By Matt Carey
There was once an episode of Father Ted where, upon receipt of a car that was to be given as a prize in a raffle, he noticed a small chink in the bodywork. The car worked fine, but still, he decided that a slight tap with a hammer would knock it back into place. Some hours later, and we discover that the exiled grey priest has knocked seven shades of aluminium out of the automobile, and the thing is now useless. The lesson he learned, obviously, was if it ain’t broke, then it don’t need fixing.
By contrast, we have Electronic Arts. 2009 was a bad year for the company. Most of their releases had issues, whether it was the freezing career mode in Fight Night Round 4, or the glitched to high heaven FIFA 10 manager mode. And there was one problem that permeated through all of them; inadequate servers. Yet, the lesson they have failed to learn is that if it is broke, then for the love of God, fix it!
Ultimate Team featured first as an extra mode in UEFA Champions League 2006/7 after which it took a bit of a hiatus, returning in the first quarter of 2009 as dlc for FIFA 2009. The mode itself was great, albeit with flaws, but for the first two months of its existence the mode was fraught with server issues; they just weren’t good enough. Not only was the experience extremely laggy, but on occasions not only was the entire mode unavailable as they worked on the issues, but loading up FIFA itself became a massive problem, and often impossible.
Much of what made Ultimate Team so great last year, when it did work, is still there, thankfully. Yes, you still have to compete in on and offline tournaments to earn your coins, which are then used to purchase card packs. These packs contain players, managers, stadia, and so on, and you use what you get to build up your team, make them stronger, and help them win more games. Win more games, you get more coins, and the whole cycle is repeated. If you don’t want to open packs, then you can delve into the auction house, and try and pick up your preferred players there. It’s FIFA E-Bay basically. It’s nice to see this auction house given a make-over too, what with its now multiple options to make searching for the card you want a lot easier.
As you would expect with a new version of anything, there is more of this, that and the other. The player count has now risen to 7500 players, from all leagues included in the game, apart from the WSL, for example. The tournaments section has now been given an overhaul too, with many more online and offline competitions for you to test your mettle in. There are also featured tournaments which pop up periodically for a set period of time. Once it’s gone, then it’s gone. All competitions now have set rules to adhere to; some are open to any type of team, but some have set requirements. Built up a team of world class all-stars? That won’t do you any good in the competitions for bronze players only.
Thankfully, given these ever changing requirements for the tournaments, your club is now able to consist of 500 players. This seems quite daunting, but these players can then be separated into squads, of which you can have up to 15 at any one time. This then enables you to set up teams for multiple scenarios and are easily editable when needs be. Players are not confined to just one squad either, so if you want Ronaldo to play for multiple teams, then don’t fret, he can.
Sequels are all about what has been taken out, as much as what has been changed or improved. Gone now is the collection book from last year. Now, your options are keep the player, discard him, or send him to your trade pile. However, any card in your trade pile can be brought back to your squad if you ever change your mind. Game changing cards have also disappeared. These cards had the effect of improving team moral mid-game, or distracting the opposition goalie, for example, but now, they are consigned to history.
Perhaps the biggest change regarding the cards is the training cards. Previously, all players were able to be trained until they received a 99 rating. Now, any training card is in effect for only one game. Far too often last year, players came up against teams comprising of full 99 ratings in all areas. However, this is impossible this year, and players must rely on the abilities of who they have in their squad.
So, all this sounds fine and dandy doesn’t it? Well, this is an EA product we are talking about here, so needless to say, there are issues. First and foremost is that with all the improvements and changes, the mode has become quite confusing and needlessly complicated in places. Whilst I don’t doubt for a second that time and practice will help, there is no option to simply see all the cards in your possession. Want to trim some of the excess and get them into auction, then you must go to one of your squads, swap a player you don’t want into your squad, then place him up for sale before bringing the player you want to keep back into your squad. Want rid of the 15 useless shirts you have taking up space? Then you must go and search each country, each league, and each club individually. One simple option to view every card in your pack, with a little indicator as to whether you are using that card somewhere would not have been hard to do, yet, it is criminally omitted. And I say criminally as, with the potential to possess 500 cards at any one time, the time and effort involved in keeping things in check is just too much.
Writing a review on any EA product these days is difficult as you have to work your way around the needless glitches to try and see the product for what it is. As I write this, the mode is no more than 3 days old, yet hundreds of people are complaining online about anything from paying for the game and it not downloading, to their team magically disappearing, to the simple opening of card packs not working correctly. And, on top of this, the much fabled chemistry system is not working, with players wondering how their 100% chemistry rated team of gold players is being run ragged by 30% chemistry rated teams with bronze players. It seems backwards. And, as if this cake didn’t need any more icing, people have reported competing in bronze player only tournaments, only to come face to face with all gold teams.
So, as per usual, I am left trying to recommend (or not) a game by Electronic Arts that should not have been released yet. Ignoring the problems, the mode is great fun, and can certainly suck away hours of your life without you noticing. At the moment though, I would advise anyone interested to hold off your purchase, watch the forums, and wait to see what EA do about what is currently a broken vehicle. Unfortunately, judging by their track record, EA are not the video games world equivalent of Kwik Fit.