Aside from the new name and logo being emblazoned on almost every menu screen in sight, you’d be hard-pressed to distinguish EA Sports FC 24 from the latest FIFA game. In short, EA’s latest football sim introduces a number of subtle improvements to its on-pitch action while sprinkling in some incremental additions to long-standing game modes like Ultimate Team and Career. It still offers an exciting, albeit familiar, game of back-and-forth football, but the demanding yearly release schedule isn’t doing the series any favors. Even with the fancy new rebrand, EA FC is an expected follow-up to FIFA 23, offering a slight evolution rather than anything revelatory.

As is often the case from one game to the next, the pace of play in EA FC 24 feels a tad slower compared to last year. If history repeats itself, this is likely to change in the coming weeks–particularly once superpowered cards are more prevalent in Ultimate Team–but creating openings via slick passing moves is currently the best way to break down a stubborn defense. It helps that player movement is ultra-responsive, to the point where it’s possible to wiggle out of danger without needing to utilize the game’s agile dribbling mechanic. This is easier to do with a diminutive and agile player as opposed to someone like cover star Erling Haaland, but he excels in other areas, often bulldozing right through defenses. Either way, the movement of players–and their noticeable differences–looks much smoother than in the past; the connective animations between disparate movements flow together seamlessly. EA adds a deluge of new animations every year, but those in EA FC 24 lend the game a more natural look and feel that’s immediately palpable in the way you move across the pitch.

Unfortunately, other areas of the game remain unchanged, much to the game’s detriment. Goalkeepers occasionally try to save shots by diving sideways into the goal, which usually results in them either punching the ball into their own net or letting it sail over their heads. Passes will sometimes veer wildly off target, and defending can be frustrating when successful tackles regularly bounce back to attackers, especially when it puts them in a much more advantageous position than they were in before. It doesn’t help that off-the-ball AI still has trouble tracking runs, and referees are wildly inconsistent in regards to what is and isn’t a foul. I’ve already encountered a few baffling red-card decisions–although one could argue this is sadly authentic. The removal of driven lobbed-through passes also takes some getting used to, but this seems to have been done in service of EA FC 24’s new PlayStyles mechanic.

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