Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X
September 29, 2023
Soccer: live it, love it. It’s estimated that around 3.5 billion people watch soccer worldwide, lending it the nickname the “world’s game”. It’s no surprise, then, that soccer video games like EA Sports FC 24 continue to rate highly in the most watched and most streamed gaming statistics, with each of EA’s annual titles causing a massive surge in enthusiasm for the sport on release.
This year, things may look a little different on the surface, but EA Sports have definitely brought their usual A-game to this football fan favourite. After licensing negotiations between EA and FIFA broke down, the development studio decided to cut ties with the football conglomerate and instead create a new IP for the series going forward. The result is a game that feels incredibly familiar, just wrapped in a different skin.
While it’s got a new coat of paint, EA Sports FC 24 is very much a continuation of EA’s flagship soccer franchise. Even though I haven’t played a football video game since FIFA 07 on the GameCube, I immediately felt right at home with FC 24’s controls and mechanics. On the pitch, a small arrow appears above the player you’re controlling. Tapping a button to switch between players is intuitive and almost always takes you to the best player for the situation, whether you’re chasing down an opposing striker or making your own offensive play. After a while, you begin to really feel the differences between each player: who’s fastest, who’s most accurate, or who refuses to be tackled.
Premiership modes reward thoughtful and non-reactive gameplay. Mashing buttons will get you in trouble quickly – you might successfully steal the ball by hammering on the tackle button, but you’re just as likely to immediately lob it into the stands. Thankfully, there’s a thorough set of training exercises and a decent tutorial for each gameplay mode to get you acquainted with how players handle, as well as some basic strategies and styles of play. Additionally, overlays with player statistics and replays help to more clearly demonstrate how your actions can affect the game. Replays themselves highlight EA Sports FC 24’s flagship feature “HyperMotion V”, a machine-learning algorithm trained on hundreds of professional soccer matches and applied to player animations in-game. It’s not a life-altering change, but it’s neat to see your players perform some moves influenced by real-life soccer stars.
Front and centre in EA Sports FC 24 is its Ultimate Team mode, where you collect players from across the world and assemble a fantasy football squad to take on online challenges. It’s an absolutely mammoth gameplay mode, featuring tournaments, a player economy, and a sweet seasonal “Moments” mechanic where you can play through iconic moments in soccer, themed around particular players or teams. You can have any players on your team regardless of league, gender, or skill, with players gaining bonuses based on their synergy. As you play, you’ll also increase players’ skills and “PlayStyles” which grant them unique RPG-style bonuses.
Like most of Australia, I jumped headfirst onto the soccer bandwagon during the Matildas’ incredible finals season this year, so it was with great delight that I saw that in Moments you can play through Aussie legend Sam Kerr’s rise to stardom. To access this campaign, you need to have her in your starting eleven, as well as at least one more player from the NWSL. While Kerr is temporarily available for free, to complete all of the requirements you’ll need to engage with the Transfer Market and – of course – the microtransactions.
Adding players to your squad can be done via earning in-game currency to spend on the player-driven Transfer Market, or by purchasing lootbox-style packs of player cards. The players you start with aren’t worth anything on the market, meaning you’ll need to engage at least on some level with the microtransaction-driven systems to get the most out of Ultimate Team. Paid content in full-priced games is nothing new, but the implementation of randomised player packs is insidious and lends an unwanted slimy feel to what is an otherwise terrific game mode.
In addition to the flagship Ultimate Team mode, EA Sports FC 24 is chock-full of different ways to play the world’s game. Two separate career modes let you roleplay as a football manager or player respectively, making decisions for your club and playing out different seasons. These modes are entire games in themselves. As a manager, you’re assembling a squad, sorting training regimens, dealing with the press, and juggling player happiness with the club’s success.
You can even skip playing through the matches entirely and focus solely on the strategic side of managing your club. In the RPG-style player career, you’ll try to build up a reputation as a Maverick, Virtuoso, or Heartbeat-driven football star, spending your hard-earned money on items that boost your stats and accruing skill points to unlock perks. You’ll also have access to a Player Agent who gives you advice and guidance on what to strive for next in your career, lending some structure to the open-ended mode.
Getting bent like Beckham
Of course, everything’s better with friends, and EA Sports FC 24 is no exception. While there are ample ways to play online (including cross-play between some consoles), FC 24’s Kick Off mode lets you jump straight into local multiplayer with minimal fuss. Getting some more soccer-keen mates over to try out the different gameplay modes, I was struck once again by how intuitively the game controls. One friend who hasn’t played a soccer video game in years instantly jumped into the mid-match menu and started optimising his team’s formation with barely any friction. It was also pretty incredible to see how well real-life soccer knowledge is translated into the gameplay, with noticeable performance differences between playing as my beloved Birmingham City and teams that actually win. The biggest criticism we had were with EA Sports FC 24’s menus, which were described as “kinda blegh”.
Easily the most fun to be had in EA Sports FC 24 for a non-soccer fan is in its bombastic and arcade-like Volta Football mode, making a triumphant return. Taking place on small, colourful courts with far fewer players than a regular match, Volta games are fast-paced and frantic. You can opt to play without goalkeepers, with between three and five players a side, or even with walls surrounding the court so the ball never leaves play.
There’s an online single-player mode for Volta that sees you teaming up with other players and levelling up to collect new streetwear for your avatar, complete with an RPG-like skilltree and chargeable superpowers that let you sprint like Sonic or fly through the air temporarily. It’s camp as hell, super accessible, and heaps of fun to play. Volta is also available in Kick Off mode, which leads to delightfully chaotic multiplayer fun.
Unfortunately, while most of EA Sports FC 24 is oozing polish and sheen, there are still some not-insignificant bugs present at release that mar what would otherwise be a pretty schmick package. Placeholder translation text is scattered throughout quite a few of the game’s UI elements, occasionally making it a little confusing to navigate menus or parse statistics.
There are also some awkward moments of lag between when a whistle is blown for a free kick and when gameplay resumes. At a couple of more extreme points, the game froze mid-game in yellow-card-awarding limbo and forced a console reset. While these issues aren’t super frequent, when they do occur they’re serious enough to really detract from the overall experience, particularly when playing with mates.
At its core, EA Sports FC 24 is a continuation of the detailed, broadly appealing soccer series we know and love. Players worried about any drastic differences after ditching the FIFA brand have nothing to fear. Its sweeping variety of game modes are designed to attract all types of football fans, from obsessive statisticians to ones like me who are just happy to kick a ball virtually with some mates. Despite some frustrating bugs and a bit of lootbox ick, EA Sports FC 24 is exactly the same annual iteration of this soccer series we’ve come to expect.
- It's good old FIFA, just wearing a new hat
- Tonnes of game modes to fit any soccer fan's preferred playstyle
- Lightning-paced Volta Football gameplay is a heap of fun
- Plays well with friends
- Occasional nasty glitches that force a console reset
- Microtransactions veer dangerously close to predatory territory
While it’s sporting a new look and name, EA Sports FC 24 is a familiar and altogether solid entry in the juggernaut that is EA’s annual soccer video game series. Picking up the controller for a quick session with mates feels as comfortable and natural as it ever has, with plenty of mechanical depth for hardcore football fanatics to obsess over. It’s a shame that the glitches present at release can be match-ending, and placing microtransactions front-and-centre in a full-priced retail game always feels icky, but the sheer variety and quality of game modes on offer make up for these shortcomings for the most part. EA Sports FC 24 is a true celebration of the world’s game, with plenty of content for longtime fans and newcomers alike.