2023 marks a big year for EA, with not only its biggest franchise, but one of the biggest properties in all of entertainment forgoing a total rebranding, with FIFA becoming EA FC. I got to spend some time with EA FC 24 in the last week, and whilst it’s not a totally new game (as expected), it’s definitely doing some things differently to earn its new title.
Firstly, the menus have been totally re-designed. Gone are the square blocks that take up a good chunk of screen, replaced with an extremely clean menu that sits in the top left of the screen, saving bulk of the screen for highlights and gaming footage. It’s a nice-change up and timely with the total re-brand. Particularly when playing, pausing the game will allow you to see highlights as you scroll through team management or stats.
The gameplay does feel familiar, but did feel more dynamic in terms of unpredictability of the ball. EA says that this is down to the next version of Hypermotion (and Frostbyte). The most notable part of this was something called AI True Flight ball physics. This is a new algorithm that creates the ball motion for the game, which results in a realistic and unpredictable ball bounce that doesn’t feel scripted. Normally this would be scripted and crafted by animators, but it’s now done on the fly by the system.
A big change-up comes in the form of a new feature called PlayStyles and PlayStyles+. Whilst players still have attributes, they also now have tangible PlayStyles that are laid out as actual skills rather than footnotes. These includes the likes of having a bullet pass, or being a set piece specialist. Elite players such as Neymar, Haaland and Kerr all have PlayStyles+ abilities.
These are extremely special abilities like Kerr having a power header or Mbappe’s iconic sprint boost. They’re denoted above the player’s head in use and do feel like they add a certain extra bit of style to the individual superstars that you’re looking out for on the field.
Whilst the core gameplay of EA’s soccer games has always been the same with the likes of passing, through-balls, and striking not changing up a heap, EA has always done well to introduce new mechanics over the years, whether it be power shots or such and that’s no different this year. Precision Passing has been added to the game which literally lets you control where the balls goes with absolutely no assistance. This is denoted by a line that goes across the screen and can be moved with finer movements.
This can be performed with a ground through ball with R1 + Triangle, which is great for your player getting in space, a precision lob, which is great for accurately lobbing over the defensive line and my favourite of all, the swerved precision pass, which allows you to curve around defenders with L2 + R2 + Triangle. It’s a great way to feel like you have full control of your pass without it being a wild pass.
There’s also controlled sprinting which allows you to run without losing a heap of pace whilst keeping the ball close to you by holding R1. It’s great for keeping the ball nearby, as you work out your next steps and maybe perform one of the previously mentioned precision passes.
The other big change up come in the way of set piece shots. You can now easily use the right analogue stick to easily put spin on the ball and understand exactly where it’s going. Whether it be curling it with your inside foot, giving it a bit of extra air or smashing it across the ground, it’s again much easier for beginners players to take their game to the next level without it being too much of a guessing game.
I’m not the biggest Ultimate Team player, but there seems to be some genuine changes on that side. You can now upgrade players by performing certain challenges. An example given was Moukoko who you could take from a 69 to a 77 by increasing his level from 1 to 2 In the next season, you could then increase attributes and skill even further and continue taking your player and squad with you.
All-in-all, FC 24 doesn’t re-invent the wheel hugely, but it does improve on what was available in FIFA 23 and try to do things differently. It’ll be interesting to see if EA has freedom to do more within the game without the FIFA license attached. I feel like this shows that it just might.