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FIFA 12: An Argument for Ultimate Team 
Posted on November 10, 2011 at 06:16 PM.

FIFA 12 Ultimate Team: Squads Xbox 360

Look for more posts on FIFA 12 in my FIFA Series here.

After an awesome release, topping 3 million copies sold so far, and a ridiculous Metacritic score of 91 (, I think it's safe to say that FIFA 12 lived up to the hype. I've since emerged from my cave to begin posting impressions of the title. Many fans, including me, had a long list of expectations for this release, and over the next few weeks I'll dive in to the specifics of many modes and give my impressions of a title that should keep us engaged well in to the winter.

But today, I want to first admit my previous ignorance related to a particular game mode, Ultimate Team (UT). Before this version of FIFA, I'd never even considered playing the mode in any EA game. I think this was based on two things: I've been a Franchise/Career Mode addict for years, and the idea of needing to open "packs" and collect player "cards" seemed to add a layer of the fantastic that I was not interested in investing time in. But, with the introduction of the FIFA Ultimate Team Web App before the game's release, I decided to poke around the mode a bit, and on release day I started by logging in to my UT.

The Joy of the Next Player

FIFA 12 Ultimate Team screenshots: Rooney on auction PS3

As a Premier League fan, many of my Career Modes start with a team in the top division of English football, whether it be Arsenal, Liverpool, or a team in the bottom half. Many of these teams have large transfer chests to start, and have excess players that can be sold. With a few extra funds from the sale of Arshavin at the start of my Arsenal career, I bought 86 overall Eden Hazard. Although he'll be a fixture on my team for 10 years, he was supremely easy to acquire; just give them a big pile of cash and you're done.

Ultimate Team is far different. Here are the basics: after a starter pack which fills out a basic squad, you play games to earn coins. With coins, you can buy packs to open new players, or go to auctions and bid on individual players. Each player is on a contract with a number of games remaining, so contract cards are used to sign them to more games. There are also card types that boost attributes like fitness, morale, or skills like shooting and passing. Each squad needs to go on the pitch with a manager (also on a contract).

You have two choices from the outset. Either invest heavily with real money to buy packs or earn your coins the hard way on the pitch. A win (even on low difficulty) against the CPU could net you ~400 coins, and a pack of "bronze" quality players goes for 400. To get players in to the high 70's and 80's overall, you need "gold" packs, which cost up to 7,500 coins.

This means that getting a certain player you really want is far more difficult than in a typical Career Mode dynasty. Your ability to acquire, say, Theo Walcott, is based on either A) supreme luck to pull him from a pack (not going to happen for a player you're targeting) or B) the market. If Theo is worth 8,000 coins, that's what you'll have to build up to buy him. For my current PL team, I want to add Ashley Young at LM. He's going to cost me 20,000 coins, so winning that auction is ****, compared to Hazard purchase I mentioned earlier.

UT is FIFA's Hardest Mode

FIFA12: Xbox 360 telecam with hud

Given contracts and the time it takes to get to the next player, the mode is naturally very difficult until you build your super team. My friends and I tend to farm the single player tournaments as the AI opponents are more predictable and beatable, but the real challenge comes in the online tournaments. Trying to win 4 straight games against 4 different online opponents, all of whom probably have teams at least as accomplished as yours is just plain tough. I don't claim to be the best player online or offline, but the thrill I've felt from winning tight games on Ultimate Team rivals any experience I've had in Career Mode over 4 years.

I've yet to figure out exactly the impact of the "chemistry" number (plastered all over the squad screens both in the game and on the Web App) has on gameplay. It definitely seems to be a blanket "boost" to attributes, given that my teams in UT outperform similarly-leveled offline teams consistently. If the chemistry boost is simply an attribute modifier, it decreases the overall difficulty of the mode at the top end (your team is boosted, after all). For now, though, I'd have to consider building a great team in this mode to be the most difficult aspect of FIFA 12.

UT Needs Full Integration

Fiddle around with camera angles and other options

Where does the mode go from here? In future versions, I think UT needs to blend in to the other great aspects of FIFA to become a complete experience. I'm talking about two new modes for FIFA 12, Online Friendlies and Head to Head Seasons. Online Friendlies is crying out for UT integration; in this mode, you play 10 games against a friend, with the winner earning a "title" and getting that nifty trophy-lifting cutscene. You should be able to bring your Ultimate Team here and maybe even wager match coins to add to the pressure/excitement. And in Head to Head Seasons, I think an UT option would be fantastic. Tracking your promotion or relegation from UT divisions would add more depth to the idea of building your squad. Right now, once you've built a team, the most you can play is a 4-game tournament.

Because the tie-ins from these other modes are missing from FIFA 12, I will probably stop playing Ultimate Team soon and move on to Career Mode. Still, if you haven't fired up UT, I think the fun of building a team is worth your time. Let me know what you think.
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