May 28, 2024

Yes, you’ve heard of it. The video game that makes you feel pumped when you beat your friends online five times in a row, but also the one that makes you want to break another controller because you conceded in the 93rd minute and lost the chance to win the league.

After 30 years of existence, EA Sports rebranded its premier soccer-themed video game with the release of EA Sports FC 24 on Sept. 29. This is the first time it has been released without the FIFA branding, after the partnership with the sport’s governing body expired last year.

The video game brand has seen a huge evolution in advancement and popularity since the release of the first version, “FIFA International Soccer,” in 1993. In the first week alone, the newest game reached more than 11.3 million players — proof that the popularity isn’t slowing down even after three decades.

Personally, I’ve always liked it when they release the video game every year. Ever since buying my first edition (shout-out FIFA 06), I’ve been able to play almost all of the games. Like any game out there, there are features that keep you coming back, but plenty of areas that leave you frustrated knowing how much better things could be. However, after playing with teams such as Manchester City, the United States and Cerro Porteño across a variety of game modes and using players such as Alex Morgan, Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappé, here’s what I’ve been able to assess over the past month.

Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)


Gameplay

EA 24 provides the authenticity and realistic look of players, managers, stadiums and numerous other special features to make it appear as advanced as any other soccer video game beforehand.

Thanks to the proprietary HyperMotion technology, the game uses motion capture data to try to replicate a realistic, complete, high-intensity match with 22 players in motion. Realism is everything: the game engine and mocap are intended to make player movements, tackles, aerial duels, decision-making and on-ball actions look just as authentic as it is watching an actual match.

That being said, nothing is perfect when it comes to actually playing the game. Coming from my experience, the realism has definitely improved — you can see it in how the players move and react, not to mention how a higher-rated player’s first touch/ball control and speed is superior to a lower-rated player. However, there are still areas of concern. Passing the ball or defending has become static or more predictable, while the crowd look is still more generic rather than bespoke — next time you score a goal, look at how many of the pitch-side supporters have similar motions, facial expressions or reactions.

Not every player has a likeness that actually looks like them — the game is so large that it’s a logistical challenge, sure, but it’s also part of the expectation when “hyper-realism” is a selling point. (This was especially true on the women’s side of the game, where several prominent players were unhappy about their initial avatars.) There are also the first signs of licensing issues, which means you either have different names for certain teams and generic kits (such as Lazio and Roma), or you go without real-life players where rights couldn’t be cleared (like the teams in the Brazilian league). While it’s definitely an improvement on FIFA 23, there’s still some distance to go before the game lives up to its billing.

In terms of options available, you will be happy about how many clubs, leagues and countries you can play with. While you can obviously fire up single games or Career Mode play with the likes of the Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1, LaLiga and Major League Soccer, you can also use teams from other leagues around the world such as the Eredivisie, Liga Portugal, Saudi Pro League and Turkish Super League to name a few. (Yes, the Saudi Pro League is present.) You can also play in three major UEFA club competitions — Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League — and the two major CONMEBOL competitions (Libertadores and Sudamericana), adding the quest of continental glory to your aspirations of domestic domination.

For example, if you want to play as my favorite Paraguayan team, Cerro Porteño, it’s there. They’ve never won the Copa Libertadores before, so I knew I wanted to try it out and at least bring the trophy home in a virtual sense. Needless to say, I was able to achieve that after completing an entire campaign and leading my team to their maiden title.

An important feature that was added back in the last FIFA video game was the inclusion of the women’s clubs, which saw England‘s Women’s Super League, France‘s Division 1 Féminine and the United States‘ National Women’s Soccer League included. While we need to go back as far as FIFA 16 to see the first appearance of women’s players with the arrival of their numerous national teams, EA took a giant step this year by adding clubs from the German Frauen-Bundesliga and Spain’s Liga F, which will open doors to more inclusion toward numerous women’s soccer fans from around the world.

Overall, you can use more than 19,000 players across over 700 teams in over 100 stadiums and over 30 leagues, which gives users an option to lace up the boots as just about anyone.


Career Mode

FC 24 also allows you to be in charge with its Career Mode option, an important staple to the game series. You can choose the Player Mode option, where you’re either playing as your own, fully customized self or as a real-life player at the beginning of their career. Can you rise the ranks as a young prospect to become a global superstar?

Although there have been some key developments in the way you can control your career, I feel there is also a missed opportunity. No matter how you play certain emotional moments in the journey, you still seem to prevail if you’re doing well on the pitch. You’re answering questions from your manager at times, but what about the ability to talk to your teammates or make broader choices about your career path? There’s still a sense that this mode is stale, especially with the added focus on more of the microtransaction portions of the game (more on that later).

Career Mode also offers the Manager option, where you can take charge of a team and be the boss of handling formations, tactics, transfer window business and many other features, allowing users to become their very own Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp, aiming to win all the trophies and establish themselves as among the best ever. You can hire scouts to help find the brightest young talent in the world to help strengthen your squad or you can play around with a bunch of tactics to see what works best for your system. (I bet this is a degree of power and choice that any real-life manager would be happy with, though few ever get.)

However, there are issues to pinpoint, such as the lack of originality when dealing with players, the transfer window saga, prematch news conferences and postmatch interviews. Player issues seem quickly resolved regardless of whether you choose the calm, neutral or angry response; you feel like every postmatch discussion or player issue is the same after just a few games. Hopefully, there is some originality in future games that raises the stakes when it comes to managing a squad of individuals that have different motivations and goals.


Other features

Finally, you have Ultimate Team. Incredibly popular (with millions of users per month) yet also polarizing (thanks to microtransactions) for some, Ultimate Team allows you to create your personal squad, your own team name, badge, kit and stadium. You can make a team using men’s and women’s players and past/present icons to vie in numerous competitions against anyone in the world for the prize of points and “currency” that can later be used to assemble an even stronger team.

Can you imagine lining up a team with Mia Hamm, Lionel Messi and Marco van Basten that’s coached by Johan Cruyff? Well, you can with Ultimate Team. While, admittedly, I haven’t been able to play this specific feature because of how time-consuming and competitive the online mode can be, it’s clear that Ultimate Team — and its lucrative marketplace — is here to stay.

Of course, we haven’t even mentioned the other features such as multiplayer mode (self-explanatory) and Volta Football, which takes the classic 11 vs. 11 and turns it into a trick-heavy, skill-heavy 5 vs. 5 street soccer/futsal experience. For someone in search of an easier, less time-consuming mode, this will satisfy. There’s something here for the hard-core gamer and the casual fan alike, which reflects the global popularity of soccer in general.

Whether you’re using the highest-rated men’s (Kylian Mbappe) or women’s (Barcelona and Spain’s Alexia Putellas) player, EA Sports FC 24 has seen an evolution of a soccer video game series that has placed itself at the top of the food chain. Even if it has its critics who ask whether the series has stalled in recent times, it’s a mainstay that will remain a juggernaut for the next 30 years. — Roberto Rojas


Let’s break down the ratings

OK, everyone loves ratings, and not just the players themselves. Ratings are a quick talking point among friends, a shorthand for divining quality from the rest of the pack. Having pored over more than 17,000 players in the EA 24 database, let’s see what fun points of interest we can find. — James Tyler

Welcome to “Club 47”

In every game with a “best,” there has to be a worst as well and, unfortunately, nine players received the lowest possible score within the game. Most of these athletes will never see the spotlight or a Ballon d’Or ceremony, while the clubs they represent — in China and India — are also unlikely to become superpowers in the future.

That said, if you fancy a Career Mode challenge, you might consider taking a lower-league team somewhere in the world and adding to the difficulty by stocking up on these guys.

Yin Jie, CM, Zhejiang Pro
Ye Daoxin, CB, Zhejiang Pro
Wu Yuhang, CDM, Zhejiang Pro
Wang Tengda, CM, Dalian Pro
Deven Sawhney, LB, Odisha FC
CVL Remtluanga, CM, Odisha FC
Mijit Mewlan, ST, Shandong Taishan
Liu Jiaqiang, CB, Shenzhen FC
Jin Liangkuan, CB, Meizhou Hakka

Highest-rated MLS players

There’s a heavy international flair — and designated player influence — in the top-rated Major League Soccer stars, led of course by the inimitable Messi-Alba-Busquets trio in South Florida. If you’re starting a franchise, you might wish to lean in on this list in a bid to rapidly climb the table.

– 90: Lionel Messi, CF, Inter Miami CF
– 83: Jordi Alba, LB, Inter Miami CF; Sergio Busquets, CDM, Inter Miami CF
– 81: Lorenzo Insigne, LW, Toronto FC
– 80: Giorgio Chiellini, CB, LAFC; Hany Mukhtar, CF, Nashville SC; Carlos Vela, RW, LAFC
– 79: Thiago Almada, CAM, Atlanta United FC; Carles Gil, CAM, New England Revolution; Emanuel Reynoso, CAM, Minnesota United FC
– 78: Federico Bernardeschi, RW, Toronto FC; Andre Blake, GK, Philadelphia Union; Denis Bouanga, LW, LAFC; Sebastián Driussi, CAM, Austin FC; Héctor Herrera, CM, Houston Dynamo
– 77: Luciano Acosta, CAM, FC Cincinnati; Javier Hernandez, ST, LA Galaxy; Illarramendi, CM, FC Dallas; Raúl Ruidíaz, ST, Seattle Sounders FC

play

1:21

Nicol: Neymar’s time in the limelight could be over

Steve Nicol reacts to Neymar’s performance for Brazil vs. Venezuela after a fan threw popcorn at him postgame.

Strongest and weakest

You can think of strength and weakness in many ways. Is it a metaphorical concept? Is it about literal physical power? How does mindset or nerve factor in? However you measure it, the top end of the strength spectrum features players at all positions, meaning that it’s probably measuring a bit of everything. The two goalkeepers at the top are prized for their aggression and fearlessness in the face of oncoming attackers, which definitely fits the criteria.

There’s also a size element here, as several of them offer an imposing presence on the pitch. Several of the defenders and defensive midfielders (both men’s and women’s) are prized for their strength in the tackle, too. Lena Oberdorf is known for her uncompromising tackling, which can help her tilt any game in her team’s favor, while Casemiro‘s red card collection since arriving in the Premier League speaks to his marauding capabilities.

If you’re assembling an Ultimate Team of bullies that will force opponents to quit in terror, look no further.

Strongest

– 90: Alisson, GK, Liverpool; Thibaut Courtois, GK, Real Madrid
– 89: João Palhinha, CDM, Fulham; Denzel Dumfries, RB, Inter Milan; Geoffrey Kondogbia, CDM, Marseille; Christiane Endler, GK, Lyon Femenin; Lena Oberdorf, CDM, Wolfsburg
– 88: Erling Haaland, ST, Manchester City; Sebastián Coates, CB, Sporting CP; Joseph Aidoo, CB, Celta Vigo; Alexander Barboza, CB, Libertad; Victor Wanyama, CDM, CF Montreal; Alexandra Popp, ST, Wolfsburg; Wout Weghorst, ST, TSG Hoffenheim; Casemiro, CDM, Manchester United; Lucy Bronze, RB, Manchester United; Joelinton, CM, Newcastle United; Manuel Neuer, GK, Bayern Munich; Aleksandar Mitrovic, ST, Al Hilal; Dani de Wit, CAM, AZ Alkmaar

Now to the slighter, more slender end of the scale. Here we have an array of playmakers who are prized for their creative skills but can be easily hustled off the ball by cannier opponents.

Weakest

– 29: Felipe Valencia, RM, Inter Miami CF
– 32: Yassine Haouari, CAM, Valenciennes; Rikelme, RW, RWD Molenbeek; Florian Bianchini, RW, SC Bastia
– 33: Jojea Kwizera, LM, CF Montreal; Jhon Marchan, CAM, Metropolitanos; Komal Thatal, LM, Jamshedpur FC; Othman Al Othman, RW, Al Fateh; Daniel Bunk, CAM, Dusseldorf

If you’re a manager looking to infuse your title-chasing squad with more pace than any opponent could handle, look no further than this crew. With lots of wingers and forwards listed — along with two of the best full-backs in Germany’s Bundesliga — there’s a lot of choice in career mode. However, check the rest of their stats: some players (such as Kouassi) lack in other areas so make sure your team is balanced.

Fastest

– 97: Kylian Mbappe, ST, PSG
– 96: Karim Adeyemi, LM, Borussia Dortmund
– 95: Vinicius Jr, LW, Real Madrid; Moussa Diaby, RM, Aston Villa; Alphonso Davies, LB, Bayern Munich; Sirlord Conteh, ST, SC Paderborn
– 94: Delphine Cascarino, RW, Lyon Feminine; Inaki Williams, RM, Athletic Club; Ismaïla Sarr, RM, Marseille; Trinity Rodman, RW, Washington Spirit; Jeremie Frimpong, RWB, Bayer Leverkusen; Michael, LM, Al Hilal; Rosemonde Kouassi, ST, FC Fleury; Kevin Schade, RW, Brentford; Sheraldo Becker, ST, Union Berlin

The following players might lack in their acceleration and run speed but with so many defenders and holding midfielders considered molasses-level in EA 24, you wouldn’t be expecting them to scorch their opposite man in a foot race. Ideally, they’re playing with the game in front of them, meaning that a lack of sprint skills is less important.

Slowest
– 27: Ronny Montero, CB, Palmaflor
– 28: Abdullah Ateef, CDM, Al Ahli
– 30: Alcala, CB, FC Cartagena; Eric Botteghin, CB, Ascoli; Paul Huntington, CB, Carlisle United; Florian Hubner, CB, FC Nurnberg; Valtteri Moren, CB, HJK Helsinki; Danny Batth, CB, Norwich City; Fontas, CB, Sporting Kansas City; Víctor Vázquez, CAM, Toronto FC
– 31: José Fonte, CB, SC Braga; Florent Ogier, CB, Clermont Foot; Richard Wood, CB, Doncaster Rovers; Diego Viera, CB, Libertad; Alex Pearce, CB, AFC Wimbledon; Alin Seroni, CB, FC Botosani; Filip Starzynski, CAM, Ruch Chorzow; Scott Caldwell, CDM, Real Salt Lake


Best/worst dribblers

Ball is life — at least for the top end of the dribbling rankings. As you’d expect, some of the game’s smoothest operators in both the men’s and women’s games rank highly in this list — including both of this year’s Ballon d’Or winners, Messi and Bonmati — but the addition of two goalkeepers is also fun to see. Those two don’t seem fazed when they have to use their feet, anyway.

Silky skills

– 94: Lionel Messi, CF, Inter Miami CF
– 93: Neymar, LW, Al Hilal; Thibaut Courtois, GK, Real Madrid
– 92: Kylian Mbappe, ST, Paris Saint-Germain; Alexia Putellas, CM, Barca Femeni; Bernardo Silva, CM, Manchester City
– 91: Aitana Bonmatí, CM, Barca Femeni; Marc-André ter Stegen, GK, Barcelona; Debinha, CAM, Kansas City Current; Jamal Musiala, CAM, Bayern Munich
– 90: Sam Kerr, ST, Chelsea Women; Vini Jr., LW, Real Madrid

play

1:23

Why Brazil’s Endrick is the ‘special one’

Tim Vickery discusses Brazil’s latest wonderkid Endrick and explains why he thinks the future is very bright for the Palmeiras striker.

At the other end of the spectrum, it’s no surprise that a plethora of lower-league and far-reaching central defenders are rated poorly for their ball control. After all, they’re the last position on the pitch (besides goalie) where you’d want to see them speeding upfield trying to Maradona their opponents. For this group, simple is best. Just get it away from goal.

Just boot it already

– 28: Kim Yeon-Soo, CB, Incheon United
– 29: Ma Sheng, CB, Nantong Zhiyun FC
– 30: Chen Guoliang, CB, Shenzhen FC; CB Liu Jiahui, CB, Henan SSLMFC; Matti Olsen, CB, Hvidovre IF; Dennis Egel, CB, SV Sandhausen; Reece Welch, CB, Forest Green Rovers; Enzo Guerrero, CB, Nublense; Christian Dobozi, CB, Sepsi OSK


Top 20 prospects for Career Mode (aka highest ceiling)

If you’re considering firing up the PS5 and creating your own dynasty in career mode, it’s important to make sure you have the talent to win now, to win next season and to win everything over the next decade. As such, you’re going to need future stars, the kind who can be coached along nicely over time and live up to their potential.

We’ve picked out the 20-ish players who have significant gaps between their present rating and their potential rating, which all depends on how well you develop them as their manager.

Some of these are obvious, but in a neat twist, many of them are also highly coveted in real life for the talent they project to hone as they get older. (It’s no surprise to see clubs such as Borussia Dortmund and Brighton represented, given that they’re known for their talent spotting and development.)

Gabriel Veiga, CM, Al Ahli (78 OVR, potential rating of 89)
Warren Zaïre-Emery, MF, Paris Saint-Germain (75 OVR, potential 88)
Elye Wahi, ST, RC Lens (78 OVR, potential 88)
Alejandro Garnacho, LW, Manchester United (75 OVR, potential 88)
António Silva, CB, Benfica (78 OVR, potential 88)
Guillaume Restes, GK, Toulouse FC (70 OVR, potential 87)
Tommaso Baldanzi, CAM, Empoli (77 OVR, potential 87)
Jorrel Hato, CB, Ajax (68 OVR, potential 87)
Youssoufa Moukoko, ST, Borussia Dortmund (77 OVR, potential 87)
Rico Lewis, RB, Manchester City (73 OVR, potential 86)
Rayan Cherki, CAM, Lyon (75 OVR, potential 86)
Bilal El Khannous, CAM, Genk (71 OVR, potential 86)
Evan Ferguson, ST, Brighton (74 OVR, potential 86)
Martin Baturina, CM, Dinamo Zagreb (74 OVR, potential 86)
Stefan Bajcetic, CDM, Liverpool (72 OVR, potential 86)
Antonio Nusa, LM, Club Brugge (68 OVR, potential 86)
Mathys Tel, ST, Bayern Munich (71 OVR, potential 86)
Gianluca Prestianni, RM, Velez Sarsfield (70 OVR, potential 86)
Bart Verbruggen, GK, Brighton (70 OVR, potential 85)
Iván Fresneda, RB, Sporting CP (72 OVR, potential 85)


Top 20 overall

Finally, the cream of the crop. These 20 stand apart from the pack with their all-round quality, and it’s hard to argue with any of it. (Though yes, we know you’ll argue with all of it.) It’s no surprise that Manchester City and Barcelona Femeni, the modern era’s dominant men’s and women’s teams respectively, would also make up much of this Top 20 overall list. Equally, it speaks volumes of their talent that so many injured stars — like Kevin De Bruyne, who hasn’t played in what seems like an eternity — are still in the game’s highest echelon for what they offer when fit.

Consider these your franchise cornerstones, your MVPs, your Ballon d’Whatever.

– 20th: Alex Morgan, ST, San Diego Wave (89 OVR)
– 19th: Neymar Jr., LW, Al Hilal (89 OVR)
– 18th: Rodri, CDM, Manchester City (89 OVR)
– 17th: Vinicius Jr., LW, Real Madrid (89 OVR)
– 16th: Rúben Dias, CB, Manchester City (89 OVR)
– 15th: Mapi León, CB, Barcelona Femini (89 OVR)
– 14th: Kadidiatou Diani, RW, Lyon Femenine (89 OVR)
– 13th: Mohamed Salah, RW, Liverpool (89 OVR)
– 12th: Robert Lewandowski, ST, Barcelona (90 OVR)
– 11th: Caroline Graham Hansen, RW, Barcelona Femeni (90 OVR)
– 10th: Harry Kane, ST, Bayern Munich (90 OVR)
– 9th: Thibaut Courtois, GK, Real Madrid (90 OVR)
– 8th: Karim Benzema, CF, Al Ittihad (90 OVR)
– 7th: Sam Kerr, ST, Chelsea Women (90 OVR)
– 6th: Lionel Messi, CF, Inter Miami CF (90 OVR)
– 5th: Aitana Bonmati, CM, Barcelona Femeni (90 OVR)
– 4th: Kevin De Bruyne, CM, Manchester City (91 OVR)
– 3rd: Erling Haaland, ST, Manchester City (91 OVR)
– 2nd: Alexia Putellas, CM, Barcelona Femeni (91 OVR)
– 1st: Kylian Mbappe, ST, Paris Saint-Germain (91 OVR)


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