In one of the biggest shocks in the gaming world, EA and FIFA parted ways in 2023, ending what was a 30-year partnership which spawned some 31 games.
EA was bullish about cutting ties with FIFA, promising a brand-new franchise that would still offer many things we all loved about the previous FIFA games - Ultimate Team and VOLTA Football, FTW! - while retaining its licence to use some 19,000 players, 700 teams, 100 stadiums, and over 30 leagues.
Oh, and throw in Spain's Liga F and Germany's Bundesliga for good measure and what you have, on paper at least, is a super-strength football sim that instead of suffering from a loss of licence has embraced its sense of freedom.
Now it's FIFA-free, though, does it still play like, well, FIFA? I’ve been lacing up my virtual boots for a few weeks now: here are 5 things to know…
1 It’s still FIFA in all but name
You can relax, FC 24 feels like the FIFA of old. The graphics, though more polished especially on the PS5 I’ve been playing the game on, will be familiar to those who have played FIFA. The musical cues are different dance and indie tunes but familiar, the commentary is as FIFA as they come, the official teams and player likenesses are all in place.
It’s hard, actually, to know quite what is missing other than the name - it feels like EA have gotten everything out of this split; the whole house and the contents inside.
2 It’s easier than ever to have a quick game
EA has, quite rightly, shored up its messy menu system and made it easier than ever to just have a quick kickabout. Yes, you can delve much deeper into footballing lore by taking on the might of Ultimate Team or trying out VOLTA, but a quick game gainst the computer or a real person is seconds away. I also felt this was the best way to get into the game and assess the level of difficulty you should be playing.
That’s because in the first game you play, the game assigns you a skill level throughout, which changes as the rust in your gaming disappears. This is just a recommendation and can obviously be changed in the settings, but it’s a great foundation on which the rest of the game is played.
The tutorial system has been overhauled, too, which means that it is a helluva lot simpler to learn new tricks than before.
3 Gameplay is slicker, thanks to AI
A new feature EA has added in FC 24 is something called Hypermotion V tech. This has seen EA build its gaming and graphics from the ground up, using Xsens suits on players (all 22 in a squad) and blending this data with AI flourishes.
It makes for a slick game, where passing feels much more intuitive and precise, as does vying for the ball in the air and dribbling. Camera work is also more fluid and the overlaying of stats on a pitch when there’s a little down time, such as when waiting for a goalie to take their shot, is a really nice touch.
EA is really trying to add a bit of idiosyncrasy to its new game, too, and this can be best seen in what it calls PlayStyles. The idea here is that when you play as Haaland, you really play like him with his forceful forward style. Each player has their own PlayStyle and it’s sort of like a special move that when used really does benefit the game on the pitch.
4 Ultimate Team is back, with a brilliant twist
EA really has done all it can to integrate the women’s game into FC 24 and this is most apparent in Ultimate Team. For the first time, you can have mixed football teams, choosing both men and women to make up your squad.
Six women’s leagues are accessible which makes the pool of players to choose from, well, massive. Yes, this section of FIFA is still the ultimate cash grab for EA but it’s fun to build your team and their skillset, especially with the addition of something called Evolutions. This gives you a chance to beef up the skills of your players, if they meet certain criteria, by puttiung them through a series of challenges.
There’s a chance to upgrade bronze players to gold status. In theory this should mean you don’t have to fork out for new players all the time, but there are still microtransactions available to level up quicker.
5 Career mode is frustrating but VOLTA is fun
EA hasn’t really improved on the Career mode aspect of FC 24 which is a shame. It’s fun to start with, but soon the repetition of press conference questions, the fug of club building and the behind-the-scenes nonsense grates. It’s just not the Football Manager sim we really want.
Thankfully, VOLTA is still fantastic, frenetic fun - playing street football to build up your skills and the like. The cross-play functionality is a joy, too, meaning you can play people beyond your console of choice.
EA Sports FC 24: Final Verdict
Fans of FIFA will not be disappointed with EA Sports FC 24. It feels like a fresher, freer version of the game millions know and love, with pretty much all the familiar bits intact.
Those hoping for more of a reboot may find that not enough has changed but if it’s not broken, why try and fix it?