EA FC 24 on PS5
For the first time since 1993, FIFA and EA Sports have no longer partnered to release what has become the most popular footballing video game in the world. But the end of that long-term relationship was never going to slow down EA Sports. They’re the king, baby, and from the ashes of that split rose a simpler title: EA FC 24.
But did a better game make the trip with them? Well if you know anything about me and sports titles, you know that’s a loaded question.
I will say this from the start: EA FC does feel different to FIFA 23. There are noticeable changes that vastly improve the experience, and there are even hints at something even greater still. Yet along the way, you’re going to hit those age-old bumps. You’re going to curse your Ultimate Team pack luck. And, you’re going to wonder just how in the heck it is possible to still run into so many duplicates in a game that may have more player cards than ever before. The game is the game, after all.
On the other hand, you’re going to sit and have a think about those gameplay tweaks; ones that slow the flow but make the game feel better than it has in years. We still get cartoonish collisions of limbs, and yet, take-ons have never looked so realistic. Not every player can ping every pass. There is a balance to these mechanics; to the gameplay tweaks that could just as easily descend into madness. And for the first time in as long as I can remember, EA feels closer than ever to achieving it.
So is it enough? Well, I think we all know the answer to that question.
Ultimate Team Evolves, but Familiar Issues Linger
There is a lot to like about Ultimate Team this year, and we’re not just talking about those intriguing new Evolutions. Rather, it’s the inclusion of women’s football from the very beginning for the very first time. Does that make for a larger player pool? Absolutely. It also means you won’t be relying on the same old squads anymore. That is, unless you want to. Though, why would you want to? After all, EA made some changes; why don’t you follow suit?
That isn’t to say Ultimate Team is without its issues. Far from it. It’s just unfortunate that they’re the same issues we talk about every single year, only now they’re a little more amplified. Squad Building Challenges (SBCs) should be fun, and a good amount of the time, they are! Yet as was the case with FIFA 23, the early, more challenging builds that used to give players pretty rewarding packs aren’t all that rewarding anymore. Don’t get me wrong, the same pack rewards remain. It’s just that they’re untradeable, and that wasn’t always the case.
In fact, a lot of SBC rewards are untradeable, and we’re not just talking about the specialty player-specific builds. Of course those are going to be untradeable; they’re usually Team of the Week (TOTW) or Player of the Month (POTM) items. But the majority of these builds should not be handing out untradeable rewards, especially when every pack players earn from completing objectives is also untradeable.
And honestly, that’d be fine if we could revert to more tradeable SBC rewards. There’s a balance to be struck, and instead of doing so EA wants you to spend more. Pack luck is lousy enough as it is, and we shouldn’t have to keep paying more for the privilege. Oh, and then there’s absurd amount of duplicates so early on in the game’s lifespan – in an entry that boasts the biggest player pool to date.
A Little Balance Here, a Little Tediousness There
Remember when Pro Clubs wasn’t crossplay compatible in FIFA 23? Many heads dropped at that news. The disappointment was palpable. So it’s nice to see EA rectify that in FC 24 by making Clubs, along with various other game modes, crossplay compatible.
We’re going to use my favorite word again as it pertains to sports titles, and that word is balance. Striking such a thing within these games is, in my opinion, the greatest task a sports title sets out to achieve. After all, there’s always going to be a lot of content in these types of games. But just throwing a whole bunch of content at consumers isn’t enough. The experience has to be worthwhile.
Speaking of, Squad Battles within Ultimate Team are shorter in FC 24, and that’s wonderful. Now if you’re looking to avoid head-to-head online matches, you’ll be able to play 32 matches per week on whichever difficulty setting you choose, and it won’t feel tedious. On the other hand, going back to a few Rivals matches or – gosh forbid, online friendlies – after enjoying some Squad Battles will make you feel like you’re playing the longest match of your life.
Early Gameplay Tweaks Are Encouraging
It feels like in recent years, FIFA gameplay would start out quite smoothly. Then over the course of its lifespan, through the inevitable patch fixes that almost certainly included gameplay tweaks, it would warp into a never-ending nightmare. Limbs everywhere. Bodies folded like the world’s scariest contortionists. Every player could perform every pass at any given moment, regardless of the pressure on the ball or the ability of said player. If you could master the finesse shot, it was all over for those losers.
Right now, again, FC 24 gameplay has felt quite nice in its early days. Passing sequences are far less forgiving if you’re not careful (and maybe they’ve gone too far the other way) but when you pull of the sequence you’ve been looking for, my goodness is it satisfying. There are general imbalances from player to player, but that’s to be expected. Meta builds and players will be found and will always exist, but a seemingly slower gameplay has made for a far smoother experience. Pass timing, shot timing; it matters. Right now, anyway.
Let’s just hope patterns like these continue. Especially when modes like Squad Battles are noticeably shorter and rewards for Rivals remain worthwhile, it’s important for the game to feel good. EA FC feels good, and we’d rather not go back to pacey wingers bombing down the touchlines just to cut the ball back for a tap in. The game needs to be a little more realistic than that.
Oh, and physicality from player to player matters as well. Again, much like the passing, it could likely do with some tweaking, but in the everchanging quest to make the most realistic sports title imaginable, we’ve gotten closer to it than we have in a while.
A Refreshed Presentation, but Only Just
Look, I have nothing against Derek Rae, Stewart Robson, Guy Mowbray, and Sue Smith, our commentators for EA FC 24. Rae has become the voice of the Bundesliga at this point and so clearly cares about his craft. And much like the women’s game coming to the forefront of Ultimate Team, it’s refreshing to hear Smith’s voice added to the mix as well. But can we please do better with their actual dialogue?
For frequent players of the franchise, you’ll quickly find out that Rae’s and Robson’s lines are lifted word-for-word from FIFA 23. There may be a couple of new bits in there, but it’s largely the same, and that feels like such a waste.
As for Mowbray and Smith, simply having new voices in the game feels like enough of a breath of fresh air in itself. And yet, sooner than later, that novelty will wear off as well. Maybe it’s the nature of the game. After all, frequent players do play a lot. Between this and games like Madden or NBA 2K, football matches in-game will always be the shortest. You’re going to hear these voices often, so maybe that’s the biggest part of it. But it also feels like EA could try a little harder here.
I’m not saying the solution is to find every single announcer out there that covers every single league within this game. I am saying, however, that a little more work in this department could got a long way. Seeing them in the booth after a match is a nice touch, as is seeing fans arrive at their seats with some tasty food. Stadium chants, club anthems, Tifos of every shape and size; those all enhance the matchday experience. But my gosh, does that commentary drag.
My recommendation? Just put some John Carpenter music on in the background and play matches to your heart’s content; I don’t know. Do what feels best for you, you know?
We’re Not Done With You Yet, Career Mode
Can I just say, there are elements to Career Mode in EA FC that almost make it feel a little bit Football Manager. Just a little, and for someone like me who is obsessed with Career Modes in sports games, that’s really neat. No, EA FC is decidedly not Football Manager, and it shouldn’t be! They are two entirely different games with two entirely different goals.
The thing is, though, it’s still football. You’re going to want to have a cohesive coaching staff just as much as you’re going to want to adapt a specific playing style. EA FC finally gives you the ability to enjoy those two features. They still haven’t upgraded to the nine-player bench as far as I can tell, but hey, baby steps.
PlayStyles, player focuses, and the ability to set training schedules all add quite a bit to the Career experience. As a Player, you can even work with your agent to help get you transferred to a more prestigious club as long as you achieve the tasks set out for yourself along the way. As a Manager, the whole press conference bit can feel a little trivial, but it can’t be too much worse than being asked the same six or seven questions over and over again in Football Manager.
There is a level of care on display here that I haven’t seen from this franchise in a while, and it’s a welcome one. Now that I’ve said all of my nice things, though, can we please get an Online Career Mode? There are so many teams and leagues to enjoy; so many competitions to play through. Imagine being able to play an entire season with a buddy or two. Whether you’d be in different domestic leagues or not; whether you’d be fighting to be the best in Europe or not, there is (potentially) plenty of fun to be uncovered.
Oh, yeah, and a story-driven Player Career could be a game-changer. But we won’t get too greedy. Yet.
Here’s the Thing About EA FC 24
All told, EA FC takes steps forward in their first attempt since emerging from FIFA’s shadow. Things feels different. Some of the new features are fun. More crossplay compatible modes is a recipe for success. Presentation is improved, if only slightly. Gameplay is good, though it’s early. And for all the similarities, there aren’t just changes for the sake of changes.
Last year, I said get out of FIFA 23 what you wanted to get out of it. And to be quite honest, that’s my motto for any video game, let alone sports titles. You aren’t required to play this, or any other game, forever. You’re going to get sick of the lack of pack luck eventually. Gameplay will inevitably warp, but let’s hope we’re wrong about that. Or, let’s hope it doesn’t change too drastically.
And yet, there are parts of this entry that feel unfamiliar. There are foundations here to build upon in future versions. So despite the greed and eye roll-inducing commentary, we’re feeling cautiously optimistic about the future, and that’s a strangely unfamiliar feeling.
Career Mode matters.
Shorter Squad Battles.
Adjusted, slower gameplay.
Crossplay, Crossplay everywhere.
The Women’s Game comes to the forefront.
Is this enough Ultimate Team content for you?
Stale commentary remains.
EA really want you to buy packs.
Can we please have Online Career Mode?
We fear Gameplay will revert to the FIFA of old.
There has to be a way to improve the UX with those menus.
Sept. 29, 2023
EA Vancouver, EA Romania
PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Copy provided by Publisher
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