As usual, EA's done the bare minimum to warrant the Triple-A price tag. You can expect the same-old changes here, from the slowed gameplay that won't last, still laggy Ultimate Team menus and the ever-present microtransactions that are worse than ever. It probably won't disappoint die-hard FIFA fans, but might leave you scratching your head wondering where all that money went.
Perhaps a tad naively, we jumped into our first EA Sports FC 24 session with bright-eyed enthusiasm, ready to experience something, anything, that would justify EA’s massive breakaway from the FIFA moniker for the first time since 1993. We left dull-eyed, tail tucked between our legs, having experienced a game that felt almost identical to its predecessor.
It’s become the thing to take a giant dump all over EA Sports’ latest effort – and rightfully so – whether it’s Madden, NBA 2K or FIFA. That’s (mostly) EA’s fault for failing to come up with an original idea since Ultimate Team’s inception, though some of that blame lies with the fanbase. We’re not admitting to victim-blaming, but we also won’t deny it.
That’s not to say there isn’t anything new here. It’s got the usual hallmarks of a FIFA game; a slightly slower pace for ‘realism’, new teams, and a couple of additions to the Ultimate Team mode that could’ve been achieved through an update. Hyperbolism aside, our general sentiment still stands that EA FC 24 hardly does enough to justify the triple-A price.
Slowing things down (again)
Before we dive into any of FC 24’s modes, it’s worth looking at any football game’s most important aspect: gameplay. From a technical standpoint, FC 24 is definitively the most realistic football sim out there. That’s not a compliment, it’s expected – what with EA’s stranglehold on the sports-gaming industry and $7.4 billion+ in annual revenue.
So, what does all that moola mean for EA’s next unfortunate victim in the perpetual cycle that is FC 24? Not much, apparently. Poor AI, extremely detailed overworlds, and some stylish flair. Just what you always wanted, right?
We didn’t think so. Sure, we were impressed by the game’s deluge of new player animations – it’s always something to look forward to in this never-ending dance – but it’s severely lacking any changes with substance. Instead, you’re met with the same superficial changes that do a lot for the shiny exterior, like the game’s generally slower pace that, if history repeats itself, will be hot-swapped out for something a little speedier (you know, for ‘realism’) pretty soon.
All the usual changes to everything but the football have wiggled their way in too. EA’s gone out of its way to make off-the-ball interactions more realistic, rather than evolving its on-the-ball gameplay. Those involve sitting through the rigamarole of post-match interviews or the ref’s bodycam footage when handing out yellows and reds. You might love it, but it barely managed to hold our attention after the first few times.
What did illicit a worthy reaction was the introduction of PlayStyles, a new ‘mechanic’ that does a great job of highlighting each player’s strengths. There are 32 PlayStyles in total, spread across six categories: shooting, passing, defending, goalkeeping, ball control, and physical. It’s not a mechanic you actively have to use like some sort of Elden Ring Ash of War, but something meant to organically improve gameplay with a fresh layer of individuality. Most of the game’s world-class players will get a + added to their PlayStyle to help them stand out even further from the rest. It’s a decent feature that we hope doesn’t get booted in favour of something more… EA-flavoured.
Ultimate waste of time (and money)
Like Ultimate Team – simultaneously the best and worst thing to hit EA’s long line of sports sims since it launched with FIFA 09. Things are the same as ever, with quantity, not quality, being the shining factor yet again. You’ll still find the same old SBCs, boring Squad Battles, poor servers, and the regular influx of sheeple that shell out thousands of bucks in the hopes of unlocking Erling Haaland but only scoring themselves a lifelong addiction to gambling.
Admittedly, we did manage to have some fun with Ultimate Team. That feeling will have surely abated in a month or so, but for now, it’s… okay. It’s rough around all the same edges, with lag still infecting the menus and dreadfully boring squad battles that are mercifully shorter this time (4 minutes a side). Even so, EA’s done something to retain those non-spenders for just a little while longer, and for that we’re grateful.
We’re talking about Evolutions, which gives certain cards the ability to upgrade for free if you’re willing to put in a bit of work. Evolutions lets you turn ordinary cards like Hudson-Odoi, whose regular card starts at 75, into something that’s worth keeping in the club. Not every card is eligible for Evolutions, but a fair few are – and rarely left us berating the game’s lack of representation. Any given card can have specific stats upgraded, which unlock through challenges pertaining to any skill. Improving a card’s shooting stat involves scoring X number of goals, or defenders making X number of tackles to earn their upgrades. You get the idea.
Unfortunately, this is EA. For every good decision, two more appear like a money-hungry hydra. What was initially presented as an enticing gameplay loop for those that don’t spend, still manages to have microtransactions.
Most Evolutions routes are free (except when they’re not), but there’s one that’ll see your 79-rated winger evolve into an 85-rated card for the measly cost of 50,000 in-game coins or the simple expedient of 1,000 FC 24 points (or R180). Spending isn’t a necessity, but it does make for even more unbalanced gameplay in a game already riddled with pay-to-win ideologies.
And for the EA stans in the back shouting about the addition of women in Ultimate Team, that’s… correct. EA has discovered inclusivity. That’s generally a good thing for the player base but here it also means EA can reach more fans… all the way into their wallets.
We don’t mind suspending our disbelief that the women’s cards share similar physical stats with the male cards and that playing any women’s card upfront is going to give you an edge due to their smaller frame and often quicker builds. We’re just not a fan of the sheer volume of new cards diluting the pool and putting us further away from the Ronaldo, Messi, and Maguire cards out there, all so EA can pocket more money.
Shock horror: Career Mode is still a letdown
Luckily, EA hasn’t yet found a way to worm microtransactions into Career Mode – both a blessing and a curse. Not having to pay more within a game you’ve already bought is a win, but it comes at the expense of the mode’s early death every year.
The most notable change for players that like to, well, be a player, is Player Agents. An interesting idea that gives your character a list of objectives to help them stay in the team or get the transfer they hoped for. However interesting, we found its execution needs more work. That list of seasonal objectives slowly devolved into what you might expect from a game’s lifetime achievements. “Oh sorry, five of your 26 goals this season weren’t bicycle kicks…”
As always, we enjoyed our time with Manager Career more than anything else. That’s not because any of the new features blew us away, but rather its consistency. It does have something new to fiddle with – new identities for your manager and their playstyles. You might pick ‘Tiki Taka’ or ‘Park the Bus’ or one of the other five choices on offer, hiring specific coaches to drill those ideals into your squad. On paper, it’s meant to give multiple playthroughs a different personality and feel. In reality, it steered us towards putting our copy down after one playthrough, with hardly any changes to the gameplay and effectively leaving us with FIFA 23‘s Career Mode.
EA FC 24 verdict
At the end of the day, EA FC 24 is better than its Federation predecessor, but not by much. For every step it takes forward – PlayStyles, Evolutions – it takes two steps backwards. Ultimate Team is still a sloppy excuse to push microtransactions, Career Mode is severely under-utilised, and the AI can be frustrating. Fun can be had if you know where to look. If you gave FIFA 23 a miss, we’d recommend giving this one a go. If you didn’t… we suggest giving your wallet a break this year.