Gaming | January 17, 2024
When Konami decided to change the name from Pro Evolution Soccer to eFootball, it made us laugh, but the shift to a free-to-play model was a complete disaster. Beyond the terrifying bugs that plagued eFootball 2022 at launch (fortunately, these were eventually fixed), we witnessed the release of a game that seemed utterly lost, with few game modes, unsatisfactory gameplay, and no clear sense of its place in the industry.
It was evident that the Japanese company had to do something to challenge FIFA’s dominance, which had completely overshadowed it. At that time, it was clear to everyone that Konami’s approach, after several lackluster releases with no significant innovations and a constant loss of licenses, was not the right one. Furthermore, they chose to compete head-on with Electronic Arts in their strongest areas: online and competitive gaming. And, of course, taking on FIFA Ultimate Team is no easy task.
It’s needless to say that Konami’s move was misguided, and it cost them dearly. Almost no player was satisfied with the switch to free-to-play because there were no significant gameplay improvements either. eFootball 2022 even became the lowest-rated game on Steam. Now, the Japanese developer has released eFootball 2024, the game for the 2023/2024 season, with the aim of finding its way and trying to compete with EA Sports FC 24. Has it succeeded? I’ll tell you in this article.
When eFootball 2022 was released, I played it for a couple of weeks. I wanted to give it a chance despite its flaws, but I couldn’t endure what the game had to offer. It wasn’t just the constant errors, although those were an issue too, but also the basic gameplay on the pitch and the confusing aspects off it. A few days ago, Alberto Pastor proposed writing this article, and it made me a bit anxious because my last experience with the franchise was terrible. The good news is that things are not as bad now, but there is still much room for improvement.
As a lifelong football enthusiast, my gaming life has always been associated with either FIFA or PES. I thoroughly enjoyed Pro Evolution Soccer, with special memories of PES 6, as well as PES 2 and PES 2010, which still has the best single-player mode (creating your own player) in the franchise to this day. I never understood why they couldn’t develop that mode further, but I understand even less the general direction the series has taken.
And it remains the same today, with FIFA as my only alternative. I’ve spent over 300 hours in FIFA 23, which is a bit like the worst vices of a human being: you know it’s harmful, but you keep going back to it inevitably. I fear I’ll continue the love-hate relationship with FIFA 24 (or EA Sports FC 24, as it’s now called) because eFootball 2024 is still not on par with its competitor, although I want to start by highlighting the positives. Yes, there are some bright spots in this game.
Konami has made many changes to gameplay, promising better control in attack, more defensive options, and improved goalkeepers. The reality is that I liked these improvements. One thing that bothered me a lot about eFootball was that player actions felt too rigid, overly automated. Even passes were sometimes too perfect, robotic, and similar, lacking personality. In FIFA, I can pull off fairly “crazy” plays; in eFootball, I couldn’t.
In eFootball 2024, the situation is different, though it’s still far from perfect. I did notice more freedom to move the ball in attack and create plays that break the monotony of matches, but it’s still a game where the pace of matches is slow. It’s a bit faster and more dynamic than previous versions, which is true, but player movements are “sluggish” and awkward at times. Plus, they tire quickly, making late-game situations challenging.
However, the experience varies greatly depending on whether you’re playing against AI or another player. While it’s not a game primarily designed for single-player against the AI, the option is there. In fact, in the Dream Team mode (similar to FUT), there are AI matches. These matches are still slow, slower than PvP matches. Nevertheless, I must reiterate: there’s a slight trend toward speeding things up, and there is some difference compared to previous versions. To me, it’s a step in the right direction.
By the way, the AI is formidable on higher difficulties but can sometimes feel unfair. It tests your skills, but scoring a goal can be almost miraculous. However, as I mentioned, gameplay is different in PvP, whether it’s local or online matches. In these matches, I had fun; they are faster. It’s not that I think it’s better than FIFA 23, for example, but at least they are not a disaster. Still, I’ve had some struggles because my team is not great, and in eFootball 2024, low-level players struggle against the good ones.
But let’s be fair about what Konami has done this time; there’s reason for hope. In summary, the improvement in attacking gameplay is quite evident: it’s more challenging to control the ball, especially in shots on goal (missing is normal, really). It used to be easier to place the ball exactly where you wanted it, but now the player’s position, in addition to their quality, has a significant impact. There are also adjustments to dribbling and the classic feint, and they are no longer as decisive. They are defendable.
The defense is where there’s a significant change. Defending is more complex, but there are more resources to do it: careful steals, shoulder charges, strong tackles, better player control to mark opponents… I liked it. As for goalkeepers, my impression is different because, despite having new animations, they still perform some strange and questionable actions. Oh, and to finish with the defense, the foul and penalty system urgently needs a review. The referee calls some laughable fouls.
The worst part, for me, is the ball. It’s very heavy, sometimes it feels like a medicine ball. Players make passes so slowly that it seems like they are kicking a stone. There’s a lot of room for improvement in this aspect, and it tarnishes the overall result, which I think is better than in previous years. eFootball 2024 is fun in matches between players; there’s a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel, but it still needs polishing to be truly enjoyable. Nonetheless, I genuinely believe that the gameplay is heading in the right direction.
However, the debate is ongoing, of course. FIFA has always been associated with a more arcade, fast-paced, and direct style of football, while PES and eFootball have been considered games that lean more towards simulation. In my opinion, FIFA’s approach is more entertaining, and it seems that Konami is gradually moving in a similar direction. In fact, some players feel lighter, faster, with good movements… There are hints of FIFA. It’s a matter of personal preference, and I welcome it.
In other areas, the news isn’t as good. The user interface remains somewhat confusing (though the menus are the same, the team organization has changed at least), and there’s a need for tutorials that explain the intricacies of the Dream Team mode better because starting from scratch can be chaotic. In my case, having not played since 2021, I had serious difficulties understanding which players to sign, how to build the team, and what kind of things I could buy with in-game money.
The operation is similar to FUT: you buy players and packs to assemble the best team possible to play against AI or other users. What I like least about the system is that player cards have levels, and you have to train and improve them to increase their value. Although FIFA’s card system can be a bit abusive and absurd (metamorph cards drive me crazy, but people complain about having women in EA Sports FC 24), I prefer it to this one. It’s not very enjoyable, and it rewards paying.
Keep in mind that, as a free-to-play game, eFootball 2024 includes microtransactions. You can purchase a virtual currency, which can only be obtained by buying it with real money or through some rewards, to get various improvements and speed up your team’s development. You can actually play without any limitations without spending a dime, but it will be harder to build your dream team. However, that “dream team” notion should be taken with a grain of salt because the absence of significant licenses is quite glaring.
Two Premier League teams, Barcelona from La Liga (which, of course, is LALIGA EA Sports), one from the Bundesliga, one from France, seven from Italy… The lack of strong licenses weighs heavily on the game, but at least most of the star players are present, even though the teams are not up-to-date. For example, Ansu Fati is still at Barcelona… But Brighton is not in the game. Still, is it fair to complain about this? FUT is also pure, senseless fantasy, and since Dream Team is the only mode, it doesn’t really matter.
The main drawback is that it’s the only thing you can play. In February 2023, Konami released a statement explaining various new features that would come to the game: Master League, co-op, team editor, and other elements, cross-platform with mobile, new teams… The only thing that has arrived is co-op. The only thing. It’s very difficult to take the development of the IP seriously when it offers so little variety. If you start the game, it’s either to play a one-off match with a friend or to play Dream Team. There’s nothing more.
Overall, I still believe that this model greatly harms the video game, and I’m not sure if it’s really worthwhile for Konami to persist with it. I’m very surprised that they continue with this idea when returning to the previous approach is likely the right move. EA combines classic modes with FUT, and it works well. It’s not mutually exclusive. I don’t know, it’s hard to see a scenario where a player of this type of game will dedicate many hours to this, especially considering that the new FIFA will also make the leap to mobile.
Two quick notes to finish. On the commentary front, Maldini and Carlos Martínez are still the commentators, with very cliché dialogues (you can select various audio modes to avoid copyright issues). Visually, it’s nothing special. I played it on Xbox Series X, and it’s far from spectacular (it’s terrifying in the snow), with some players well-recreated, but others far from resembling their real-life counterparts, although there are no crazy bugs. Plus, the transitions in matches are eternal. It’s light-years behind FIFA in terms of smoothness.