After parting ways with the Football Association, EA Sports’ FIFA series is no more, but make no mistake: EA Sports FC is a solid game with a lot of welcome improvements. The cornerstones of this long-standing franchise remain robust and familiar, like a well-run club. The numerous changes to Ultimate Team provide a satisfying roster overhaul, and the manager and player career modes receive smaller, welcome updates.
The gameplay remains largely the same: solid and familiar. The biggest change is the feel of the ball – it’s loose, there tend to be more 50/50 moments in games, and it’s wonderful. These loose ball situations add to the plot of the games and moments. There’s strength when cover star Erling Haaland acrobatically grabs a ball out of the air to end a move. Everything feels more lifelike and purposeful. There is controlled chaos in these situations, which makes the game a little more realistic than last year. I liked it and the more methodical pace of play, which in turn allows star players to stand out more.
The new PlayStyles feature improves the gameplay of EA Sports FC 24. Players can unlock special skills for select soccer stars to customize them to their playing style and give them an advantage. This means special animations for clean tackles, faster power shots or wingers who get an additional sprint boost to leave defenders behind. It’s satisfying to field players like Trinity Rodman, who are quick and have the ability to beat a defender just as quickly as she does in real life, or fire a driven pass 30 yards to someone’s feet.
This is also the best the series has ever looked. The animations are smoother and more realistic. If you watch Haaland on TV, you’ll notice how he hops before swinging his arms, leaning forward and sprinting like a human battering ram. Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez looks like a gazelle, striking quickly, powerfully, chaotically and with purpose. Their video game counterparts move similarly, adding to the realism. Even the kits updated for this version move more authentically as they bounce off players. However, sometimes the shirts bounce in strange ways and take you out of the immersion. Another small change is how authentic stadiums and crowds feel, with flags flying and crowds louder and louder than ever before. And if you make a tackle at the wrong time, watch the referee run to your player in first-person mode before deciding his fate. These little details add up in a positive way.
EA’s most significant upgrades come to Ultimate Team with a variety of significant changes, including one major addition: women are now a fully integrated part of the mode. The last two years have seen a stagnation in this mode, introducing many of the same players and having to play countless matches to unlock players who are typically not as good as those you can get by opening packs . Adding the women reinvigorated my interest – and my playing time.
I formed a team with Rodman and Alexandra Popp on each wing and felt nothing but joy as I raged along each touchline, delivering crosses to Haaland and scoring wonderful goals with the outside of their boots. What a great way to bring the “fantasy” into Ultimate Team in a fun and equitable way.
Unlike EA’s NHL Ultimate Team mode, the women fit in seamlessly and perform well against their male counterparts. Of course, not all female goalkeepers are very tall, which puts some goalkeepers at a disadvantage, but I didn’t notice it too much with my 1.70 m tall Canadian goalkeeper, and my wingers dominated with their pace.
And then there is UT Evolutions. I run several teams in UT, all of which are pretty solid, but sometimes less popular leagues and teams (like Team USA) don’t get many new or powerful cards. Some of this can be compensated for with skill, but an 80 rated center back will have a hard time with a 90+ rated striker.
The new evolution aspect of UT allows you to improve the skills, characteristics and even the abilities of your favorite players with their weaker foot. It’s fun to improve players and I can’t wait to keep teams competitive this way.
What’s less exciting is that one of the Evolutions is already behind a paywall. It is indecent to spend 50,000 in-game coins or real money over 1,000 FC Points (just under $10) on this; You simply won’t earn enough if you don’t invest many hours in this mode every week. Of course, EA wants players to spend more money on better teams. Grinding can only take you far if you have luck on your side. It’s an annoying aspect inherent in such card collecting modes; It’s not getting better and it just feels bad. It’s also disappointing if you have a tradable card to upgrade because once you start upgrading, you can’t sell it anymore. Everything feels bad unless you spend more money, and I don’t like any of it. Luckily, microtransactions are only a problem in this one mode.
Still, the addition of the women and evolutions brings the fantasy of Ultimate Team to life. Multi-position players also don’t need a position switch card this year to switch from a striker to, say, a left wing position and maintain chemistry – which contributes to their speed, shooting ability or other stats. This makes team formation and tactics less rigid and provides a breath of fresh air.
Minor updates have been made to Manager and Career modes, but the addition of new features to both is welcome, even if neither is impressive.
Manager mode has a new aspect where you hire coaches to better train your team in a tactical vision such as wing play or parking the bus in defense. But hiring trainers isn’t the most exciting feature. Of course you can improve your midfield with the right personnel, but combined with the weekly endurance of my players, it’s simply not enough to keep me interested for longer than a season. When I was simulating games, it felt like my team never cared about my tactics anyway, which just made the experience flat and pointless.
The gaming career becomes a little more fun when you upgrade your avatar with the new PlayStyles and turn it into a real superstar. But here too, the experience isn’t enough to hold my attention. The move from FIFA to EA FC could have been a great opportunity to get even more out of these modes or bring back a story mode. So it’s nice to have these updates, but Ultimate Team offers the biggest changes, which seems like a missed opportunity to usher in the name change.
Unfortunately, “Volta” remains a forgettable pastime; It just doesn’t hold your attention well. It’s a chaotic, bad arcade version of soccer with inconsistent power-ups. Playing futsal and street soccer is fun, but Volta doesn’t replicate the control and pace of real soccer, instead relying on avatar customization and leveling up that’s all about running fast and scoring ridiculous goals.
Not having the FIFA license doesn’t make the game better or worse. If you’re already a fan of EA’s soccer showpiece, you’ll enjoy the rebranded EA FC, even if not every mode has been redesigned like Ultimate Team. And honestly, with every major soccer game being canceled or no longer in production, EA’s soccer title is by default the best title available.
It’s not perfect, but EAFC has put me back in a mode I was almost ready to give up, has the best football to date and hasn’t missed a beat in the transition to a new name. But it misses the chance to usher in its new era with something bold, choosing to stay largely true to form. And that’s a shame. Whatever the case, I’ll be pinging Rose Lavelle passes for months to come.