Long-time Nintendo Life readers will be aware of the love-hate (mainly hate) relationship we’ve had with the FIFA series over the course of the Switch’s life.
The first Switch entry, FIFA 18, was considered a positive start, even though it felt feature-light compared to other consoles and was clearly based on the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game. FIFA 19 added a couple of basic new modes, but wasn’t massively different, and that’s when our goodwill started to drop quicker than Neymar in the box.
FIFA 20, 21, 22 and 23 were all identical to FIFA 19, and not in the way people lazily say “EA Sports games are just the same thing every year”. No new features, no gameplay tweaks, nothing: these were ‘Legacy Editions’, you see, meaning if you put FIFA 19 and FIFA 23 side-by-side, you’d see no difference beyond kit tweaks.
By the end of it, we were frankly done with the series on Switch, with our FIFA 23 review concluding by asking “that you join us in paying our respects to the memory of the FIFA series, by leaving it to rest in peace”. So you can probably forgive us for assuming that EA Sports FC 24 would be little more than another sloppy Legacy Edition, albeit one with new branding this time. The same pig, but with sunglasses on it.
Imagine our shock, then, to find that the Switch version of EA Sports FC 24 offers absolutely everything the Xbox, PlayStation and PC versions offer. All of it. After all our years of moaning, they’ve actually gone and ruddy well done it.
That ancient gameplay engine that was basically channelling the ghost of FIFA 13 on the Xbox 360? Completely scrapped in favour of Frostbite – you know, the one we’ve been wanting this entire time. It’s a big visual overhaul, at least in terms of graphical detail.
That also means the game feels more like a modern EA football game too. Gone are the clunky animations from two generations ago: now dribbling is much smoother and it’s far more satisfying to put together flowing, passing football. All the updated player faces from other versions are in there, and so are many of the managers, so if you play as Celtic (oh, and Celtic Park’s in now too!) you’ll see Brendan Rodgers’ stern face from the touchline.
Remember how Ultimate Team was basically a taxidermist’s dream, because every single year it was essentially a perfectly preserved recreation of the Ultimate Team mode from the Xbox 360 version of FIFA 17? All that ancient guff has finally been binned, and Ultimate Team on Switch is identical to that on other consoles.
That means Season rewards, Objectives, Squad Battles, FUT Champions, Division Rivals, Moments, the new chemistry system, stadium customisation – all the stuff that’s been added to Ultimate Team on Xbox and PlayStation over the years while Switch owners stood watching with our noses pressed up against the window – it’s all in here for the first time. It’s identical, right down to the addition of women in this year’s Ultimate Team. Getting new features the same year as other consoles? Truly friends, we now dine among kings.
That also means Volta football, which has been on other formats in FIFA 20, 21, 22 and 23 but has been little more than a mysterious fable on Switch, is now included in its entirety. It could be argued that it’s even better suited to Nintendo’s console, because its arcade-like mini-games are perfect for short bursts and local multiplayer.
Essentially, everything we’ve been moaning about for the past six FIFA reviews has finally been addressed. Put the Switch version of EA Sports FC 24 next to the game on other platforms and – other than the expected drop in graphical quality that clearly can’t be avoided – it’s finally the same experience in terms of the feature set.
It’s not perfect. As much as we appreciate EA’s decision to finally make the jump to Frostbite, and as much as it makes the game far more detailed than the previous FIFA games on Switch, the one benefit of the previous engine was that its primitive nature meant it could run at 60fps without a hitch. To accommodate the extra detail provided by Frostbite, this has now been dropped to 30fps.
It’s not a massive deal-breaker by any means, because the generally slower pace of a football game compared to, say, a racing game means a drop from 60fps to 30fps doesn’t affect gameplay massively, but players who ignored our advice and played FIFA 23 on Switch will notice the drop in fluidity, even though they’ll get accustomed to it before too long.
Ultimate Team will also potentially suffer from one major issue: the game doesn’t have a shared Transfer Market. The Xbox, PlayStation, PC and Nintendo versions each have their own separate Transfer Markets, and while we can understand some of the reasons behind that – some claim that PC players can use bots to snap up players quicker – we’d at least like to see all the console versions share the same marketplace one day.
The reason for this is clear: partly because of the way Nintendo players have been treated by the series over the years, the FIFA player base on Switch has been progressively dropping. While we’d hope news that it’s actually good this year will build that back up again, it’ll still be a miniscule fraction of what’s on other consoles.
Xbox and PlayStation users have had early access for about a week, and at the time of us finishing up our review, there were around 6.7 million items on the Xbox Transfer Market. On Switch, there were five. Not five million, just five. One player and a couple of kits. Of course, that’ll rise when the game is released but it still won’t come close: when we reviewed FIFA 20 on Switch, a few days after launch there were only around 15,000 items on the Transfer Market.
Having a Transfer Market that’s literally hundreds of times smaller than that on other consoles has a knock-on effect on other aspects of Ultimate Team. It’s harder to sell players for coins when there are fewer players looking for them, and while it’s great to now have Squad Based Challenges – where you make and submit teams with certain conditions in exchange for rewards – it’s going to be much harder to complete these when you need a certain player and the Transfer Market is relative tumbleweeds.
Don’t get us wrong, Ultimate Team is still great on Switch now, and other single-player modes in it like Squad Battles and Moments will still let you gain rewards in other ways when there aren’t many players around, something that wasn’t possible in past Switch FIFAs. But hopefully one day EA will merge the console Transfer Markets to make the mode feel truly busy.
These issues aside, EA Sports FC 24 is the FIFA series’ equivalent of Ange Postecoglu’s arrival as Spurs manager: after years of the same old rubbish, someone has finally listened and brought something new and exciting to the table. It may have a couple of performance issues – the game, not Ange – but we at least appreciate that this is often what accompanies ambition.
It’s taken almost the entire lifetime of the Switch to get there, but finally – FINALLY – Nintendo fans have an EA football game they can be proud of, one that offers full feature parity with the Xbox, PlayStation and PC versions.
We could continue to be angry and ask why it took this long, but let’s focus on the positives. Now that the Switch version has finally caught up in terms of features, the groundwork has been laid for the Switch’s successor to bring the performance up to speed too. For now, we can finally say what we’ve wanted to say for more than half a decade: this is the best football game ever released on a Nintendo system.
After years of lazy, half-hearted Legacy Editions, EA Sports has finally delivered a football game on the Switch that offers full feature parity with other consoles. A much-needed engine upgrade trades frame rate for fidelity, but Switch owners finally have a port they can be proud of, rather than feeling like an afterthought.