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Those who imagined an Electronic Arts at the end of its rope after publicly divorcing from FIFA will probably have to do the math again. At a bombastic event in Amsterdam - with guests including Drogba, Figo, Ronaldinho, and new cover star Erling Haaland - EA Sports FC 24 finally got unveiled, and gave us a first taste of things to come. Don’t call it a downgrade. 

Like every year, EA Sports FC 24 introduces a lot of new features. The first is HyperMotion V, the latest evolution of the technology powering the previous two FIFA games. This year, animations are created by capturing matches directly from videos, in addition to mo-capping players from Spain’s second and third divisions. A total of 180 matches were analyzed using the new “volumetric” technique, including the Champions League final between Inter Milan and Manchester City.

The second is PlayStyles. Opta will offer its data for the game to provide special traits to select players. The idea is to distinguish stars from each other regardless of their Overall, but also to sensitively alter how the game works in their presence. A PlayStyle+ variant will allow for bigger crosshairs when going for a free kick with a specialist, power shots and headers will be more likely to score, and the same feeds into faster dribbling and more timely blocks by AI-managed defenders on opponents’ shots.

The game aims to be a looker, too, and this is where a few new pieces of tech come into play. A new Frostbite feature called Sapien will introduce scientific details about the anatomy of the footballers’ skeletons, leading to more muscular bodies: Vinicius Jr. is shown to us as more robust and athletic, while Adama Traoré is now truly as musclebound as we’ve seen him on pitches across Europe. This also leads us to Accelerate 2.0 will now have as many as seven different running archetypes, whereas last year, there were only three, and GPU Cloth will make cloth movements more realistic, making them react to the animations of individual muscles under the kits.

EA Sports FC 24 also introduces 3D reproductions of the commentators in the commentary booth, and English speakers will even be able to enjoy a second commentator pair, with Guy Mowbray and Sue Smith. Speaking of sound, the Beyond Broadcast Audio option will allow for a much louder stadium that will almost cover commentators’ voices with drums and choruses, which should remind you of extremely hyped matches such as a cup final.

Playing the game for the first time, you immediately notice how the pace is lower than in FIFA 23. This is not really a choice to have slower action, but rather the consequence of adding new animations, which make the first touch in particular more complex. 

The biggest con is that, if you play a lot of triangulation, it will take you a little longer to get in the right flow again, although toward the end of our demo we were already lining up at the new pace.

Such considerations almost cancel out as we move on to women’s soccer, where we played as Chelsea and Lyon. Here matches are much faster and players feel lighter, as if we had been moved back to FIFA 22 or 23. From the Ultimate Team perspective, it’ll be interesting to see how these two will coexist.

EA Sports FC 24 Sam Kerr celebration screenshot

Aussie women's soccer star Sam Kerr's goal celebration in EA Sports FC 24.

On the pitch, an aggressive style as in Klopp’s gegenpressing, seems to pay off a lot for us, but likewise it’s important to be careful with counterattacks, which now seem even more punishing - there were so many situations where we found ourselves outnumbered and chasing down the opponents, and so many where we saw the goalkeepers become our hero. Speaking of which, goalkeepers cover the goal much more this year, staying up until late and spreading their arms like Barcelona’s ter Stegen. When 1v1s can get more and more frequent, this creates far less predictable outcomes than in the past.

The power shot introduced last year feels less effective, while on a purely cosmetic level we see the sliding tackles leaving much more credible marks on the ground now.

Our demo allowed us to play as PSG and Manchester City, highlighting how Guardiola’s eleven is a bona fide war machine and the Parisians are in desperate need of some transfers (deploying Renato Sanchez and Soler as RM and LM or Neymar Jr. as ST paid off, but we wouldn’t recommend that). Rodri is already a legend in front of the defense, as well as with the shot from outside: a sign that the PlayStyles - potentially the most important twist to individual player traits since FIFA 11’s Personality+, whose legacy they unsurprisingly pick up - work and make even theoretically less noble footballers useful again.

A new wide-angle camera shot, called Tactical, finally succeeds where several attempts such as the GameCam had failed: Tactical not only allows a full view of the pitch, but also keeps the right perspective and proportions. It’s especially good when playing in local multiplayer. 

The physics of the ball has undergone some tweaking, and a counter-time bounce of the ball visibly changes its rotation. This is particularly noticeable at slower speeds, with the ball getting out of the pitch for a throw-in, but it’ll be interesting to see if that makes for unexpected trajectories in the middle of the action, too.

Off the pitch, EA Sports FC 24 does so much in an attempt to bring a discontinuity with the past. A complete restructuring of the main menu now sees it rearranged vertically, and when you hover over the items on the left, you immediately see a preview of your content or an explanation of what’s coming next on the right. The list of modes is reorganized according to the ones you play the most. Verticality is everywhere in the UI, though: in Ultimate Team’s tabs, for example, one of the entries features shortcuts you can swipe from top to bottom with all the most important options (Squad Battles, squad, transfers...).

Match intro sequences have also been restructured to be faster and more organic, while adding new scenes that scroll both in the foreground and in the background as you prepare for the match or return to it for the second half: one nice touch is, when you see clips from the locker room, the mood of your players depends on how they’re performing. 

Team walkout sequence EA Sports FC 24

Match intro sequences have been streamlined.

In terms of graphics, EA is adding even more augmented reality items, kind of inspired by LaLiga broadcasts: with the game still on, you can see many more statistics, including the last five shots taken with boxes and arrows indicating where they ended up, or possession data with areas of the pitch highlighted with different shades of green. The new lighting, which emphasizes contrast between shadows and areas of light, leaves a mark on spectators and players especially during corner kicks, allowing you to see each fold on the kit.

EA Sports FC 24 presents a handful of new features for each mode, starting with Career Mode. For the first time, Career Mode comes with two separate entries right from the main menu: Player Career and Manager Career. 

Manager Career introduces Tactical Visions and coaches. You have seven Tactical Visions to choose from, such as tiki-taka, gegenpressing, counterattack and park the bus, and - based on the styles of some of the most prominent coaches on the planet, from Guardiola to Mourinho and Ancelotti - these will determine your club philosophy on and off the pitch.

You’ll need to hire coaches to train players to your view: coaches have their own attributes and philosophies, making them more or less fit to your agenda. But they may also be more balanced to give you a Plan B over the course of the season and improve over time as they work on a view.

Match approaches have been completely redesigned into three phases: match-specific training sessions, pre-match reports with all the data about the opponents, and match plan. You’ll be able to create specific drills to react to how the opposing team is expected to play (reacting to a park the bus strategy, for example) and, on the bench, watch the match from a new camera from the sidelines, like real managers. By winning trophies, you’ll witness new cutscenes, such as the bus parade across the city streets.

In a follow-up Q&A, EA made it clear that AI has not received “major improvements” to “decision-making,” but opposing teams will be able to use Tactical Visions just like human players to react to our style. And in the subsequent roundtable, the dev team also told us that women’s soccer will not be part of the Career Mode for now, but that this option is being considered for the long term.

As for the Player Career, the biggest addition comes in the form of agents: they help you with career choices and give you opportunities to change your career path. In fact, by completing goals on the pitch, you unlock transfer opportunities to level up and move to major clubs. You can pick up to three PlayStyles to define your personality, and a new Player Cam focuses on your player when something dangerous or spectacular happens. Thanks to the official license, you’ll also be able to win the Ballon d’Or, complete with a cutscene of the ceremony based on the real one: the most coveted trophy will be presented to you by an old glory, in the case of our demonstration, Andrea Pirlo.

Pro Club is now simply Clubs and is complete on Switch too, as Nintendo now finally supports the Frostbite engine. The biggest news is the addition of 11v11 cross-play, a much-criticized omission last year. Seasons have a new structure so that each has something new to try out, there is no relegation and the final division is the Elite Division, coming with exciting knockout playoffs. Reset is scheduled every six weeks, with new customization items for both the player (Nike is working on exclusive vanity items) and the stadium, along the lines of Ultimate Team. 

What’s new in Volta, you might be wondering? Well, the mode was kept totally out of the developer keynote we attended in Amsterdam, but we were reassured there will be cross-play, with which EA hopes to bring in more players from the other modes and all platforms. However, there won’t be PlayStyle (featured in Clubs), and content and mini-games will be the same as last year.

UT may have lost the “F”, but EA Sports FC 24’s Ultimate Team comes with Evolutions and women’s soccer, two of the biggest additions to the game in years. Evolutions are a new type of non-tradable card that improves and changes over the course of the season in terms of overall, position, and skill - provided you complete goals and challenges to get permanent upgrades. These upgrades are arranged along predetermined paths, with new ones being added season after season. 

A few examples: Moukoko can go from 69 to 77 and 77 to 85 based on the upgrade paths available at launch, with upgrades designed to make your players “personal” and “unique” but without letting you do your own thing entirely. Promo cards will be upgradeable as well (TOTW Bellingham gains +1 OVR and one PlayStyle, in an example we were shown), and Van Dijk can become CM with a dedicated challenge, gaining a specific trait with another. These cards feature a unique green coloring, and you’re allowed to have only one Evolution card on the team at a time, with the chance to pause one and switch to another without losing your progress.

Ultimate Team features PlayStyles on par with the base game, and these work similarly to FUT’s traits, while community feedback led to a reworked Chemistry for Icons: they are now no longer neutral, but can contribute to elevating your team chemistry. What’s more, players who have two positions retain the same Chemistry when changing positions, this year even without using the position change card.

Another big news is the arrival of women’s soccer on Ultimate Team, where we will be able to create hybrid squads with total freedom: 6 competitions, 74 teams, and 1600+ players will be added to what is being dubbed “the largest player pool ever.” Chemistry works just like last year, integrating men and women by nationality and teams (if a club comes with both male and female teams, as with Chelsea). 

In a roundtable discussion, EA Sports explained that it’s not overly concerned about striking a “balance” between men’s and women’s soccer, an issue we had been wondering about after playing the demo.

Their approach was to give players ratings regardless of their gender, and then put them all together in Ultimate Team to see them perform exactly as they do “in the real world in their respective competitions.” No further accommodations were made in this regard, but it was pointed out that our impressions of faster and lighter women’s soccer might depend on ratings not being “tuned to how they’re going to be when they come through.”