When you turn on EA Sports’ highly-anticipated first foray into gaming after losing the licence to the Fifa name, you would be forgiven for not even noticing the difference.
Asking your mate to call around to the house to play a game of “EA Sports FC 24″ is not exactly going to roll off the tongue but from the opening moments of this year’s edition of the world’s most popular football game, you are greeted with familiar looking scenes and screens – with the font of the “FC24″ title card even looking pretty similar to Fifa.
Last year in a game of high brinkmanship, Fifa asked for $250 million a year from EA Sports for use of the name licence, and $1 billion over four years. It was a step too far for EA who announced they were making their own game without the Fifa name.
In typically pompous fashion, Fifa chief Gianni Infantino promised the best game on the market would remain the game with the Fifa name. However, without a developer on board or a discernible release date, Fifa’s vision remains distant, while for EA Sports, it is business as usual.
Unconcerned by the split and with $250 million saved in the bank, EA Sports quickly secured licences for the Champions League, Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga for this year’s edition. All the world’s top leagues for men and women are present, including the burgeoning Saudi Pro League, with the only notable licences missing being a couple of Serie A teams and the Brazilian national team.
Looking for big differences in gameplay between Fifa 23 and EA Sports FC 24 is a struggle, despite some small refinements. It makes sense from the company’s perspective not to move away from their winning formula too drastically after the first significant name change in 30 years.
Keeping its loyal fan base in mind, EA Sports offers founder status for Ultimate Team mode to those who acquire the game before November. In Ultimate Team, the option to transfer points from Fifa 23 serves as a definitive statement that this is the game carrying on the series, regardless of Infantino’s stance. What might surprise some is that both men and women feature together on the pitch in that mode, Bonmati alongside De Bruyne.
On the pitch, PlayStyles (which seems like traits in the previous game) claim to “dimensionalise” the players on the pitch, giving them unique capabilities and making them more authentic. The differences though are subtle. Hypermotion technology give the players more personality on the pitch, precision passing and shooting options give more variety, but the biggest difference to the game is in presentation, where more cutscenes and intros to the broadcast make the whole experience feel more true to life.
In Career Mode, a new from-the-sideline view feature is very immersive. As Erik Ten Hag, I could now watch my new Manchester United team start their Premier League campaign conceding a soft goal within the first five minutes from the technical area, so that felt realistic.
The mode features more cutscenes like an open-top bus parade scene should you win the league, and award ceremonies such as the Ballon d’Or if your player has a season to remember. One particularly amusing cutscene where I sold Diogo Dalot saw him pack his bags to melodramatic music like he had just been sacked from his cushy office job at a cut-throat US multinational company, before the game gave me a grade on how good my sale of him was. “B” it said, could have got £5 million more. Damn.
It is not an exact science though. Crystal Palace offered £25 million for Rasmus Hojlund before he kicked a ball for United in a summer he signed for £70 million. The game recommended I sell him for £28 million – while the Red Devils can be bad in the transfer market, that is a tad too far.
Player career mode is fun, offering the option of living vicariously through a created player or a real player. I chose to play as Evan Ferguson and it gave me a choice between giving my salary to fund an animal shelter or buy a luxury watch, a decision which would form my personality. Animal shelter of course – Bohs man and all that.
Volta and Clubs modes now have crossplay across the same generation of consoles, but the removal of draws and relegation in Clubs mode may be unwelcome with some players.
EA Sports FC 24 may not reinvent the wheel after losing the Fifa licence, but it manages to retain the essence of the Fifa series with its minimal changes. The game’s subtle refinements, while welcomed, don’t mask the fact that it’s essentially more of the same. But without major competition in the football market for now, that will do just fine for EA Sports.
♦ EA Sports FC 24 (Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (copy reviewed), Windows, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S) . Price €79.99 for standard edition, €109.99 for ultimate edition