Last year, the FIFA team at EA Sports introduced an interesting concept with the DLC pack called ‘Ultimate Team’, a card collecting and team-building game with the goal of increasing the lifespan of the FIFA series. With the success of Ultimate Team in FIFA 09, the team at EA Sports brought it back again for FIFA 10, with a slew of changes.
In fact, almost every aspect of the DLC pack has had some sort of alteration. The basics of Ultimate Team are pretty simple: Your squad is built by collecting packs of virtual ‘cards’ filled with players, coaches, kits, and more. When you start the game, you are presented with your first pack of cards to start building your team. A nice touch for 2010 was added by the FIFA team giving some recognition to people who bought last years version. If you happened to buy it on day one your name has a nice ‘FUT Founder’ nameplate next to it showing you off to those you play against.
If you were not a day one purchaser, but still got the pack, you will receive two packs of gold cards instead of the normal bronze packs. There are three tiers of card packs available for purchase for via game coins or real money/MSN points: Bronze, silver, and gold. As you would expect, the quality of the items and players in these cards increases as you move from bronze to gold. The new addition to this system is that each tier of card packs also has a ‘premium pack’ option, which for additional cost can produce a rare set of cards.
One big problem with these packs is that you really only get about two or three players in each. The pack is mostly filled with consumable cards like contracts or training. It would be nice to see a few more players in there. The way you earn in-game currency is simple: By playing in matches or tournaments. Your bounty at the end of the game can also change depending on if you are playing online or offline. No matter how you do it, the amount of coins you get for winning tournaments or important matches seems low. I have heard that, at some point in future, special/tournaments will yield a greater amount of coin.
Once you open your first pack of cards you will need to build your squad. One of the new features in Ultimate Team 2010 is that you can set up multiple squads. This is really cool because different tournaments have different requirements. Some tournaments will only allow a max player level of silver status participate. Having a squad of all silver packs will be able to get you into that tournament. As you set up your squads you will want to make sure you not only have enough players but managers as well. Another new feature is that you can send all cards to your ‘My Club’ book and, instead of them being un-playable, you can still use them at-will. This essentially makes it possible for you to have and use every card in the game.
Consumables are worked a bit different this year as well. Long gone are the days of out-of-contract players being worthless to you. Instead of losing those players, you can swap them into your club book until you pick up a new contract card. Training cards work a bit different as well. Instead of training cards giving a permanent boost to your players, they are instead only boosted for your next match. This really balances out the gameplay in online matches.
One of the most important new features to Ultimate Team 2010 is the way ‘chemistry’ works. How many times have you gone up against an all-gold team, only to be obliterated on the pitch? Count your lucky stars, my friends, because those days are over. I witnessed first-hand as my team of mainly bronze and silver players beat an all-gold team because our chemistry was right. No longer do you need to have the best players to be the best on the pitch. Chemistry is important because it boosts how your players do on the field. Making sure players are in the right position, formation, and matched up with fellow countrymen is the key to success in this game. Not only that but some tournaments require you to have a certain number of players from the same country to enter. Kudos to the FIFA 10 dev team for balancing this aspect out and keeping the game fun for all skill levels.
In this Ultimate Team edition, you can play in a variety of offline and online matches, including tournaments. The cool new feature for this year is the ‘featured tournament’. Every week, a new tournament for offline matches and online matches is released. Each tournament has a special set of requirements to enter and the amount of coins you earn is ramped up by a bonus amount. This is a great new feature that will keep the lifespan of the game going as long as the community supports it. Thankfully, the FIFA community is huge and the FIFA team has also decided to release special packs that you can only buy at certain times. This is an interesting idea, however I was disappointed with the lack of North America support for these packs. The first special pack that went on sale was a kit and badges pack. Unfortunately, only a small amount of packs were available and they were given away on a GMT-based time schedule. This is not very friendly to us North Americans as I tested this out by rushing home at 10am PST to try and score a pack. They were gone in about 5 minutes and I was left with nothing.
The FIFA team should look at giving away these packs for both regions of play. The North American fan base may not be as huge as the Europeean base but we are still very strong. Another new feature is the ‘players of the week’ card sets with increased stats. Each week, a list of players who did really well in the ‘real world’ will have their stats increased if you find them in a pack of cards.
The last revamped feature worth mentioning is the auction house. The auction house is a place where you can trade your star player or get rid of your duplicate cards for in-game coinage. Unfortunately, the auction house really is not needed in Ultimate Team 2010, what with the changes they have made to the game’s chemistry system. It would be better just to trash duplicate cards for higher coin value instead of trying to put it up for sale. Here’s to hoping that, in next year’s release, they decide to get rid of the draconian auction house completely.
Overall, Ultimate Team is perfect for any fan of the FIFA series. Not only does it continue the life span of FIFA 10 but it also adds some great community aspects that help bring everyone together to compete. Ultimate Team 2010 is worth the 400 Microsoft Point price tag, so get out there and I will see you on the pitch!