If you’re one of the millions who have bought Fifa every year, rest easy. The name might have changed, but EA Sports FC 24 is still the game you know and love. It still has all the proper teams, leagues, and players, the big championships, and the Ultimate Team mode, and it still delivers the same finely balanced gameplay, delivering pace and excitement alongside authenticity.
In fact, from our first few hours with the finished game, FC 24’s biggest sin is that it might be a little too close to its predecessor; anyone expecting any game-changing improvements will be disappointed. But here, the devil is in all the details — the tweaks to the physics, the systems, and the animation that make for an even stronger game of footie.
EA Sports has been pushing the new technology behind the game. Fifa 23 and its predecessors used motion-capture for animation, shooting video of players in a studio setting and analysing the way they run, tackle, pass, and shoot.
FC Sports 24 replaces this with a new system — Hypermotion V — that uses video shot at hundreds of real-world matches by cameras positioned around the pitch. It augments this with AI-enhanced animation that analyses and replicates how individual players move. On top of this, there’s another layer of motion-captured data at work, simulating how the players’ muscles flex during each action, and how the fabric of their kit flows and ripples as they play.
Normally, we’d say, “So what? Who cares?”, but here the animation really is fantastic, making players look more alive and — in many cases — individual than in any football game before. I started out my play with a Champions League run, playing as SSC Napoli and within a couple of matches, I could spot Matteo Politano or Khvicha Kvaratskhelia just from their physique and the way they moved. Play with more familiar teams, say, Manchester City or Chelsea’s women’s team, and it’s clear who players are even before you get to the post-goal replays. They don’t need to be built like cover-star Erling Haaland to stand out, though he definitely does.
You can assign individual training programmes to your players, and try to mould them into a team that supports your tactical vision
What’s more, pitch interactions feel more physical. Sliding tackles and rough interceptions can be really brutal, and even attempts to push a player off the ball look more convincing. It’s not that FC 24 has completely eliminated the sometimes weird or unnatural-looking animations that cropped up in Fifa games, but they’re certainly getting harder to spot. Ninety-nine per cent of the time, the play looks smooth and very close to TV footage.
Back of the net
EA Sports has managed this without disrupting the flow of play — already a highlight of Fifa 23. In fact, intuitive controls and smart AI make it even easier to set up attacks or turn a defence into a counter-attack, and there’s real excitement when you spot an opportunity, make a quick pass, and break for goal. It can still be tricky pulling off a goal from a cross or a long-distance pass, but very satisfying when you make it. I’ve already had some superb efforts with Lauren James and Sam Kerr at Chelsea, including a couple of spectacularly acrobatic overhead kicks, hammered straight into the back of the net.
This doesn’t mean we don’t have any concerns about the gameplay. For one, the tackling might be controversial; speeding into players and hoping for the best is often more effective than more active interceptions or sliding tackles. In fact, aggressive moves seem to end in a red card, every time. Also, the AI defence and goalkeeping on lower difficulty levels seems suspect, with defenders and keepers falling foul of sudden close-range attacks or shots close to the near-post time after time.
On Amateur level, barely competent players can manage double figures in the scoreline, and I hit Pro before I started finding matches relatively challenging, which wasn’t my experience of Fifa 23. To balance this, lesser players on lesser teams seem to have more of a problem scoring. Playing with Plymouth Argyle is a very different experience to playing with Manchester City or AC Milan, both when it comes to maintaining a strong defensive line and getting shots past the keeper.
EA also deserves credit for making the match-day atmosphere so engaging, with intro sequences following the teams into the stadium or focusing on the supporters, and cool half-time and post-match clips going behind the scenes or showing interviews in progress. The sound also plays its part, with convincing stadium noise and crowd chants that, on PS5 with headphones, seemed to be coming from all around the room. It’s also great to have Guy Mowbray and Sam Smith backing up the main commentary team of Derek Rae and Stewart Robson. Both add great, incisive commentary which magically seems to apply to the events and momentum of the match, and there seems to be less repetition of the same choice phrases than in the Fifa games of a few years’ back.
Female players can now join your Ultimate Team, with FC 24 adjusting chemistry so that it works within teams and national sides across the genders
Outside the updates to the graphics, animation, and core gameplay, there’s a slight sense of ‘if it ain’t broke’ to FC 24’s game modes. The line-up hasn’t changed massively since Fifa 23, and the Player and Manager Career modes are going to feel awfully familiar to anyone who played last year’s game. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t improvements. While the basics of the Player Career mode are still much the same — complete your objectives on the pitch, train, shop and invest when you’re off it — you now have an agent to help you chart the right path.
What’s more, you can work on developing Play Styles: useful perks that enhance your physical abilities and passing, defending and shooting skills. The in-game AI also seems better tuned to supporting your player in completing objectives and making an impression, making this the most fun and satisfying player career EA Sports has put together in ages.
Wannabe Pep Guardiolas don’t miss out, either, with a manager career mode that adds an extra layer of depth through coaches and tactical visions. You can now hire coaches for all the major sections of your team, using them to bolster and fix any weak points and build on any strengths. You can assign individual training programmes to your players, and try to mould them into a team that supports your tactical vision — an overarching strategy you pick which identifies the kind of football you’re looking to play. Picking coaches that can match and support your vision will help your whole team flourish, though you need to make sure you actually follow it yourself when you play.
Even with these additions, FC 24 isn’t ready to take over from Football Manager, but you can have a great time fixing a premiership team on the edge of failure, or trying to bring an EFL team into the big leagues. You can save time by simulating all your matches, but it’s so much more satisfying to take over control while they’re out on the field and make sure you get that much-needed win.
Building the ultimate team
Of course, we all know that the real test of EA Sports FC 24 will be how well it can build a strong multiplayer community, and how compelling its Ultimate Team mode turns out to be. Bearing in mind that we’re in the very early stages, FC 24’s card-collecting fantasy-football mode seems to run much as it did in Fifa, meaning old-hands should be able to get started quickly, and newcomers will still be baffled by how its complex, interweaving systems work.
There are some interesting updates, though. For a start, female players can now join your Ultimate Team, with FC 24 adjusting chemistry so that it works within teams and national sides across the genders. Secondly, you can now upgrade your favourite players through a process of Evolution, fixing weaknesses, boosting their attributes or adding new Play Styles to make them more capable in their position or just more versatile. These don’t come free, though, as once you’ve applied the Evolution you have to complete challenges to activate them, within a specific time limit. It’s a great idea, making sure that your favourite players will be unlike anyone else’s. All the same, you can’t help feeling that it’s also designed to keep players engaged and on the lucrative FUT treadmill.
As for multiplayer, you’re spoilt for choice, with everything from simple versus matches to co-op seasons and the Volta street soccer mod up for grabs. The last is still great for fast-paced, one-on-one matches. FC 24 also boosts the 11 vs 11 player Club mode, giving more serious teams the means to customise their clubs with stadiums, kits and accessories, as well as compete in seasonal leagues. Crucially, this is the first EA Sports footie game to support cross-platform play, albeit only between consoles of the same generation. It’s too early right now to say how all these additions are going to pan out, but they should help FC 24 retain Fifa’s massive fanbase, for whom the online tournaments and casual face-offs are the biggest long-term draw.
Could EA Sports FC 24 have innovated more? Maybe. It’s a game that’s packed with impressive features, many of which have a genuine impact on the gameplay, making this debut an even better game than the already stellar Fifa 23. Yet there’s no one killer mode or feature that leaves you feeling that we’re at the dawn of a new era. It’s also a slight disappointment that there’s no single-player story mode to add a little drama and pull you into this year’s game. But then maybe playing things safe is the point. If you loved Fifa you’re going to love EA Sports FC 24. After all, it’s even better than last year’s best football game.