We were involved in the recent UT beta so most of the experiences below come from that, although I’ve also been playing a lot of UT since we got our hands on retail code and have spent plenty of time with the web app too. Despite being marked as a “FUT Founder” I’m actually still fairly new to UT, just to give you some context of where this review is coming from.
Starting with the web app, it actually now seems fairly stable after a shambolic launch that led to it being pulled down for a considerable time. Given the delay with the FIFA 12 app launch it was surprising that this was allowed to happen again. The success of the FUT is hardly a secret and as such EA are aware that there is a huge demand for anything UT related. To whip people into a frenzy regarding the launch, fail to deliver when they said they would and then deliver a product that clearly wasn’t ready is pretty insulting to people who pour their time into the mode and make the FUT economy as successful as it is. It’s astonishing that lessons haven’t been learnt within EA regarding expectation management on that front.
But now that it’s up properly, it’s functioning well for the most part aside from some trade glitches which may already be fixed as you read this. The UI is now properly consistent across both the web app and the console which is great and overall the layout is spot on. Everything is bunched together under five main headings making navigation nice and simple. Under the Club heading you’ll find your traditional club search options, leaderboards, player stats etc. Under trade, as you’d expect there are all of your auction search and trade options. Store allows you to search for and buy packs, Squads lets you view the manager tasks and tutorials and make squad changes whilst Play gives you access to Tournaments and Seasons, both of which are online and offline.
As well as making navigation a lot simpler, the banners lend themselves really well to trading notifications. Although you still get the pop in if for example you’re outbid, the trade banner stays marked showing you that there’s been some activity, so if for some reason you miss the initial icon, you can still see the trade banner at the top, regardless of what you’re doing elsewhere in the app.
Returning users will have found a few extra packs waiting for them to get started with and initial exploits aside I think it was just enough to reward those players without offering a huge head start over newcomers. If you are making your first journey into FUT, there are now some nice new mini tutorial overlays that you may have seen from some of the screenshots. They help to identify different aspects of the interface and also highlight actions or activity that’s relevant at that time. For example the first time you open a pack containing a rare card you’ll get a quick indication of what it is and why it’s different. Although seasoned players will scoff, it actually works really well as you’re only having things identified to you once you possess them, you’re not blindly fed a load of information that you need to call on later.
Some of the tiles have summaries at the bottom which allows you to see information at a glance, particularly handy on the trade tab, where you’ll also find four small panes that at first glance appear to be customisable shortcuts to trade searches. They are shortcuts, but they aren’t customisable. They really should be, it’s a massive miss. Being able to set search parameters against those panes which you can quickly jump into would have been a dream. There’s also no option to re-list all items on your trade pile with a single button press which means re-listing a full trade pile is just as tedious as it ever has been sadly. Another thing missing is the ability to wrap around in nearly all of the places that you’d expect to be able to, which would make navigation just that little bit faster. All niggles at most.
The player bio screen has had some discrete but useful updates, including the ability to see players weak foot and skill * rating. Their attribute bars are now colour coded and the games played/goals scored tallies are now split into pre and post signing for bought players, so they show as 6(0/6) with 6 being the overall total and the values separated in brackets being their totals prior to and since signing, It’s a small touch but one that I think many will appreciate. From large changes like the crisp tiled interface though to the smaller details like the retro background on the generations pane, the new UI really is very good, not just in terms of function and easy navigation, now FUT looks and feels like it’s a key part of FIFA, even if the style is still different from the main menus.
The core of ultimate team hasn’t changed which is largely I assume due to the popularity, as they say, if it ain’t broke…. Aside from the addition of seasons, which is a big deal, it’s the Ultimate Team you know and possibly love from FIFA 12. The tutorials have been reworked to be completely interactive which is something that possibly comes from the ethos behind skill games, things stick with you if you’re offered opportunities to put them into practice. They’re disguised as manager tasks and whilst they consist of actions that returning players would complete instantly anyway (challenge TOTW, list a player on the marketplace, use buy now) they will be really useful to new players. Plus they you’re rewarded with a gold pack for completion of all 12. It would be nice if they refresh throughout the year getting progressively more in depth, fingers crossed.
Ultimate difficulty feels really good to play against. The AI isn’t too aggressive and is challenging without being frustrating or making you feel cheated, even when playing against the TOTW with a shite team. When you head online however things feel a bit faster and slightly more arcade-y, I assume this is because even at this early stage people have built their teams with speed at the front in mind. It’s a mentality thing sadly, UT doesn’t really encourage people for building balanced teams, so people don’t. You also never know what people have applied in the way of attribute boosts, but CM on slow, this is not.
When I first heard seasons was being added to FUT I did wonder how offline would work and the answer is bloody brilliantly. Rather than selecting to do a World Class season, you choose from a variety of options ranging from world tour style that include a wide range of teams to league specific ones. You’re then presented with a fixture list, showing the difficulty of each team you’re going to face which is mixed up throughout the season. The hardest available to me when I started was 3*, and the first game of that season was against Stoke on Professional. I won that, moving on to my next fixture against Montpellier on World Class. Moving down the fixture list things mix and match from Pro to WC before easing up with a trip to Hannover on Semi Pro for my last game. It’s brilliant. You’ll also be offered various prizes as you move through the season hub depending on where you finish. You’ve always got your prize for winning the title but now you can also earn packs and coins for maintaining your league position, promotion or in some cases pick up a bronze sympathy pack if you get relegated.
As with Career Mode, commentary will track your progress and you’ll get little snippets at the start of each match relating to the importance of the game, even down to my last game of the season being pointed out as a title decider as I’d already sealed promotion. If you go on a streak of wins that will be talked about too and it gives just that little bit more depth. Those looking for authentic trophy celebrations won’t find them here though, the end of season cutscenes are pretty tame.
Whilst that side of the audio is good, one thing that does begin to grate is the touchline injury updates. We championed their inclusion in our previews but for some reason in UT they feel really really repetitive if you’re not playing with a 100% fit squad, tired players pick up injuries extremely easily and they always seem to be muscle strains. Whilst it’s great that this all works together so well, the touchline updates are identical each time you hear them and twice in a game is too much. Even the smallest knock seems enough to trigger the “he hasn’t asked to come off” sequence. Another aspect that can get repetitive, especially as you always seem to be the home team, is stadium relative commentary. If you use a stadium that has commentary tied to it, you’ll be hearing it a lot.
Purchases through the EASFCC are seemless and pretty reasonable. Once purchased you don’t need to do anything, they just activate in the background. I bought a trade pile increase for 500 credits which took my trade pile capacity up to 40 and you can stack them on top of each other to increase further. They’re actually really useful additions and in some senses you can now basically purchase coins using your XP which should please people who believe FUT can only be fun if you spend loads of money on it. You can purchase coin boosts which inflate the amount of coins you receive at the end of a match by a certain amount and run for a finite amount of games. My 200 coin boost ran across five matches giving me a total of 1000 extra coins to spend just for playing matches I was playing anyway. It’s a really smart system. Spreading the reward out across a number of games means people aren’t just able to quickly turn their EASFCC into coins with no effort and they also ensure that you have something to spend your XP on once you’ve unlocked everything you want in terms of celebrations and kits etc.
FIFA points went live yesterday and all we can gather at the moment is that 100 FIFA points are equal to 5000 coins and you can currently only use FIFA points to buy Gold and Silver packs on the console. If you wanted to buy those 100 FIFA points they’d cost you 80MSP, or 64MSP with the Season Ticket 20% DLC discount. If you get into the realms of spending 800MSP or above one FIFA points, you’ll receive some bonus points as a thank you. Their inclusion means that you’ll be able to purchase packs on the web and soon to be released iOS app, which we were hoping we’d be able to talk about but it isn’t live yet, so we’ll have to follow up on that at a later point.
It’s still Ultimate Team. It looks much better, has some great new ways to play in seasons, makes good use of the EASFCC and is still incredibly fun so long as you don’t obsess over building a team of IFs. Once all of the launch kinks are worked out people will be spending just as much, if not more, time with it than FIFA 12.