EA Sports could do one of the coolest things ever after FC24 reveal

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EA Sports unveiled a first look at their new football game earlier this week

FIFA 23 is dead, long live EA Sports FC24... whatever the hell it is. In the age of the social media teaser, we have become quite accustomed to being left with more questions than answers. (Although, that being said, there are exceptions. I feel as if I will have seen all of Greta Gerwig’s upcoming Barbie film in a dodgy, smartphone-adjusted aspect ratio before I ever get the chance to don my best neon legwarmers and watch it at the local Odeon.) But even by the vague, tantalising standards of modern marketing campaigns, FC24 is a real puzzler.

Before we properly delve, however, let us take a step or two backwards for the sake of a little extra context. By now, you are most likely aware that the FIFA franchise as we know it will come to an end next season. Since the Christmas of 1993, EA have been releasing annual instalments to their omnipotent, omnipresent footballing simulation - tweaking and tinkering as they have gone to sculpt an approximation of a beast that doesn’t always feel like the beautiful game, but that damn well knows how to get those serotonin receptors lighting up like an arsonist’s book of matches.

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Sometimes these changes have felt perfunctory at best; last year, for instance, one of the big new features crowed about by developers was the introduction of enhanced finger physics that meant each of a goalkeeper’s digits reacted to the impact of a ball individually, rather than like the homogeneous tip of a penguin’s flipper. The future truly is now.

But for the first time in a long time, the series is set to undergo a major, conspicuously notable alteration when it next rears its pixelated head. EA’s licence with FIFA has now expired, and as such, the global phenomenon will press on next season under a new - and let’s be blunt here, worse - banner.

Earlier this week, we got a glimpse of how FC24 is likely to look, with EA revealing both a trailer and artwork for the game. To say it has been divisive would be a diplomatic understatement. Of the 30 players plastered across the box like a rogue’s gallery of slightly melted waxworks, some are, admittedly, pretty passable. Son Heung-min and Jude Bellingham are mercifully alright, and David Beckham looks as infuriatingly handsome as he does every time he pops up on a whiskey advert or in the royal box at Wimbledon.

Others, however, have not been so fortunate; Andrea Pirlo looks like he should be playing Charles Manson in a History channel docudrama; Ronaldinho could very well be a Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas NPC; Rudi Voller has the distinct vibe of Ray Von from Phoenix Nights had he been portrayed by Barry Chuckle.

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At the end of the day though, all of that might matter for little. For one thing, this could just by a stylised artistic choice - a slightly goofy, caricatured mural that isn’t actually representative of how the game will look in full flight. For another, the aesthetics of a football sim have never been as important as the quality of the experience itself. Football Manager, after all, is essentially a series of spreadsheets interspersed with multi-coloured sequences of Pong, and I absolutely defy anybody to find a more entertaining diversion than Pro Evolution Soccer 6, with its bulky, boxy character models and its deific reimagining of Adriano.

And I would be willing to be even more forgiving of FC24’s shoddy looks if it makes good on a promise that this early promotional material seemingly hints towards. In recent years, FIFA has not been shy about introducing retired legends into its vastly popular Ultimate Team mode. If you’ve ever seen Roy Keane hitting the Griddy on your timeline, you have the avaricious vision of some EA executive or other to thank for the pleasure.

But there’s something about FC24’s artwork that feels a touch different. It’s not just the deluge of ex-professionals on display here, although there are several. It’s the painstaking manner in which they are being pushed on an equal footing to the looming icons of the contemporary game - your Erling Haalands and your Virgil van Dijks. It’s the way in which they are all kitted out in recreations of kits from a bygone era. It’s the general feeling that they are integral to this entire thing, rather than a downloadable afterthought.

Dare we dream that EA have somehow, inexplicably, incorporated classic teams into their new pet project? Dare we imagine a reality in which we can embark on actual, meaningful career modes with the Galacticos, or Manchester United’s 1999 treble-winners? Dare we elevate our feeble hopes to envisage a world in which we could win successive promotions with Wrexham and use the newfound wealth of their Premier League status to lure Juan Román Riquelme in as a marquee signing?

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The answer, of course, is probably not. Where such things are concerned, optimism is usually there for the purposes of getting dashed and little else. But if it were to happen in any EA-produced title since FIFA’s inception, FC24 would be it. A global fanbase watches with scepticism as the company stumbles from the smouldering rubble of a lifetime partnership, and the best way of softening the blow of any heightened scrutiny would be to emerge clutching the kind of gameplay hook that could change the course of a genre for good.

The head screams that it won’t happen, even in spite of the teasing evidence and the yearning of the heart, but if by some miracle EA did pull the trigger and, indeed, pull it off, it might just be the coolest thing they’ve ever done.

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