FIFA 10 Ultimate Team - 360 - Review
After last year's success, it's little surprise Ultimate Team returns in FIFA 10, albeit sporting a welcomed overhaul. Although immensely fun, FIFA 09's expansion offered painfully slow menus, lacked any real depth, and was certainly rough round the edges. Despite that, it sold like fizzy cherry pop at a kid's disco, and had all of its buyers screaming manically out of excitement. Offering a more in-depth, sleeker experience this year, it's no wonder football fans are once again donning their smartest jackets, combing their hair to one side and practising their Italian accent, as the chance to create the ultimate team is a lure too powerful to resist.
Of course, if this is your first year tackling the Ultimate Team expansion, there's a lot to get your head round. Capitalizing on the popularity of trading cards, and even Panini football stickers if you know your English game well, EA have created an interesting formula of strategy and pure skill. After creating your team, you'll receive a starter pack of cards. If you've been loyal, and this is your second year playing Ultimate Team, EA offer you a leg up with two free gold packs (the game's most valuable set of cards), meaning there's an incentive to come back next year. Interestingly, each club now sports the date they were established under their name. Did you pick up Ultimate Team 09 in it's first month of going on sale? Then you'll be known as a 'FUT Founder.' Anything after that will pick the month and year from when you started, and use this as the date your club was established.
This sense of history is something that needs to be further explored in Ultimate Team. We enjoy highlighting we were there from the beginning, but we want more. A football fanatic's life revolves around statistics, and there's so much that could be explored. We want to see our results from last year, have our trophy cabinet update from the beginning, and even see who our all-time top scorer is. It's a huge shame, because FIFA 10 is excellent at creating banter between players, and we believe a detailed history of each team would give it that personal touch that so many fans crave. Hell, throw in an iPhone app full of your own statistics and we'd be pretty much in heaven.
That's not to say FIFA 10's Ultimate Team mode is lacking. Considerable steps have been taken to iron out the experience, and for the most part, it works. There's still the array of bronze, silver, and gold packs of cards to buy, all of which feature a 'rare' equivalent that gives you the better boosts in each category, for a little more cash. When this year's DLC was released, players could buy packs of cards through two methods: in-game coins, or Microsoft points. Now, however, the latter has been disabled until further notice, meaning any decent players and team boosts you earn is going to take longer. With that said, it has put a stop to the Roman Abramovich's of the scene, who wade in with their pockets full of cash ready to purchase as many players as possible to build a dream team (and then, probably still fail).
Luckily, having the world's best players doesn't necessarily mean you'll have the world's best team, as this year's expansion continues the precedent for morale and chemistry set last year. Players from the same nation will work better alongside each other, especially if they're from the same club. Getting your players in the correct positions is also a positive, and improves squad chemistry immensely. If you manage to build, say, an all English team, with all the players coming from West Ham United, you're more than likely to have the best possible chemistry and morale, especially if you can fit everyone into their preferred position. Chemistry is key, as in the tide of battle, you'll have more chance of sticking out a vital leg to stop a through ball, or will come out on top in more 50-50 battles. Safe to say, lining up against Messi and Ronaldo is daunting, but play against a team with excellent morale, and you have yourself a tougher, less obvious challenge to overcome.
This year's presentation is a step up from 09's effort, as you can see the exact team you're playing against before the match, and where they're strongest links come from. EA have also introduced multiple squads, as each tournament includes entry conditions that must be matched. Some may require you to only have bronze players in your team, whilst others may indicate you need five from one nation, all of which need to be silver. It certainly shakes things up, as there's now emphasis on building a number of varied squads, and not just one super-team. The only downfall for creating multiple squads is that you can only include each player in one at a time, which effectively renders it pointless. It would have been much more efficient letting us place players into more than one squad at any given moment, and then picking the correct one to meet the criteria stated. Instead, you have to keep fiddling and keep changing players round for every tournament.
Despite it's improvements, FIFA 10's Ultimate Team mode still suffers from the online bugs and glitches that has plagued the series for some time now. After working hard to build a team, there's no bigger frustration than having the game disconnect in the final of an online tournament, giving you the loss. To add insult to injury, every time you disconnect the amount of coins you receive is permanently lowered, meaning EA punishes you for their wrongdoings. Equally annoying is the atrocious commentary. Last year's update gave us two new voices to listen to, but this year's seems to have taken a backwards step. Both Andy Gray and Martin Tyler get the score wrong, talk about a different tournament, and say you're in the final when you've only progressed from the first round. It's utterly bizarre, and a lazy move on the part of EA.
When it all comes together, FIFA 10's Ultimate Team mode is an exciting addition to the series, and can provide moments of real thrill and disbelief, just like the actual sport. It's a shame this passion is often hacked down by the trailing leg of FIFA's worst complacency: bugs. It'll provide a love-hate relationship that'll have you manically smiling in times of victory and throwing your controller across the room in times of despair. Although frustrating, it's still great fun to get in on the action, as EA once again pinpoints that there's a lot of potential in a currently flawed product. Let the hype for next year begin already.