After 18 months of leaks and teases, EA Sports FC 24 was finally revealed this week. Following the reveal last week, I attended an extended presentation on what’s new in this year’s game and had some hands-on time with Kick Off mode to see the gameplay changes in action.
My demo was limited to just Chelsea women vs. Lyon women or PSG men vs. Man City men, so I couldn’t get first hand impressions of the majority of the new changes, but some improvements were impossible to miss.
It’s also worth noting that, as anyone who plays FIFA religiously will know, offline Kick Off mode isn’t a great representation of the game’s real gameplay. Online PvP matches play at a different speed and the AI teams on all difficulties are significantly more risk averse than human players. Therefore, take my gameplay impressions with a pinch of salt, as I’m yet to experience Ultimate Team or any online component.
Striving for realism
The main focus of the deep dive reveal was the gameplay upgrades and the implementation of Hypermotion V in EA Sports FC 24. V as in the letter, not five, confusingly.
By using volumetric capturing rather than motion capture, EA Sports has been able to capture the unique animations of 1200 different players without having them prance around with dot covered suits on, while also allowing them to recreate real world footballing moments in game.
Immediately, it’s obvious that player movements are more realistic. I didn’t notice any of the awkward snap changes of direction or folding limbs that often appear in FIFA 23. Animations seem a lot smoother generally, so Hypermotion V seems to be having the desired effect.
Overall too, EA Sports FC 24 looks phenomenal. The atmosphere, lighting, and crowd reactions are much improved, getting the game closer to the photo realism the developers are striving for.
How deeply gameplay is affected by volumetric capture and Hypermotion V is still hard to come to a conclusion on, and I expect that to be the case until an online meta is established. Without timing individual actions to the millisecond, I’m never going to know the impact beyond it feeling a little smoother.
Otherwise, as is always the case when first testing a new annual release, gameplay feels mostly the same as in FIFA 23. Passing is still quite inconsistent, as are goalkeepers, but shooting is satisfying and counter attacks will once again be the go to tactic. Kylian Mbappe isn’t going anywhere as the most overpowered player in the game if Kick Off mode is anything to go by.
Additional archetypes and new player differentiators called Playstyles should make players all feel and move differently, but so far it’s tough to say how they differ in action.
The 34 new Playstyles provide performance bonuses to certain players, boosting the abilities of top players even further. For example, Neymar may have the Speed Dribbler Playstyle, which will see him move faster with the ball than those without it. Speed Dribbler + will then boost that ability even further. There are Playstyles that improve accuracy indicators of freekicks, the power of offensive headers, the effectiveness of power shots, and more.
I imagine some will be more overpowered than others, with EA Sports’ demonstration of just how much faster players with Speed Dribbler + are than those without truly terrifying me during the presentation, but it’s an exciting way to differentiate players from one another. It’s also another way for EA Sports to improve Ultimate Team players that are released as part of promo squads. Adding a couple of Playstyles to a new card has the potential to extract their full potential, much like additional traits or skill move/weak foot upgrades do now.
Of all the gameplay focused upgrades revealed, it was the “improved responsiveness” that excited me the most. In EA Sports FC 24, players should shoot faster following a button press than they would in FIFA 23.
Of course, a lot of the game’s responsiveness is down to server load and internet quality, but every little helps. I just hope online matches in Ultimate Team are more playable at peak times than they are in FIFA 23.
Ultimate Team changes are minimal but exciting
Talking of Ultimate Team, the immensely popular mode was the second main focus of the extended reveal. There aren’t major changes or new modes to rival Draft, but what is new or different is exciting.
Adding women’s teams from across Europe into Ultimate Team is great and long awaited. Being able to create teams that feature both male and female players is extremely exciting and allows for so many more team composition possibilities. Male and female players link together just like male players already do, so there’s no new level of chemistry to understand. Adding WSL players to your Premier League squad should be seamless.
However, the developers expertly avoided explaining how women players will compare to male players beyond ratings when in the same team. Will female players be more agile on the ball? Will they be muscled off the ball easily by male alternatives?
The options for how they’re implemented in gameplay are: two different body types having the same stats, for example Romelu Lukaku having strength stats that aren’t wildly different to the likes of Leah Williamson’s, or it staying more realistic and having attackers more agile than male equivalents but centre-backs being mostly useless in comparison to men. It’ll be a tough thing to balance, and I hope EA Sports go into more detail on it soon. To make it balanced, they’re going to have to sacrifice some of the realism they’re striving for. Whichever way they do it, though, adding women players to Ultimate Team is massive for the visibility of the sport and the players.
Elsewhere, player Evolution in Ultimate Team is something players have been asking for for years. Details were a little vague in the presentation, but it seems like you can take any player in the game and upgrade them to set overall ratings by completing challenges.
The example EA Sports used was Borussia Dortmund’s Youssoufa Moukoko going from 70 rated to 77 rated, and then to 85 after completing additional challenges. Being able to take any player from unusable to world beater mainstay of your team is a dream come true for Ultimate Team fans and could overhaul how people put teams together. EA Sports just needs to ensure that challenges are well balanced and that upgrades aren’t left behind the power curve. If they’re releasing 89 rated strikers in November, you need to be able to upgrade your bronze striker to the same point, or they’ll be obsolete. If players want to grind, let them.
Other small changes to Ultimate Team include a range of adjustments, such as Icons now providing one chemistry contribution to any league in your squad, Guy Mowbray and Sue Smith being added as a new commentary team allowing us to recreate Match of the Day, and position modifiers being removed entirely, are all excellent things fans have been asking for.
Are the other modes getting more love?
As for EA Sports FC 24’s other modes, the developers insisted they’ve given them more attention than usual when it comes to adding new things and improving existing features, but I’m not entirely convinced.
For career mode and Clubs (the Pro part has been left behind to match what people generally call the mode anyway) new features are somewhat vague. The addition of hireable coaches in Career mode, as well as Tactical Visions which let you fully impose a way of playing on your squad, are interesting, but only time will tell how impactful they are.
Other additions to Career Mode, such as a new Tactical View for matches and more detailed pre-match preparation, are cool, if far from game changers.
Clubs is getting a revamped seasons system, where you can’t get relegated, and crossplay is a massive addition if you’re part of a group of EA FC fans scattered across consoles and PC.
Again, it’s hard to say quite how far the gameplay improvements go without testing the full game. The improvements away from the pitch are exciting, without being game changing. EA Sports are treating FC 24 like a new series beginning, but it’s exactly the level of change I’d have expected from FIFA 24.