It's a new dawn for EA Sports. After deciding to drop the FIFA name rather than pay the world football governing body's demands, the California-based company announced it would be continuing its popular football franchise under a new title, and it feels strange to say that 'EA Sports FC 24' is finally here.
So, after 30 years of FIFA, just how different is EA Sports FC 24 compared to its predecessors? Is it a brand-new game with major updates and improvements, or is it merely FIFA 23 with a makeover and a new name?
In the month before FC 24 was released, it seemed that EA Sports had saved the money they previously paid FIFA for licencing and instead increased its marketing budget significantly to raise awareness of the new name and reiterating the fact that this is the football game for authenticity. The game includes more than 30 leagues, 700 clubs and 19,000 players.
One of the biggest focuses for EA Sports with FC 24 was the increased emphasis on women's football – there are two new women's leagues - the Google Pixel Frauen-Bundesliga and Liga F - plus the inclusion of the Barclays Women's Super League, the D1 Arkema, the National Women's Soccer League, the UEFA Women's Champions League. Women are also on Ultimate Team for the first time, meaning you can combine men and women to create unstoppable fantasy squads. More on that later.
There's also the introduction of HyperMotionV technology, which adds a layer of realism to make FC 24 feel more like the true game than ever before. The game also takes advantage of the advanced Frostbite engine.
More players feel true-to-life than ever before – and this is partly down to the new PlayStyles feature, which gives particular players standout features that mirror their real-life skills. Mohamed Salah, for instance, has 'Rapid' and 'Finesse Shot+' amongst others, and Kevin De Bruyne has 'Pinged Pass', 'Long Ball Pass' and 'Incisive Pass+' to replicate his playmaker ability. There are a total of 32 PlayStyles in the game, with players possessing between zero and seven at launch.
There are also significant changes to Career Mode, like the introduction of Total Management System that brings together two new elements - Tactical Visions and Coaches. This helps you to have more control than ever – both on and off the pitch. There's also an increased focus on preparing for matches and some interesting cut scenes that make career mode feel more involved than ever. The scouting system has also undergone a refresh, and player development is more customisable than ever before.
One major overhaul seen in FC 24 involves the menus – everything feels a lot quicker and logically put together thanks to the addition of quick drop-down style menus – it makes the whole experience of FC 24 a lot more enjoyable when you're in between matches, particularly in Ultimate Team.
How does it play?
After playing the game for a few weeks now, I can honestly say that I've enjoyed the gameplay FC 24 has to offer across multiple game modes. I found myself revisiting the street-style Volta game mode, doing a couple of seasons in career mode, and playing a variety of modes within Ultimate Team.
HyperMotionV technology makes the game feel more like a sim than an arcade game, and everything feels like it's been slowed down slightly to match the pace of the real game.
The graphics are out of this world – especially on a large 4K HDR television. Minor details like the way the players' shirts and hair move and the increased focus on the stadiums mean every time you play a game, it feels like a truly special event – EA Sports has captured the beautiful game in all of its glory.
However, after playing over 100 games, it's fair to say the gameplay is not perfect; there are a few glitches that need to be patched, like frustrating goalkeeper mechanics and annoying refereeing decisions that tarnish the experience. Online, players also continue to abuse certain 'meta' gameplay tactics, which can make several games in a row feel repetitive and tiresome. These issues can be ironed out with a patch or two.
EA Sports' cash cow is back, and it's better than ever before. As mentioned earlier, women can now be added to your Ultimate Team, which gives more possibilities than ever before when it comes to deciding what team to build.
'Evolutions' allows you to evolve certain players by completing particular tasks, adding another level of customisation for your squad – you're now a lot less likely to be playing against the same players each game, which is refreshing.
'Red picks' have now gone from the weekend league, instead giving you 84+ gold player picks to improve your team. This is a welcome addition, as it was previously really tough to pack a decent Team of the Week card in the form of a red pick.
I've enjoyed playing with all-women teams, as well as male/female hybrid teams in the 80 or so games I've played in Ultimate Team so far, but I do think EA Sports might have issues as the game cycle progresses when it comes to player body types and what that means for overall gameplay. A lot of the female players are naturally smaller and have less strength than their male counterparts, but this doesn't always translate into the gameplay. Although EA Sports labels Ultimate Team a 'fantasy' mode, it can be frustrating watching a 92kg, 1.95m Virgil van Dijk get outmuscled by 66kg, 1.67m Aussie legend Sam Kerr.
There does feel to be more of an emphasis on a pay-to-play business model, with more and more packs becoming untradable and therefore encouraging you to spend your head-earned money on in-game currency to try and pack more desirable players to better your team.
It's going to take a while to kick the habit of using the word 'FIFA' when describing the latest EA Sports' football game, but it's an exciting time for the company as they move into a new era of football game.
A lot of improvements have been made across multiple game modes, in particular Ultimate Team, which gives even more replay value than ever before.
While there isn't much in the way of competition out there, just Konami's eFootball for the time being, FC 24 has done a great job of continuing the legacy it created under the FIFA name.