They say the more things change the more they stay the same, and perhaps there is no truer example of that analogy than FC 24.
What’s In A Name?
For those of you who look at FC 24 and think there may be a new footie game on the scene, there isn’t… just a new name.
Way back in December of 1993 EA Sports released FIFA 94, and it has largely been the go-to football game from that point onwards.
There have been pretenders to the throne… the likes of Adidas Power Soccer and Dino Dini’s Kick Off Revival offered little in the way of competition, while This is Football and Pro Evolution Soccer came closest to knocking FIFA off its proverbial perch. But as all the others fell to the wayside, the EA juggernaut steamrolled on.
But then in 2023 EA severed their 30 year partnership with FIFA, and rebranded their game FC 24.
It’s likely we WILL see another FIFA game in the future, as they seek out a new developer to work with, but for now FC 24 takes centre stage.
In short… not a great deal.
The FIFA series has often received criticism for essentially being a glorified patch, its most ardent critics claiming each year brings little more than a roster update that could just as easily be released as Downloadable Content.
Prior to FC 24 I’ve tended to disagree with this assessment of the games. Yes, they are similar, but it would be impractical and unnecessary to create a totally new game every year. Instead, EA often focus on making small, nuanced changes to the control scheme, quality of life improvements, or add in new features or immersive elements to the various modes already on offer.
Every year the game handles just differently enough that players can feel the improvements made, and adapt to them as they play more. Every year there is something new that improves existing modes (The Draft in Ultimate Team, Transfer Deadline Day in Career etc) or introduces entirely new ones, such as Volta and The Journey in recent years.
But FC 24 feels almost identical to FIFA 23, and the additions to existing game modes are either detrimental, not well received or insignificant.
A Career In Coaching
Jumping into Career mode, players are immediately informed of how they can now hire coaches to train the team in certain areas. The better the coach is in a certain area of the game, the better your players will develop in said attributes.
It whets the appetite for what might be to come… but then it doesn’t take long to realise there isn’t a whole lot else going on.
The coaches theme extends to the option to play training mini-games prior to the next match in order to temporarily boost team stats if you do well enough, but I doubt players will bother with these after more than a handful of games. Unless they are up against a particularly tricky opponent perhaps, where a boost could be the difference maker.
The only other noticeable change is a decidedly negative one, as Team Management no longer seems to be a pre-match option. This means that to make changes to your match day squad you need to go into the Squad Hub, change things there THEN head to the next match. What’s more, these changes are permanent, so unlike in previous titles where you could bring a player in just for one game and the team/tactics would revert back to default after that match, now you have to change it each and every time.
There are a couple of new ‘simulation’ modes too, for those who like to play the game more like Football Manager, but they don’t bring much to the table.
Ultimately Not A Big Deal
EA’s Ultimate Team mode has been the focus of FIFA titles for over a decade now, and while in previous years it has often felt like paying to play was a necessity, the past couple of entries have felt much more accessible for those who are willing to put the effort in.
That’s no different this year, with plenty of different ways to earn free packs, and coins to buy players. With just a bit of dedication it’s easy to put together a decent 85-90 rated team without spending a single penny of your real-life cash.
However, there is one element of this years Ultimate Team that is dividing opinion, and that is the introduction of female players. It’s commendable that EA have chosen to put the spotlight on Womens football in their games, and this is the biggest push yet to do so, but it has also created controversy in the way that it has been implemented.
Most packs will contain a mixture of female and male players, but this split doesn’t seem proportional when you consider the number of female and male players present in the game.
EA seem to have secretly balanced this somewhat, but in the first week of release packs seemed to contain close to 50% male and 50% female players. Some insinuated that with the male players still being more sought after than the females (this is evident on the marketplace, where a 90 rated female player will sell for just a fraction of her male counterpart) this had been done to ‘pad out’ the packs and encourage players to spend more.
What it has actually done though is given players the chance to put together a very skilled team for far less coins, as at the end of the day the players perform the same whether they are male or female, and it’s only their avatars that change.
Evolutions is the other big addition this year, allowing players to upgrade some of their existing cards by completing challenges, but these can often be restrictive unless you are open to playing all the different game modes Ultimate Team has to offer.
In general things are much the same (although the menu is clunkier) but that’s fine as the replayability here comes from the addition of new challenges and players throughout the year.
Elsewhere the game remains largely unchanged, although there are some new commentary options that are a welcome upgrade, meaning you don’t just hear the same voices in every single match.
Where Is The VAR?
When making the FIFA games, EA have always put realism at the heart of what they have done with the series, and it’s evident they have tried to carry that on into FC 24. Players movement and touches look more realistic, the ball reacts much as it would in real life depending on the type of pass or shot, there are even tannoy announcements mid-match to advise fans bad language will not be tolerated, or that someone’s wife is waiting for them at the ticket office.
So, in a game where realism is paramount, I find it absolutely baffling that there is NO implementation of VAR what-so-ever. Zero.
It would be so easy to implement too, as the offside decisions already work in a similar way with the linesman putting the flag up after a goal is scored if it happens quick enough. All it would have taken is a few extra animations or skippable cut scenes similar to goal celebrations, showing a VAR check taking place.
Perhaps the developers thought it would slow the game down, or they just prioritised other things such as the new first-person booking sequences.
Did EA Score An Own Goal?
So, despite all of that, do I recommend FC 24? Actually, yes, I do… but with a caveat.
If, like me, FIFA is consistently one of your most played games of the year, I’d recommend the upgrade. The graphics have had a bit of a polish and honestly, it’s worth the price of admission just to diversify the commentary somewhat, having listened to the same painful lines over and over in FIFA 23.
If you’re an Ultimate Team player I’d also recommend getting into it as soon as possible, as most events are timed and the longer you wait the more exclusive players you are likely to miss out on.
However, if you are a casual player, or you prefer Career Mode you may want to hold out a little while longer until the price drops.
EA certainly didn’t reinvent the wheel this time around, but the good thing about that is they didn’t really need to.