Preview: Everything You Need to Know About EA Sports FC 24 1
Image: Push Square

EA Sports FC 24 represents a new era for one of gaming’s biggest brands. While this year’s release iterates on decades of investment into the flagship football franchise, it also ushers in a soft reset for the series, with a new name, branding, and goals. We were lucky enough to get the inside scoop on the soccer sim during a press event, and we’ve even had the chance to play a few matches on PS5, as part of a pre-alpha build featuring French champions Paris Saint-Germain and treble winners Manchester City.

As a reminder, the title’s due out on 29th September officially, with a week Early Access period available for those who purchase the more expensive Ultimate Edition. With that said, there’s a lot to get through, so without further ado, here’s everything you need to know about the latest game, with some of our hands on impressions sprinkled in throughout.

The Beautiful Game

The biggest change to EA Sports FC 24 this year is the implementation of a new animation engine named HyperMotion V – or HyperMotion Volumetric, to be precise. Fans of the franchise will recall that in the new-gen versions of previous instalments, EA Sports motion captured 22-players from a couple of real-world football matches, and then combined this data with machine learning to implement real-life animations into the game.

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The flaw with this format was that it didn’t represent the elite level of competitive football, as it wasn’t fitting Kylian Mbappe with a motion capture suit during the knockout stages of the Champions League. As such, the data it collected was based on friendlies between players in the lower levels of the Spanish leagues. Now, however, it has new technology which utilises 3D cameras installed in real football stadiums to capture pinpoint animation data from superstars such as Erling Haaland.

What this means is that if there’s a particularly extravagant goal scored in the Premier League, or a new superstar talent emerges, EA Sports is able to spin up their animations based purely on video footage as opposed to motion capture. It makes for more varied and lifelike animations than ever before, and when paired with the Frostbite Engine’s new sapien technology – which better reflects body types and muscle definition – it promises for more authentic motion across the pitch than ever before.

Variety is clearly a tenet of EA Sports FC 24: we’ve all played sports games in the past where there are very specific archetypes, with all the models acting and animating in the same way. But over 1,200 players have had their individual running styles and nuances reflected here, meaning most players will feel unique. This extends to the Accelerate sprinting system introduced last year, which now includes seven different run types, expanding on the three in FIFA 23. This means there’ll be variety in the way different players hit top speed, whether it’s explosive bursts of pace or longer strides.

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Of course, football is nothing without the ball itself, and it’s an area where EA Sports has improved a lot in the last few years. This time it’s written an algorithm that uses real-world data and machine learning to determine the outcome of a particular bounce or roll, which was once the domain of an animator. It means that rather than trying to predict how the ball will move, it’s now able to automate outcomes based on authentic physics.

All of this is helping to improve the authenticity of the game, but what of the gameplay itself? PlayStyles, powered by data analysis organisation Opta, is perhaps the biggest addition this year. These work a little like Badges in the NBA 2K games, and augment players with unique attributes that better represent their skillsets. In our hands on, we were able to test out Mbappe’s Speed Dribbler+ attribute, and could physically feel how he’s able to burst past defenders at extreme pace.

While there are clear balancing issues to consider here, it’s really going to set those superstars apart, and also factors into the Manager Career and Player Career modes – more on that later. There are a total of 34 PlayStyles in EA Sports FC 24 across passing, shooting, defence, and more. And each of these has a standard and upgraded permutation, with the latter reserved for the world’s very best.

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The biggest upgrade we experienced during our preview, however, is precision passing. In past FIFA games, when playing a through ball you were forced to rely on the game accurately predicting where you wanted to put the ball. Now, however, you have individual control over the placement of the ball, meaning you’re able to play it into space – unlocking unlimited creative potential on the pitch. In addition, you can even add swerve by modifying with the L2 button, meaning you can roll the ball around defenders and into the path of an oncoming attacker. Beautiful!

Controlled dribble also adds much-needed variety to sprinting with the ball. This allows you to bring the ball in closer at the cost of some speed, creating for changes in pace which you can use to lure defenders in or meander around rivals in one-on-one situations. To counter this, defenders can utilise a new possession tackle mechanic to retain the ball when sliding or standing, and there are also new block animations.

Shots will actually take much less time to come out of the feet of strikers this year, saving crucial milliseconds when you’re trying to get a strike away. And if all that wasn’t enough, EA Sports has also added a bunch of brand new skill moves to the game to give you more flamboyant options when you’re on the pitch.

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The Beautiful-er Game

EA Sports FC 24 is not standing still with its visuals either. This year’s game does look extraordinary, and it starts with a totally redesigned user experience which has a website flavour to it. Each major mode in the game has been given a custom logo, and the big panels from recent FIFA titles have been replaced by a much cleaner list system, with a dynamic menu that pulls in the latest content available in the game.

The menus before and during games have also been redone to highlight the things happening in and around the stadium. This means you’ll see pundits rendered in-engine preparing pitch side to report on the team news, the press photographers setting up their cameras, or the players arriving at the stadium on their team bus. It’s important to note that all of this occurs on screen while you’re browsing the menus, and doesn’t get in the way.

Elsewhere in the presentation, we were shown how ground-based ambient occlusion adds depth and density to each scene, improving shadows and shading to make details pop. Stadium lighting has also been redone to add more atmosphere to each scene, specifically the fog of a cold Champions League night in mid-November and so on.

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And, perhaps unsurprisingly, EA Sports is eager to better showcase your vanities in Ultimate Team, so you’ll get light shows and firework displays in the build-up to crucial matches, like when you’re about to get promoted in Rivals, for example. All of this will all be reflected in Clubs, too – the renamed version of Pro Clubs – and we’ll detail more of that further down the page.

From a broadcast perspective, a secondary commentary team of Guy Mowbray and Sue Smith will anchor Ultimate Team and Kick-Off, while Derek Rae and Stewart Robson will stick around for the other modes. While this will add some much-needed variety, we’re still far from impressed with the commentary, and it continues to feel stilted and outdated compared to rival sports games, like MLB The Show 23 and NBA 2K23.

The audio overall is getting a boost with a new Beyond Broadcast toggle which beefs up the sound from around the stadium, emphasising those ambient sounds like drums and chants. And EA Sports has worked with broadcasters to create innovative new AR-style overlays which it envisions being added to real-world football broadcasts in the future, showing off key information like player fatigue without pausing the game.

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The Ultimate Team

EA Sports FC 24 may have a new name, but unsurprisingly, Ultimate Team is going nowhere. There are two major changes this year: Evolutions and women’s football. As previously reported, you’ll now be able to build a team with the stars of the female game, and you can mix and match genders to create entirely new squads. Chemistry will even work between players from the same clubs, so you can link Chelsea players Christopher Nkunku and Sam Kerr, for example.

Evolutions are also being introduced to make players relevant and meaningful all season long. This effectively means that if you like a particular player who may happen to be a Silver or worse, you can commit to evolving them by completing in-game challenges, raising their attributes and OVR rating. It’s not entirely clear how this will be balanced just yet, but it sounds like new opportunities to evolve players will unlock throughout the lifespan of the game.

PlayStyles will also be introduced to players throughout the season, and EA Sports explained that it’s going to give variety to its live service content. For example, imagine Erling Haaland scores a bullet header against Liverpool in a crucial Premier League match. Haaland may end up in the Team of the Week for that goal, but rather than just adjust his rating, he may also get the Power Header+ PlayStyle awarded to him, which would separate him from other Haaland cards in the game.

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And just as one other minor detail, Icons are getting buffed this year, as they’ll give an additional point of Chemistry to every league in your squad, meaning they’re going to be even more important for team-building than ever before – particularly compared to FIFA 23, where many fans felt they were nerfed.

A Long Career

While Ultimate Team will likely remain EA Sports FC 24’s true money maker, it’s not forgetting Career Mode, which is obviously the favourite for single player fans. In fact, both Manager Career and Player Career are getting big upgrades this year – but let’s start with the former, which is trying to get closer to Football Manager in its depth.

At the beginning of a career, you’ll be able to pick a Tactical Vision, which effectively determines your philosophy as a coach. This will include a number of different archetypes, like Pep Guardiola’s Tiki-Taka or Jurgen Klopp’s Gegenpressing. You’ll then need to hire coaches to carry out your philosophy, picking the right personalities to boost different areas of the pitch and help develop players.

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Once your philosophy is set, you’ll be able to spend more time preparing for each match, selecting drills based on your opponent and unlocking temporary PlayStyles for your squad that will help them excel under specific circumstances. For example, if you know your opponent is going to park the bus, you may emphasise passing and deft ball control, allowing you to pick locks against a stubborn adversary and get the all-important win.

And if you don’t want to actually play the matches and would rather observe them, a new set of spectator cameras will give you that Football Manager experience, allowing you to influence the tactics of the match and let the game engine determine the overall outcome. Your achievements will then be replicated by new cutscenes, such as open top bus parades and so on.

These new cutscenes will also be introduced in the Player Career too, with the prestigious Ballon D’or up for grabs for the first time. Unsurprisingly, the Personality system from FIFA 23 will return, but this year it will unlock unique PlayStyles that will customise your performance on the pitch. Agents will also play a bigger role in your pursuit for greatness, and you’ll be able to tell them your aspirations, allowing you to go on a journey with your player as you work your way up to your dream club.

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Clubbing Together

Finally, after years of neglect, 11vs11 mode Pro Clubs is getting a rebrand as Clubs – and it’ll introduce same-generation crossplay for the first time, vastly increasing the player pool. League Seasons will give you something to work towards with your team mates, and a bunch of new unlockable vanities and customisable items promises to add a meaningful reward loop to the popular mode. For example, with each match you play you’ll accrue fans, ultimately unlocking new stadiums, tifos, and so on.

And this is presumably the tip of the iceberg, with arcade mode Volta not even mentioned during the presentation. It should be noted that everyone who plays EA Sports FC 24 before 1st November, 2023 will unlock Founders status, unlocking some new badges, kits, and other bonuses which will persist across the lifespan of the game – and beyond.

So all in all, there’s a lot to EA Sports FC 24 – even if it is building on familiar foundations. We were largely impressed with the game during our hands on; the improved presentation and precision passing really stuck out to us, although we did have some issues with the erratic automatic player changing, which led to a few unforced errors on our part. Overall, the technological innovations being touted here are incredibly impressive, and while it’s unlikely to mean much when you’re getting pumped by a teenager who’s spent £500 on Ultimate Team, no one could accuse the publisher of resting on its laurels with this rebrand.

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Will you be picking up EA Sports FC 24 this year, or does it sound like the same-old from the franchise formerly known as FIFA? Play us in with a perfectly weighted through ball in the comments section below.