With the Ultimate Team mode now available for both PS3 and Xbox 360, and after some solid hours of playing it, we can now give you a brief overview of the mode and some of the best features (as well as clearing up some rumours that were around before release).
So, Ultimate Team isn’t a mandatory update as rumoured; there is a small, easily downloadable update that you have to download (which adds the Ultimate Team menu item to the game), but that is the only forced update. If you wish to download the Ultimate Team taster – a trial version if you like – you simply select the Ultimate Team menu item, pick your language and start the download.
Some questions were asked on the forum about the level of players that would be available (bearing in mind that in the UEFA Champions League game on Xbox 360 you could only use top-flight club players and international squad players). I was only expecting superstar players to feature, but amazingly lower-league players are a part of the game mode. In my first card pack I was given a player from Tranmere, the lower-league team I support!
In your first card pack you are given a “create a player” card so that you can create yourself as a player (or someone else if you like – I imagine there will be a few people creating legends of the past to lead their team out). Customisation of the player is much the same as it was previously, when creating yourself for the Be A Pro mode, but now there are some unlockable haircuts in the mix too.
You can choose to play online or offline, in league or cup matches – although it should be noted that after playing several “league” matches I can’t see any actual league table for your club, only the overall online leaderboard (which references your gamertag, not your club details). It would appear that they are the equivalent of “ranked matches”, offering you skill points for your performance (see below). Also, there are a total of twelve tournaments to compete in, six online tournaments and six offline tournaments; not eighteen as previously suggested by the blog referenced in one of our previous articles.
The best thing about the tournaments though is that you have to meet certain specifications to enter them, such as a skill point requirement (where you must have earned enough skill points with your team to gain entry to the tournament) – meaning that there is a lot of longevity here, you can’t just enter every tournament from the minute you start the game.
As with Ultimate Team from the UEFA Champions League game, the key to winning is the card system. You can get:
- Player cards
- Manager cards
- Team talk cards to give individual players a boost pre-match
- Contract cards to make sure you keep your best assets
- Training cards to boost specific skills of your players
- Healing cards to reduce the duration of injuries
- Club assets to use such as kits and stadia
- Gameplay modifiers to boost your team’s skill, reduce your opponent’s, or affect referee behaviour
To purchase new packs of cards you need to earn credits, which you can only do by performing well in matches or sacrificing some cards to stick in your “collection” (think of it like a football sticker album; complete a team’s lineup to win extra credits). You can also trade cards with, or sell cards to, other players by setting your terms and starting auctions. If you’ve got an absolute donkey of a player who you can’t sell to anybody, you can just discard them to gain a small percentage of their value, but this should be an absolute last resort!
Gameplay-wise, I am incredibly happy with this mode so far. With everybody just starting out it makes such a change from playing the likes of Man Utd and Barcelona week in week out online. This is the closest I will get to an online Manager Mode until at least FIFA 10, and with the huge amount of customisation available, I can see myself addicted to this mode for a long long time.