A turn of phrase commonly associated with a sports season – it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I’m applying the same to my review of EA Sports FC 24, EA’s new name for football games since it parted ways with governing body FIFA after 30 years. Ideally, this review would have been ready for launch, but the code came in hotter than a fax at 11:59pm on transfer deadline day, so I decided to spend a little more time on and off the pitch to see how EA’s new football franchise holds up after a couple of months.
In real football, the action and results on the pitch are what matters most. The same can be said for its video game adaptations; it doesn’t matter how many modes there are if the on-field gameplay doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain. Thankfully, EA Sports FC 24 is a solid package in this regard.
The keys to Melbourne are on the line
Every year EA’s football offering makes subtle tweaks to the blueprint, but FC 24’s changes feel like they run deeper than surface-level improvements, blurring the lines between video games and real football more than ever. It’s a result of HypermotionV, EA’s new AI system designed to make the gameplay as realistic as possible.
It’s not a complete revamp of the systems that came before it, but HypermotionV adds another layer to the game’s immersion as players adjust their positioning and play during a game. This new AI-powered technology also makes players move and play like their real-life counterparts – Erling Haaland bosses the front of the pitch just like he does for Manchester City, while Kylian Mbappé explodes and runs with his trademark pace and running style.
Gameplay feels noticeably slower than FIFA 23, allowing users to build up plays and utilise a player’s strengths to pick apart defences or to hit that match-defining strike. Precision Passing is a new feature that gives players greater control over their pass, while Controlled Sprint lets players move at speeds between a sprint and jog, so they can conserve their stamina without being a witches hat. Defending is certainly harder this time around, with the gameplay feeling like it has been engineered in the favour of the attackers. This not only results in less bore draws and more goals, but it also increases the tension during matches.
I have one mate that I frequently play against online who I usually beat most times, but in FC 24 there were several games where he carved me up like a Sunday roast – it doesn’t help that I’m worse than Dracula at defending crosses either. Despite injuries to my pride, it did mean that our matches were a lot tighter and more enjoyable.
PlayStyles can make the difference
Another reason for FC 24’s increased realism is PlayStyles, a new feature that allows you to tap into real-life players’ areas of expertise. There are 36 PlayStyles from six core categories and they are assigned as badges to those players that qualify for them. For example, cover star Erling Haaland has the Power Header and Quick Step PlayStyles, while Aussie superstar Sam Kerr has five PlayStyles including Finesse Shot, Rapid and Acrobatic.
On the pitch it means that players can feel unique and play to their strengths. Kevin De Bruyne can unlock defensive traffic jams with their renowned vision and passing ability via Incisive Pass, while Virgil van Dijk can bully his opponents off the ball with the Bruiser PlayStyle.
Best of all, PlayStyles are not reserved for the upper echelon of football’s talent, with players from leagues all over the world having their skills and traits recognised, such as Jamie Maclaren, captain of Melbourne City, who has Finesse Shot and Relentlessness PlayStyles. However, FC 24 does celebrate the sport’s elite with PlayStyles+, with only select players having access to these badges that really allow them to showcase their talents.
Best of all, PlayStyles are not reserved for the upper echelon of football’s talent, with players from leagues all over the world having their skills and traits recognised
Of course, it is still a video game and far from flawless. Passes will still go to the wrong player despite having a perfect through ball lined up, players will fall over one another and are still magnetised to the boundary line whenever they’re in close proximity with the ball, and goalkeepers will still attempt to save shots they can catch with ease.
A lot of effort has gone into creating an authentic match day broadcast experience, whether it’s the pre-game entertainment featuring players warming up and getting ready in the locker room, stats showing up in-game or during replays, and cameras from the referee’s perspective as they’re dishing out cards. The atmosphere is also excellent, with the camera shaking in true stadium-rocking fashion when a goal is scored, and the Frostbite Engine is doing some great work here with player models and the visuals.
While there will always be leagues and teams that don’t make the cut, FC 24 boasts more than 19,000 players across more than 30 leagues and 700 teams, giving greater opportunity to step into the boots of the players that bring football to life. And it’s great to see the women’s side of the game getting an increased presence here with the addition of the Frauen-Bundesliga and Liga F.
Just like watching it on TV
With my team Burnley doing poorly in the EPL proper, I figured I’d give Kompany the flick and jump into the hot seat in Manager Career Mode – the closet thing FC 24 has to a single-player campaign. One of my first tasks was to hire some assistance coaches, a new feature in FC 24 that aims to give your players’ performance a boost. It all ties into the mode’s Tactical Vision system, which sees you choose from seven gameplay styles: Standard, Park the Bus, Tika-taka, wing play, counter attack, kick and rush, and gegenpressing. It’s a neat idea as it gives greater control over your team’s style of play, but it perhaps doesn’t have as big of an impact overall.
As for the Player Career Mode, it feels like the closest thing we’ve got to EA’s story-driven mode The Journey, which last appeared in FIFA 19. Here you either take control of a created player or a chosen player and carve out a successful career, and PlayStyles will play a big role in that. Player Agents will guide you as your career progresses, and you’ll need to build your personality and brand by buying random items, such as a trampoline, that will boost your stats – it’s all a bit odd. It’s a shame that EA has moved away from the narrative-driven content that we got with The Journey, as Career Mode’s updates feel minor at best.
Volta, EA’s street football side hustle returns again, with players once more able to create their own avatar to partake in urban fun. Clubs (previously Pro Clubs), has received some welcome changes that fans are likely to enjoy, such as leagues being split into two phases: league, and playoffs, and the mode now supports crossplay.
Vincent, look at me, I’m the captain now
If you thought EA saving A$235 million on the FIFA branding might mean it would be less aggressive with microtransactions, well you better think again because there’s nothing corporate suits love more than profits. However, if you are someone who loves their Ultimate Team, the introduction of Evolutions, a feature that allows you to upgrade eligible players’ skills by completing challenges, should have you excited, as should being able to play with either men or women footballers on the same pitch.
With the once synonymous FIFA branding a thing of the past, EA Sports FC 24 is a new dawn for EA and football video games. It’s by no means a perfect debut, but it’s certainly a solid foundation for EA to build on thanks to PlayStyles and HypermotionV’s tech making digital football as real as it’s ever been. It’s a bummer that the game’s flagship mode Ultimate Team is still engineered to make money, but what about football these days isn’t about money?
Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher
- EA Vancouver
- EA Sports
- PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / Switch / PC
- September 29, 2023 (September 22 early access)