25th September 2023

EA Sports FC 24 review: new name, same FIFA

Aside from a couple of welcome moves, EA’s new football game is largely as it was. Colour me surprised.

Akhil Arora, an OpenCritic “top critic”. His work has been recognised by The Game Awards and he has been reviewing video games since 2016.

Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham in EA Sports FC 24
Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham in EA Sports FC 24 // Photo: Electronic Arts

With last year’s FIFA 23, EA Sports touted two major introductions: cross-platform play and women’s leagues. But I found both to be frustratingly limited. The former was annoyingly restricted to 1v1 modes only, and the latter wasn’t allowed to co-exist with men’s football. Well, there’s good news on both fronts in this year’s update, now rebranded as EA Sports FC 24, owing to a change in licensing.

Cross-play is virtually everywhere. You can team up with friends on different platforms in (Pro) Clubs, Co-Op Seasons, Volta Football, and Ultimate Team Co-Op modes. That means I can now easily play EA FC 24 with my friends and family on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X. (You are, of course, limited to the same version of the game. So, PS4 and Xbox One are stuck with each other.) And there are immediate benefits to it. During the early access period, I quickly found games in Clubs, as I could now be paired with players across platforms.

On the gender front, women’s footballers are now part of Ultimate Team. Yep, that means you can now create hybrid squads, where a Lionel Messi can play alongside Alexia Putellas. You still must keep an eye on chemistry, though. You can link men’s and women’s players of the same team and nationality—that means siblings Reece and Lauren James can be deployed to a greater effect on the pitch, given they are both English and play for the men’s and women’s teams of Chelsea FC. You’ve more choices too, with women’s leagues going up from two to five: Spain, Germany, and the United States the new additions alongside the existing England and France.

Men’s and women’s teams still aren’t allowed to compete in Kick-Off and Online Friendlies, though. But these are welcome moves—it’s almost as if someone at EA read my review and took notes.

EA Sports FC 24 gameplay tilts ever more arcade

Unfortunately, it seems they didn’t pay attention to most of it. Scoring at near posts still feels easier than it ought to be—players with an overall rating under 80 are able to squeeze shots past the goalkeeper even when the gap is minimal. You can still get shots on target if you’re not facing the goal, even with players that have an overall under 70. Heck, there were times when I wasn’t facing the goal and my player had left the ball behind them, but I still managed to score. So much for realism. All that is to say that physics is still wonky on purpose in EA FC 24.

Real Madrid’s Vinícius Júnior in FIFA 24
Real Madrid’s Vinícius Júnior in EA Sports FC 24 // Photo: Electronic Arts

If anything, EA Sports is trying to make its football simulator even more arcade-ish. EA FC 24 brings in PlayStyles, which make players better in ways that go beyond their overall ratings. Real Madrid’s Vinícius Júnior, known for using the outside of his foot, has a PlayStyle called the “Trivela” that reduces his error on such passes. Chelsea’s Sam Kerr has “Finesse Shot” that allows her to shoot with more curve while maintaining accuracy.

But this can go beyond stats too—PlayStyles might decrease the arc for a chip shot or show you a longer preview line in free kicks. I like to think of them essentially as mini power-ups. They are available in two varieties: PlayStyle or PlayStyle+, the latter has an added boost. You can get temporary PlayStyles as rewards ahead of a match by participating in training—this is so hokey.

EA Sports is adding on-demand style too. You can request swerving ground and through passes by holding down the left trigger button (LT on Xbox and L2 on PlayStation).

But it’s also got new tools for pro gamers

That said, EA FC 24 also serves the constant demand from pro gamers to increase the skill gap. New precision passes—using the right bumper (RB on Xbox and R1 on PlayStation) and Y/△, respectively—allow you to add manual direction input to your passes. You can even execute swerving precision ground passes (LT + RB + Y on Xbox and L2 + R1 + △ on PlayStation). Think of how Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne pings the ball at times in between the centre and wing backs, for a run made by an overlapping winger. (Because of the precision pass, driven through pass and lob have been moved to LB + RB + Y/X and L1 + R1 + △/□.)

Additionally, precision shooting takes over from semi-assisted shooting. This isn’t a button press though—instead, you can pick between Assisted, Precision, and Manual in shot assistance in EA FC 24 game settings. If you opt for precision shooting, you’ll get an indicator below the player that tells you where you’re aiming (with the left stick) as you power up your shot.

Chelsea’s Sam Kerr in EA Sports FC 24
Chelsea’s Sam Kerr in EA Sports FC 24 // Photo: Electronic Arts

To further widen the skill gap, EA FC 24 is introducing new ways to dribble or control the ball. With the effort dribble touch (RB/R1 + right stick), you can define which direction you move in after the first touch. How long you hold the right stick defines how far your player knocks the ball. On top of that, you can reposition yourself around the ball using orbit dribble (LT/L2 + LB/L1 + left stick), which is helpful when you want to move the ball to your dominant foot.

As an attacking player, you can shield the ball using LT/L2. When it comes to defending, you can opt for the new Advance Defending setting, which changes the button layout. You can hit A on Xbox and ✕ on PlayStation to shoulder challenge.

EA Sports FC 24 review: new for the sake of being new

You can request headers on demand (LT/L2 + RT/R1 + third button) in EA FC 24, be it for passes or diving headers in the box, if you think said approach is better than using the player’s foot in said situation. This didn’t always work for me, as it would trigger super cancel at times and my player would simply walk away from the ball.

Lastly, with power shots—yes, that hilarious arcade-y mechanic is still around—you can transition to a chip or finesse shot as you power up. When it’s done well, it can work as an elaborate fake-out. Though I’m not sure there’s that much value in it.

There’s nuance to how players accelerate in EA FC 24. Instead of putting everyone in three brackets (Controlled, Explosive, or Lengthy), the game now boasts four more departments (Controlled Explosive, Mostly Explosive, Controlled Lengthy, and Mostly Lengthy) that fall on the spectrum. While the differences were easier to tell last year, it’s not as obvious this time around.

And using 11v11 match capture volumetric data and AI-driven machine learning algorithms, EA Sports is promising more than twice the number of true-to-life animations than last year. This allows for a more authentic running style for players like Manchester City’s Erling Haaland. It’s all part of the upgraded HyperMotionV—the numbering makes no sense to me, though. We were at HyperMotion 2 just last year. Surely the “V” doesn’t stand for the Roman numeral as that would make it five? Marketing mumbo jumbo 🤷‍♀️

Manchester City’s Erling Haaland scores against Borussia Dortmund in EA Sports FC 24
Manchester City’s Erling Haaland scores against Borussia Dortmund in EA Sports FC 24 // Photo: Electronic Arts

Ultimate Team ‘evolves’ in EA Sports FC 24

Let’s look at what’s happening across the various game modes, starting with Ultimate Team. (The community will need to come up with a new moniker, now that FUT isn’t appropriate anymore.)

For the first time in the history of Ultimate Team, you can upgrade your existing players with Evolutions. You can do so using a bunch of provided presets—during the early access period, I could choose from about five options—that will take players, in some cases, from an overall rating of 61 to 77. All you need to do is keep the player in the starting XI and either play or win games. While EA FC 24 starts you off with a few free evolutions, paid options exist too that use coins or, God forbid, FC Points.

(Yes, EA’s horrible microtransactions-based monetisation isn’t going anywhere. Previously known as FUT Points and now renamed “FC points”, you can buy them for real money. This egregious practice starts at Rs. 90 for 100 FC Points and goes all the way up to Rs. 8,299 for 12,000 FC Points. You get a 10 per cent discount if you’re an EA Play member.)

Coins and FC Points are two of three currencies inside Ultimate Team. Stars is the third one, having been introduced in FIFA 23 alongside FUT Moments, the bite-sized single-player experience that throws you into a variety of scenarios and challenges. Now simply Moments, I’m starting to think of it as the most effortless grind early on to get a gold starting squad, given EA’s insistence to stick you with bronze players at the start of every Ultimate Team.

Of course, Ultimate Team is the definition of grind—you can get through it slightly quicker in EA FC 24, with the length of squad battle matches going from six to four minutes per half. At the same time, it also makes comebacks tougher.

EA Sports FC 24 review: managerial vision

Over in Manager Career, EA Sports is putting a bigger emphasis on vision and coaching. The first time you start a new career, you’ll be asked to set a tactical vision for your team. You can pick between Wing Play, Tiki-Taka, Counter-Attack, Gegenpressing, Kick & Rush, and Park the Bus. This allows you to emulate the vision of your favourite coach and team, be it the late aughts FC Barcelona (Tiki-Taka), Jürgen Klopp (Gegenpressing), or 2010s José Mourinho (Park the Bus). If you don’t like any of these, just stick with the balanced Standard option.

Liverpool’s Diogo Jota in FIFA 24
Liverpool’s Diogo Jota in EA Sports FC 24 // Photo: Electronic Arts

To implement your tactical vision, you’ll need to hire coaches who fit that vision. Coaches will improve and align more with your vision as you play and win games across seasons. Their knowledge—defined as Novice, Accomplished or Expert—will improve over time. Coaches also add a rating boost to players. The exact value depends on player sharpness, an existing metric now influenced by training plans where you must balance sharpness and fitness. Coaches affect player development, too, with better coaches helping your younger players grow quicker. As you build your team out, your scouts can look for players who fit that vision.

With transfers, EA FC 24 will now assign you a deal rating after the player completes the move. This is essentially a score telling you how you performed value-wise—whether you got more than expected or you could’ve spent less or asked for more from the other club.

There are a lot of menus and buttons in the Manager career now, to the point I feel EA needs to reorganise and simplify the whole thing. I spent half an hour trying to figure out how to navigate multiple offers I had gotten for a player from different clubs. At first, I thought it was a bug, only to then realise accessing it was completely unintuitive. There was no button on the screen telling me how to get there.

EA Sports FC 24 review: Volta and Clubs

Pro Clubs—the only game mode where you can have 11v11 matches—is now simply called Clubs. In EA FC 24, it’s getting progression in the form of leagues that will run for six weeks. Think of them as like seasons in games such as Rocket League. As you climb divisions in Clubs, you’ll get new customisation items for your club and stadium or grow your club’s Reputation. Wait, what’s that? Reputation is another form of progression in Clubs in EA FC 24. Higher reputation levels give you higher overall AI teammates (helpful if you don’t have 11 friends), bigger stadiums and better items.

And as your individual Virtual Pro levels up, you can unlock PlayStyles for them, with up to six PlayStyle slots and two PlayStyle+ slots available.

New overlays in EA Sports FC 24
New overlays in EA Sports FC 24 // Photo: Electronic Arts/Screenshot by Akhil Arora

That leaves the street football mode Volta, which is getting such few changes that it didn’t even get a mention from EA Sports during the marketing lead-up to the game’s release. I spent some time with it, and it’s still the same boring mess. There’s little to no tactics to the gameplay, the perks further hurt the gameplay, and it’s clear that EA is treating it as an unwanted child.

EA Sports FC 24 verdict: a lack of innovation

In terms of performance, EA FC 24 crashed on me once right after a Squads Battle match wrapped up, leaving me in the lurch as to whether I got my deserved rewards or not. On another occasion, I got stuck while I was trying to hire coaches in Manager Career and had to force close the game. The menus—which have been massively reorganised, with EA Sports moving away from a button-based to text-driven layout—feel sluggish and take forever to load at times on the Xbox Series X.

On the graphical front, there isn’t a noticeable upgrade from last year. Sure, player faces are really detailed in cameras when the ball is out of play. You get the best look at this in the new first-person referee view after a foul is committed. But it’s still not always convincingly realistic. Clothing still sticks as if it’s part of the body (which it probably is, animation-wise), more so with managers. And in celebrations, I’ve seen hands go through the bodies of players (and other anomalies like that). The most interesting for me, in fact, is the new graphical overlays in EA FC 24 that bring statistics to life, like showing how your recent shots in the box have landed.

Overall, you get the sense that there’s simply not a lot happening. There are a few new ideas between Evolutions in Ultimate Team, Tactical Vision in Career, and leagues in Clubs. But none of them really improve the experience in any meaningful way. Gameplay-wise, EA Sports is more than happy to ever continually drift towards an arcade experience that’s more enjoyable to watch for online audiences. The only positive steps are the broadened presence of cross-play and women’s football. Kudos for once, it’s rare that EA Sports delivers something you want.

But you can sense the lack of innovation across the board—after all, that’s what a monopoly breeds. EA Sports FIFA is dead, say hello to EA Sports FC.

EA Sports FC 24 released September 29 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

Akhil Arora

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