EA Sports FC 24 is onto a winner with smart additions and small tweaks | Hands-on preview

by on July 18, 2023

It’s tempting to say the devil is in the details of EA Sports FC 24. After spending a weekend playing a pre-beta build of the game, there are reasons to be impressed with what EA is attempting with it’s brand new, not-FIFA title, while there are also elements that will undoubtedly feel familiar to people who have ploughed in hundreds and hundreds of hours of the past year, let alone the past few years.

The truth of the matter is, that a lot of what EA is doing to make EA Sports FC 24 stand out this year isn’t on offer to actually play yet. While we have a feature that details all the changes that make it a different prospect, I want to talk about how the game feels on the pitch, at least in the current state, which is admittedly subject to change, and EA says it’ll be listening to feedback to potentially make those changes.

That said, the presentation is another level up for FC 24. New menus and UI is one thing, but EA is attempting to push things a little further than even the broadcasters do right now, and as such has implemented some new unique stat overlays that’ll appear on the pitch, such as “Most Fatigued Players”, giving you an idea of either how much you’re over-using the sprint button, or perhaps just over-doing the wide play, which could even give you an idea why you can’t break down an opposition team’s defense.

EA Sports FC 24

Lighting is better, there’s a focus on showing what’s happening off the pitch a little more, and all manner of smaller touches that make it feel both more authentic, and less immersion-breaking than before. New features and buzzwords such as “GPU Cloth” (a fancy way of saying that shirts and kits look and react more realistically) and “EA Sports Sapien Technology” (muscles have been mapped to understand and replicate how the flex and move) are all present, as is the “GTAO” or “Ground Truth Ambient Occlusion” (better lighting and shadows), and all this adds up to make this simple statement true: FC 24 looks great, and better than ever before, with more realistic looking players, crowds, and stadiums.

But without question, the most significant change from FIFA 23 to EA Sports FC 24 is the introduction of “Play Style” and “Play Style Plus”. Have you ever played a match in any FIFA and you’ve gone to tackle an opposition player, won it cleanly, and the ball has somehow remained in their possession? That’s a rhetorical question, because of course you have. Ping-pong tackling has been a problem in football games for as long as I can remember, but the Play Style that the likes of Nathan Ake for Manchester City has now, means he has extra animations and will keep the ball close to him when making that tackle, and thus eliminating the frustration of making a great tackle, but somehow still not winning the ball. While I’d question slightly the choice of Ake in this pre-beta to show off that Play Style Plus, the execution is superb, and something I’ve been waiting to see addressed for the longest time.

There are three tiers to Play Style in EA Sports FC 24. Some players will be more generic, and have no Play Style. The next tier is for more well-known players who have been identified using OPTA (the stats people, no less) to have those Play Styles, while the top-tier professionals have the plus moniker. In practice, this means someone like Bernado Silva who has the Play Style Plus dribbling bonus will be just that bit better on the ball than someone without the plus, who will in turn be better than someone without it.

EA Sports FC 24

This all amounts to additional animations that only the right players will have. Speed dribbler, block, power shot, power header, dead ball, tricksters, and more, these boosts are going to make certain players feel very important in the new game, and should combine with things like the improved collision system which should mean that when a physical battle happens, there are fairer outcomes based on who is actually involved in the battle. For example, Rhodri for City isn’t that fast, but he’s economical with the ball and wins his duels, and that’s exactly how he felt in the matches I played. Mbappe is going to outpace him, but that’s no longer the be-all and end of the gameplay, and while my sample pool was limited to just four teams, there’s a lot of early promise here that suggest FC 24 might not just end up a pace-fest like FIFA 23 did.

There are new features worth noting, such as the precision passing that benefits the players who can utilise it. Holding left trigger, right bumper, and triangle will allow you to perform a swerved precision pass, and a line will appear on the screen showing you in advance where it’s going to go. There’s a new effort dribble touch that will make your player stretch out a leg to make contact with the ball sooner, so if it looks like you’re going to lose the ball to a tackle, you can get an extra touch in and move away.

Four new skill moves (skill rainbow, flair nutmeg, ball roll drag, drag back turn) have been added, and a controlled sprint dribble that’s somewhere between a standard jog and a full sprint offers more control over faster movement without hitting a full sprint. It all works, and it’s all very promising. But FIFA 23 wasn’t a bad game on the pitch, for the most part, so these changes don’t feel revolutionary, instead evolving a good game into a better one.

EA Sports FC 24

In truth, the biggest changes seem like they are under the hood, with massive updates to Ultimate Team and Career Mode. So far, EA Sports FC 24 looks and sounds the business, and there’s even a new secondary commentary team this year in the form of Guy Mowbray and Sue Smith. It plays a damn fine game of football, offering balanced matches that retain the feeling they could go either way, like proper football should. Tactics matter, players matter, and it really could be something special.

It really does feel like Ultimate Team and Career Mode have been given the biggest boosts off the pitch, and I’m dying to find out how what EA has told us actually plays out when experienced firsthand. Fingers crossed this early hands-on isn’t misleading, then, because so far EA Sports FC 24 is onto a winner, with smart additions, tweaks, and under-the-hood changes. It may not be a full-on revolution on the pitch, but it certainly did leave me wanting to sample the rest of the game in detail.

EA Sports FC 24 launches on all formats on September 29th, 2023.