-end rewards, which include a FIFA World Cup Icon player pick and 3x 84+20 player packs (for the SBC fans as Team of the Year looms).


The sheer volume of swap tokens to collect for rewards is fantastic, and has kept replayability high. They’ve even taken the grind out of some of the Live FUT Friendly milestones. Golden goal is switched on for the games, so the first score wins, but EA Sports did have a problem with dishing out soft bans for too many games played for people grinding – as this article goes live, this is still a known issue that EA Sports are working on a fix for.

There’s no rush on the grind, however, as all the FUT World Cup content seems to be timed for the duration of the tournament, extended to January 4, 2023. This includes swaps, so I expect in my Christmas downtime I’ll be playing a lot of FIFA, which is exactly what EA wants.

Players can take a shortcut to more World Cup players with microtransactions. Promo packs on the FUT store, some costing upwards of 1,000 FIFA Points ($9.99 for 1050) contain additional World Cup reds and regular contents. It’s something I steer clear of, as I prefer the satisfaction of earning content for free, but if you want to pay to win, enjoy the slim odds!

If you’re boycotting this World Cup, you will miss an entire season in FUT, because you literally cannot avoid the content.

The last bonus of the World Cup update for FIFA 23 has been the best of FIFA soundtrack, soundtrack released. Currently in game, 40 of the best-ever FIFA tunes are playing through, bringing back some real nostalgia.


EA Sports FC will be the game title come USA/Canada World Cup 2026, which will likely come as another free update. The developers are damned if they release a standalone game, making players pay twice, or damned if they don’t, releasing limited content. I think the rebrand combined with the location of the next World Cup will see EA Sports go even harder on the next game.

But what’s the verdict on this game?

If you love FIFA 23, you’ll enjoy the World Cup Update especially if you engage with FIFA Ultimate Team, where you’ll find some juicy new content. If you just want to relive single-player happy memories of standalone games gone by, I think you’ll feel sold short.

FIFA 23 World Cup Mode is available as a free content update now on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC (internet connection required for download).