This year marks a major milestone for EA Sports and what used to be known as the FIFA series, now adopting the new name of "EA Sports FC" and embarking on a new era in the process. In the case of EA Sports FC 24 though, we're not looking at a massive overhaul compared to last year - instead, it's a subtle but nevertheless impressive upgrade in pretty much every single area. The name might be different, but this still plays very much like a FIFA game... albeit the best one we've seen in a while!
On the pitch, it's certainly very reminiscent of FIFA 23, although there are some key improvements that make the gameplay more enjoyable and authentic this year. While pace is still paramount in many ways, there's also a bigger focus on finding space and playing a patient passing game in order to open up opposition defences. You'll find that on harder difficulties in particular, the CPU can prove quite impenetrable at times unless you make intelligent moves to create space and provide the killer pass, and although speed is admittedly still very important in online games, you can still use patient build-up play to great effect in the likes of Ultimate Team and Seasons.
Something that does have a drastic effect on gameplay this year is the addition of PlayStyles, which allow players to take advantage of certain traits such as a lethal Power Shot or the ability to whip crosses with improved accuracy. Most of the higher-rated players have at least a few of these at their disposal, but some also benefit from a PlayStyle+ ability which enhances it to a world-class standard. Once you start analysing each player on your team and the PlayStyles they possess, you can really start to get the best out of their unique qualities.
In general, then, we're very content with how the gameplay feels in EA Sports FC 24 so far. Attacking feels fun and diverse, and defending feels difficult but fair. If you really disliked FIFA 23's gameplay (and you prefer something like eFootball 2024 or the old PES games) then you're probably not going to be won over, but otherwise we think there's a good chance you'll enjoy what EA FC 24 has to offer in the matchday department.
Speaking of matchday departments, presentation is a big area that EA has focused on this year. The addition of a new commentary team in Guy Mowbray and Sue Smith adds some welcome variety, and there are a whole bunch of new in-game cutscenes that help to enhance the immersion - from Alex Scott conducting interviews with players at full-time, to fancy on-pitch graphics showing up while you're waiting for a goal-kick to be taken. All of these are great additions, and the only one downside we have is that pre-match introductions have now been replaced by short montages of players shaking hands and warming up, for example. In other words, you can't watch your team standing in a row while the Champions League theme plays in the background anymore... it's a very strange decision to take that out!
As usual, Ultimate Team takes centre stage in EA Sports FC 24, and this is definitely the best version of the mode we've seen so far. The roster has been massively improved this time around thanks to the addition of female players, and the new Evolutions feature is a great way to turn low-rated cards into new stars for your squad. Manager Career and Player Career are fairly reminiscent of what we saw in FIFA 23, albeit with a few nice additions such as the ability to focus on a "Tactical Vision" in the former and adding a "Player Agent" in the latter, and Pro Clubs has received a pretty significant restructure that implements a new "Clubs League" format incorporating league and playoff phases every six-ish weeks.
Beyond that, there's still a lot more to discover for yourself as EA FC 24 is a big package! Ultimately, most areas of the game have been improved in meaningful ways this year, and while we came into this review feeling a little disinterested based on what we'd seen pre-launch, we've come away thinking we'll be glued to it for the next 12 months.
EA Sports FC 24 isn't the big overhaul that some might have expected, but it doesn't need to be. Instead, it makes subtle but impressive upgrades to most areas of the game, especially in terms of presentation, Ultimate Team and the actual action on the pitch. There's an argument to say that FIFA 23 is worth sticking with for another year, but if you're a big fan of the series (and Ultimate Team in particular), we'd say it's worth your hard-earned money.