This year I really tried. I really tried I did. I wanted to like it. I wanted to be hooked and to get into the weekly grind. To get the satisfaction at the end of the weekend when you’ve got your wins and are rewarded with multiple packs and coins to spend on improving the squad. But I just cannot do it.
I am of course talking about FIFA 20’s Ultimate Team mode. The microtransaction monster that has dominated the game over recent years and been the primary focus of the development team because it makes EA so much money. While most of the game modes in FIFA have gone through minute changes from year to year, every year there is overhauls to how Ultimate Team is played.
I tried a few years back and gave up when I was being drawn against teams with players I have never heard of with low ratings, and then being torn apart because all of them have 99 pace ratings. I left it alone for years only dabbling a little in the game mode to see what’s what. This year I decided to follow my mates and play it, and at first all was well. I opened some packs, and despite how much I hate microtransactions I bit the bullet and invested £20. I got some okay players, nothing amazing, but it was enough to build a decent team and play some squad battles to improve the team a little.
After one week of those rewards, my premier league team was built. Jamie Vardy up front, a strong core and a formation I know very well from Career mode. 4-3-3 is my favourite formation, with a holding midfielder to protect the centre backs. Well in career mode this works, I even have the holding midfielder dropping deep to collect the ball at times. I have everything ready; my team is set up to play in the exact way I have grown used to playing the game in every mode. I am yet to be beaten by anyone online in other modes and I haven’t been beaten face to face on FIFA in about 10 years.
Things start off ok. I jumped into Division Rivals placement games and noticed straight away the gameplay was not the same as in other modes, or even in the Squad Battle challenges. The players feel loose, and they look like they’re barely able to bring a ball under control and tackling anyone is a bit of a lottery. Sometimes your player will come out of the tackle with the ball, other times it will ricochet unnaturally to another player, be that on your team or the opposition.
Ultimate team’s gameplay is like normal FIFA with all the stats slightly adjusted, and a load more random things that at times feel unfairly balanced one way or the other. There is a big discussion about how regularly goals are scored after conceding, something I always thought was much ado about nothing. Having played the game mode a bit more, I have to say it really is oddly hard to win the ball no matter how cleanly it seems like you tackle the player. It makes for a very frustrating game of football and doesn’t give me anywhere near the satisfaction I get from dominating a game of Pro Clubs or leading a team of home-grown players to glory in Career Mode.
What I find most frustrating of all is that Ultimate team has the components to be a very fun experience, but when the part where you play football is the worst part of a football game mode, you have to wonder what could have been. I have had more fun in the squad building challenges than any other mode. Those puzzles have entertained me for hours and I am looking forward to the next load of puzzles, but it’s now just a glorified mini game to me. I sold my squads and will probably forget about the puzzle mode after a while.
Ultimate Team’s days are possibly numbered, with governments all around the world looking into the legality of the loot boxes and the gambling aspects of video games, it may well mean that FIFA ends up with a R/18 rating for gambling mechanics. I can’t imagine that will fly well with EA, so they may need to revamp the mode completely.
For now, though, I will stick to Pro Clubs for most of my FIFA gameplay, and leave Ultimate Team to those who can deal with the frustration.
Have a great weekend!