Turns out when you put effort into a Switch port, it’s pretty good.
The legacy of EA Sports on Nintendo consoles has been murky at best in the past decade. The company’s two popular mainstays have either been largely absent (Madden) or half-assed (FIFA) since the dawn of the Wii U. FIFA on Switch debuted in 2017 and while the game itself was relatively good, it was built on a custom version of EA’s Ignite engine (as opposed to EA’s Frostbite engine that powered other versions) that led to the game being a limited version of the long-running soccer experience. After that 2017 debut, every subsequent FIFA release on Switch was merely a “Legacy Edition,” as in it was almost identical to that 2017 release outside of roster updates. Finally, more than 2400 days since the Switch launched, EA Sports is putting in some honest effort into the Nintendo Switch version of their soccer game, now called EA Sports FC due to a licensing disagreement with FIFA. The results are fantastic with a few caveats, as this game stacks up favorably to all other releases of EA Sports FC across other platforms and even includes some neat Switch-exclusive touches.
If you’ve only played EA soccer games on Nintendo platforms, then EA Sports FC has a boatload of modes you never knew existed. You can hop into the action quickly with the Kick Off mode, letting you set up a match with custom rules easily. You can even share the joy and play against a friend with each of you just using one Joy-Con. In addition to the soccer games themselves, a variety of offline and online modes let you fiddle with the sport in almost any way you want. Two different Career Modes exist, one where you control a manager and one where you control a player. Controlling a manager is akin to your typical franchise mode in other sports games and while I had fun with that, I really enjoyed my time in the player-focused career. I made myself a preposterous-looking man and controlled just them in games, which was far more compelling than I expected.
Beyond Career Mode, the full scope of the microtransaction-laden Ultimate Team is playable on Switch for the first time. While every sports game now has a mode like this, I still don’t enjoy it all that much, but generally speaking you can play around with this card-based competitive mode without dropping tons of money. You generally just have to grind for resources. Say what you will about the concept of Ultimate Team, but it’s nice that Switch owners actually have the agency to decide whether or not they want to engage with it.
Ultimate Team is a mode you can only play online, which does make that element a challenge for the hybrid Switch system. I have so far been relatively impressed with how seamless reconnecting back to EA’s servers has been. When you come out of sleep mode, all you have to do is click in the right stick and connecting back online happens relatively unobtrusively. As a comparison, this is a better experience than I’ve had playing EA Sports’ latest Madden on PlayStation 5, which has been way more frustrating to connect back to EA’s servers when I boot up the game from rest mode.
Thankfully, even if a lot of modes have online functionality, you can still do a lot in this game without being online. Seasons and tournaments have a mixture of offline and online functionality while also letting you toy around with all kinds of teams and rosters, including a wealth of women’s soccer teams. One of the biggest additions to EA’s soccer games in recent years is the Volta Football mode. After making an avatar, you then play shorter arcade-y games primarily against others online, unlocking new gear and stat points along the way. It’s a cool mode that is very dependent on the Switch EA Sports FC community to be populated. That’s the same story for the Clubs mode, where you use that same avatar to play in games with your online club that you can create with friends. That leads to one of the major downsides of this Switch release: it has no crossplay. All the other releases have some form of crossplay with another console, so Xbox players can play with PlayStation players. The Switch stands alone though. Likely there’s some technical reasoning behind it, but it’s still a big disappointment that might cut the longevity of this game off at the knees. Truth be told, given EA’s history, they shouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt with their Nintendo support.
Still, the Switch version of EA Sports FC retains some Switch-specific options. The Local Seasons mode (which was a bullet point in the 2017 FIFA game) allows you to play 1-on-1 games against another Switch owner with the game over a local wireless connection. In handheld play, you can also use the touchscreen to zoom in on the action. That’s neat even if a tad impractical mid-match.
FC24 is only the second ever appearance of EA’s Frostbite engine on the Nintendo Switch, so we were extremely interested to see how it would scale down. The overall results manage to impress despite some caveats. Perhaps the most surprising feature is that both docked and handheld mode output the maximum resolution possible in either of those configurations. Docked turns in a full 1080p and handheld hits the Switch screen’s native 720p. No evidence of dynamic scaling in any of the shots I counted across both cutscenes and gameplay. That being said both of these do run with no anti-aliasing whatsoever, so you’re getting a very raw image that will show obvious stairstep artifacts on straight diagonal lines. Still, getting maximum resolution on a third-party late generation Switch game isn’t common. Obviously the visual details have been cutback to hit that goal and some players don’t hold up as well in closeups, but during gameplay everything looks quite nice.
The biggest concession to make this happen is a shift to 30fps. Prior legacy versions of FIFA on Nintendo Switch did hit 60fps but of course those were unique versions of the game, not running the same engine as the more powerful consoles. It is an unfortunate change, but in a game like this where the action is viewed from far away, prioritizing resolution is in my opinion the right choice. It is also worth noting that this frame rate is rock solid during gameplay. The only time we can see drops is during replays and cutscenes. This is likely caused by the lower camera angle showing more geometry and the depth of field effect used for these sequences. I did also test out the pro camera angle setting, as that features a lower angle than the default camera, and found that the frame rate stayed locked there as well.
EA Sports FC is a tremendous leap in the right direction for soccer games on Switch. It still isn’t on the same level as other versions, but this is the narrowest the gap has been in more than a decade. If you’re looking for a way to play a great soccer game on a portable system with a few compromises, this will get the job done. Hopefully this is the start of EA Sports putting out more of their library on Nintendo platforms, because I’m heartened by how EA Sports FC turned out.