EA FC 24 review – FIFA rebrand gets a result by playing it safe
EA FC 24 marks the beginning of a new era of football games following the high-profile breakup between FIFA and EA SPORTS. Despite the upheaval behind the scenes and a brand-new look, on the pitch everything feels pretty familiar – for better and for worse.
Back in 2022, the news broke that the deal between EA SPORTS and long-time collaborators FIFA would be coming to an end, blowing the final whistle on an almost three-decade-long partnership that spawned 30 mainline releases and one of the most successful video game series of all-time.
FIFA games quickly became synonymous with football itself, releasing like clockwork with each new season. So when it was announced that the series would rebrand as EA SPORTS FC, fans were understandably intrigued, if not concerned, about what the future would hold.
Now, after plenty of hype and speculation, the first installment of the new era, EA FC 24, is finally here. It may not have brought the summer clearout that some might have been hoping for and many long-running issues are still alive and well, but having some of the slickest, most refined football you can play on virtual grass proves that you should never change a winning team.
EA FC 24 – Key details
- Price: $69.99 USD | £69.99 GBP
- Developer: EA SPORTS
- Release date: September 29, 2023
- Platforms: PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
The beautiful game
The FIFA series was always the gold standard when it came to visuals, and EA FC 24 continues this trend by stealing the crown of the best-looking football sim to date. This is partly due to the slick new menus and graphics packages that accompany the action, but mostly thanks to its unrivaled realism.
Players look better than ever with accurate body types that reflect their real-life counterparts. There are also updates to crowds, intros, and stadium lighting that really sell the matchday experience.
This attention to detail is also noticeable once the whistle blows, as new animations and subtle tweaks to the tried-and-tested gameplay formula add up to make every probing pass, fierce shot, or crunching tackle seem like it was plucked straight from the Premier League.
There are significant additions here too. The new Controlled Sprint Dribble (R1/RB) lets tricky wingers run at pace while keeping the ball on a string, allowing them to attack the box with all the speed and precision of Mo Salah or Kylian Mbappe. It’s extremely useful for carving out chances from wide positions and is destined to become a staple in this year’s meta.
The other major addition is Precision Passing (R1/RB), which strips away any assistance and lets midfielders manually decide exactly where to play the ball using an onscreen indicator. It’s tough to master and unlikely to become a must-use feature, but unlocking a tight defense with nothing more than Precision Passing and my own eye for a through ball has led to some of the most satisfying goals I’ve scored so far.
Matches in EA FC 24 have a much slower feel to them compared to their FIFA counterparts. Players feel weighty and the addition of more AcceleRATE types has made the pace more balanced. There’s still plenty of opportunity for spectacular moments and 30-yard screamers, but those who try to patiently build an attack before delivering the killer blow are rewarded more often than players who try and run from one end to another.
Despite these welcome changes, there’s a familiarity to each match that’s hard to shake. Die-hard fans with countless Weekend Leagues under their belt will find themselves back into the swing of things after a few matches. In a year that sees the series completely change its identity off the pitch, it’s disappointing to see so few creative swings on it.
You’re the boss
One area of EA FC 24 that has finally received some much-needed attention is Career Mode. The feature has played second fiddle to Ultimate Team in recent years, but fans will be relieved to hear that Manager Career, in particular, has been hit with its biggest update in some time.
Managers now start their journey by choosing a Tactical Vision, a footballing philosophy that decides exactly how your team will play. That could be the heavy metal of Klopp’s Gegenpress or the Tika-taka approach that made the Spanish national team a force to be reckoned with in the late 2000s.
You must then complement your Tactical Vision by putting together a crack team of backroom staff that aligns with the chosen style. Hiring the right coach in the necessary area of the pitch offers major stat boots to the squad, making it one of the biggest and best Career Mode additions in years.
Players also have more control in the build-up to each match. Individuals can be assigned different training programs that focus on either sharpness or stamina, and a full report on the opposing team will arrive before a game to let you tweak the system and exploit any weaknesses that appear.
The result is a Manager Career Mode with some long overdue Football Manager-style depth. While it still has some way to go to rival the level of freedom that Sports Interactive’s popular management sim allows, stepping into the dugout has never been this rewarding.
Lacing up the boots is a little underwhelming
It’s a shame then that Player Career hasn’t seen the same love. Those who prefer to take control of their own created player and take them from a potential wunderkind to a Ballon d’Or contender are met with a pretty familiar experience overall.
The key change this time around is that new starlets are assigned an agent as they begin their journey, who plays a vital role in deciding where their career will go. Through the agent, fans can pick their dream club and look to secure a big-money transfer by completing a series of objectives throughout the season.
While it certainly adds a little focus to the mode and provides a long-term goal to work towards, it does also remove some of the excitement of a European giant trying to poach you.
EA FC 24 also builds on the personality system from FIFA 23 by allowing players to earn Play Styles – essentially in-game perks reserved for the biggest stars – which are linked to the Maverick, Vituoso, and Heartbeat archetypes.
Although linking the two together makes the personality feature more vital to your budding star’s development, the off-pitch activities that help build up the required points are still nothing more than bland selection boxes with no way to ever see your purchases or investments. In this sense, Player Career Mode is left feeling half-baked and leagues away from the likes of NBA 2k.
Ultimate Team evolves
Unsurprisingly, the ever-popular Ultimate Team makes its return in EA FC 24. The publisher’s golden goose has become the go-to mode in recent times, and much like the rest of the game, it’s a case of building on what came before.
Following years of acquiring licenses such as the WSL and Division 1 Feminine, women’s players make their long-awaited debut in Ultimate Team this time around. Although the selection of leagues is slender compared to the men’s side of the sport, it’s refreshing to finally see the devs integrate the women’s game in a meaningful way.
The option to include the likes of Sam Kerr and Alexia Putellas alongside Haaland and co. breathes new life into the mode, opening the door for plenty of unique squad-building opportunities instead of the same old faces.
Evolutions is the other fresh feature in Ultimate Team, bringing a personal touch to every single squad. This brand-new system lets low-rated cards that meet certain criteria grow into world-beaters by ticking off objectives. For example, a non-rare Gold could earn extra pace and shooting by scoring a certain number of goals.
There’s only a handful of Evolution paths available at launch, but this already looks like the kind of feature that UT fans have been crying out for. The prospect of developing your own club legends into top-tier cards over the course of the season, instead of having to rely on the usual meta picks, is a game-changer that could keep matches fresh well into 2024.
Of course, it’s impossible to talk about Ultimate Team without mentioning microtransactions, which are, unfortunately, as dominant as ever in EA FC 24.
Although there are plenty of ways to earn player packs without spending money, the decision to make the lion’s share of SBC rewards untradeable makes coins frustratingly hard to come by without serious grinding. So, if you want to build a team as good as Manchester City, you’re probably going to need the same financial backing.
Verdict – 4/5
EA FC 24 emphatically puts any concerns to rest by delivering the most complete and satisfying depiction of the beautiful game seen to date. The gameplay that fans know and love has been tweaked and polished to make for a deeply enjoyable 90 minutes each time the whistle blows.
An overhaul to Manager Career reinvigorates the fan-favorite mode and adds depth that has been sorely missing when compared to its competitors. Meanwhile, women’s players and the new Evolutions help Ultimate Team take significant strides when it comes to the freedom of sculpting a dream squad.
However, given that this is set to kick off the next chapter in the series’ history, the lack of truly substantial changes on the pitch to match the slick new look keeps EA FC 24 from achieving Icon status.
Reviewed on PlayStation 5