EA FC 24 preview: FIFA rebrand plays it safe & sticks to home turf

Nathan Warby
EA SPORTS FC cover star Haaland suurounded by other players

EA SPORTS FC 24 is set to usher in a new era of football games following the well-documented end of the partnership between the titular publisher and FIFA. But after taking to the pitch for a few games at a recent preview event, EA FC 24 feels less like a bold step forward and more like slipping on your favorite pair of boots ready for the new season.

When long-time partners EA and FIFA announced that they would be going their separate ways after the release of FIFA 23, and that FIFA 24 would be replaced by a new titled called EA SPORTS FC, fans were understandably curious about how the future of virtual football would look.

Would the developers use the rebrand as an excuse to make a fresh start and drastically overhaul the game that players have been swarming to for almost three decades? Or, would they play it safe to ensure that FIFA veterans would still feel right at home despite the new surroundings?

After being flown out to the recent EA SPORTS FC 24 reveal event in Amsterdam, we got the chance to play an alpha build of the game on the standard Kick-Off mode, and it’s clear that the devs took the Sir Alf Ramsey approach: Never change a winning team.

Home turf

haaland, vinicius jr, and kerr in ea fc 24

The first thing you notice when the whistle blows in EA FC 24 is just how familiar it feels. Those who have spent thousands of hours crafting their Ultimate Team or taking their favorite clubs from rags to riches in Career Mode will instantly recognize the slick and stylish brand of on-the-pitch action. After just a few minutes of the first heavyweight clash between Manchester City and PSG, I shook off those debut-day nerves and found myself back into a comfortable groove.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. EA has always offered the most authentic football experience around without lacing up yourself, and there’s no doubt that many of the fans rushing through the turnstiles in September will be relieved that the buttery-smooth animations, lively atmospheres, and emphasis on big moments have survived the name-change.

However, it is tough to get past the feeling that playing it safe at such a pivotal moment in the series’ history is a real missed opportunity. There’s a real lack of meaningful changes that will alter how EA FC 24 will be played, especially when you get into hotly-contested matches on FUT Champs or Division Rivals.

While FIFA 23’s power shot wasn’t fully embraced by all players, it was still a new tool that skilled players could deploy to turn the tide of a game and one that defenders had to take into account while protecting their goal. From the seven or eight matches I have under my belt in EA FC 24 so far, there is nothing quite as game-changing being added into the mix this time around.

World in HyperMotion

Erling Haaland in EA Sports FC 24

That’s not to say that there aren’t any new gameplay features in EA FC 24. With the help of the latest version of HyperMotion technology, HyperMotion V, a ton of new, realistic animations have been added which open the door for a handful of fresh mechanics.

The marquee arrival this year is Play Styles, expanded versions of the traits that long-time fans will be familiar with. These act as perks that give the world’s best players handy bonuses in situations that suit them best. For example, Nathan Ake’s Blocker Play Style allows him to call on more animations than the average defender when trying to intercept a probing pass, while cover star Erling Haaland’s Power Shot lets him fire a rocket into the top corner that would otherwise be an easy save for the keeper.

These go a long way towards making each player feel unique and as true to their real-life counterparts as possible. Play Styles are set to enjoy a starring role across Ultimate Team, Career Mode, and Pro Clubs, and they could have a real impact on the meta across all modes.

Another new feature in EA FC 24 is Precision Passing, which lets playmakers manually take control of a through ball by holding R1/RB to decide exactly where and how the pass is played with the help of an onscreen line to judge the direction and power. In the hands of skilled players like De Bruyne or Veratti, this allows you to exploit gaps in the defense that wouldn’t have been possible in previous years, even adding some swerve with an outside foot pass to slice open the backline and lay a chance on a plate.

Last up is the new Controlled Sprint Dribble, allowing tricky wingers to keep the ball glued to their foot while still gliding past defenders, again by holding the right shoulder button. With this activated, you can attack a full-back with greater speed and control, quickly snapping the ball away from any outstretched legs or onrushing goalkeepers.

Although none of these features fundamentally change how EA FC 24 plays, combined with the improved lighting and more realistic body types, they do add up to make for the most refined version of the beautiful game ever put to virtual grass.

Final whistle

Ea Sports FC 24 shush celebration

Despite the new name, EA SPORTS FC 24 isn’t exactly the groundbreaking start of a new era that many thought and hoped it might be. A new look and a handful of fresh faces in the dressing room, such as Precision Passing and Play Styles, do little to disguise that this is still very much the same game that fans have been playing religiously for the last few years.

That might come as a disappointment to anybody who felt that the gameplay was in need of a major revamp, and it definitely raises a few questions about whether or not it’s enough to keep players hooked for months at a time. But the changes that are here do add up to engaging and occasionally breathtaking matches that no other football sim can rival. Just like past FIFA games before it, nothing comes close to the sheer spectacle that EA FC 24 creates over 90 minutes.

After all the uncertainty behind the scenes, EA are delivering some stability where it matters – on the pitch. While it may not be the turning point that some had been clamoring for, it’s a strong and polished foundation that has me optimistic for the season ahead.

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