I for one welcome my new Ultimate Team overlords

FIFA13 not-Grigg

Here’s one of the strikers I was given in my starting Ultimate Team squad. Well, I call him a ‘striker’. So far the only thing he’s struck is row Z. Repeatedly.

His name’s Grigg. I affectionately refer to him as not-Grigg. He’s a 59OVR player, and very much handles like one.

I’ve got to know not-Grigg and his compadres quite well over the past four days. Riga, Sparrow, Desschomps, and many more. None of them can pass, shoot, trap the ball, or dribble very far. These are the Ultimate Team Defaults.

Welcome to a new world of football gaming, where the sun always shines and nothing bad can ever happen. Welcome to the future of PES Chronicles. Welcome to FIFA13 and Ultimate Team.

If you haven’t worked out yet whether I’m taking the piss, the alarming truth is that I’m not. Well, not much, anyway.

Ultimate Team has taken off for me—and with it, inevitably, FIFA13 as well. There’s nothing like doing something interesting with a football game to make you explore and like the game itself.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t a few serpents in Paradise. I’ll get to them.

FIFA13 UT starting squad

My team’s name: Quixotic FC. Named after the knight of the forlorn countenance, with whom I have always felt such affinity.

I’ve started another team called PES Chronicles, but so far I’m so poor that I can’t afford any players for it.

In Ultimate Team you can have more than one team. You can explore different formations and playing styles and strategies and lineups. You can have an alternate 5-4-1 squad made up of Scottish third-division players if you want, and test them against any level of competition.

The only thing restricting you is the game’s internal economy—Coins—which controls and regulates every aspect of growth.

My main squad at the moment is a 4-3-1-2 setup (as glimpsed above) that I’m assembling, Master League-style, piece by piece. One brick at a time.

At the start of UT you’re saddled with a squad that matches anything the Master League Defaults can throw at you in terms of mediocrity. As well as the Coins factor, you’re only allowed to use certain level players in early competitions and Seasons. I bought a few Silver-level players before I knew I couldn’t use them yet.

My LM is outlined in red above because he’s ineligible for the next match, a Seasons match that only Bronze players could play in.

I’m playing an RB at CB out of necessity. I need a CB, but can’t afford one, because I keep having to spend my Coins on contract cards so that everyone else can play matches. ‘Escape velocity’, where I have enough Coins for contracts and some new players, will be some time in coming.

The various coloured icons on the player cards, and the lines connecting them, denote team chemistry, which is a hugely important mechanic in Ultimate Team. Seriously important. To neglect team chemistry is to neglect everything.

My team plays well below its actual capabilities because I use a formation most of them don’t like. Every player has a favoured formation and you should build your squad accordingly. I’ve not even scratched the scratchable surface of this.

UT is pretty big. It’s one huge layered cake of fantasy football. It’s a bit overhwleming.

Oh, and I play totally OFFLINE. I have not and probably will not ever play online.

FIFA13 UT on iPhone

When you’re not in-game, you can control all your transfer dealings from your phone or web browser.

That’s the kind of detail calculated to set a PES diehard’s nerve endings all a-jangle: a typical shiny evil FIFA gimmick! It’s not for me!

I love sitting on the bus with phone in hand, selling a player, scouting for a CM with high pace and passing, picking up a few essential contract cards…

On my way to work Friday I sold one of my unneeded squad players for 250 Coins, and it felt really good. I also set up auctions for five other players (customisable from 1-hour to three days’ length). And bought as many new contract cards as I could afford. All on the phone. In the web app, you can do even more—everything except play the actual games.

FIFA13 UT Pseudo-league

The first disappointment is that UT: Seasons only presents you with pseudo-leagues to play through.

You don’t have a league table as such. Instead, you compete against a set of designated other teams —10, usually—with an overall points target to aim for—as pictured. Get 12 points and get promotion.

I failed miserably in my first attempt. I picked a harder league to start with. I’m still not too clear on what’s going on, or what I’m doing. Early days, in case that’s not clear.

After each match, the all-important award of your Coins… It’s something like 400 Coins for a win at my current level, and then you get the bonus Coins that shake down like so:

FIFA 13 UT post-match coins

This being a PES-oriented blog with PES-oriented readers, alarm bells might be ringing. Isn’t all this Coins and pseudo-Panini playing cards stuff just a little degrading for the soul?

It works. Or seems to. I’m only 4 days in. Let’s see if I can make it to 40 days in. That’s the real test here.

I admit, I almost walked away after finding out about the pseudo-leagues in Seasons. I suppose they didn’t want to tread on Career Mode’s territory. It’s very much a halfway house, but it works for me currently.

I’m still not greatly enamoured of FIFA13’s gameplay. But you know what, it’s growing on me. You see some moments that take your breath away. Other moments that are kludgy. The main problem is making your fingers forget that you’re not playing PES any more. I keep trying the double-tap tackle. I keep trying PES-style through-balls. It’s all wrong in FIFA.

Do stats matter in FIFA13? Are there individuals? Will I get to know and love players even half as much as a Nouhei, a Hagi, a Castolis, a Wroughllen?

Because let’s face it, that’s a huge stumbling block for players coming from PES and Master League.

My cautious, very early answer is that I do see difference and individuality in FIFA13. The Defaults really are poor. That helps.

Now we come to the only real downside so far: the FIFA13 infrastructure on PS3 is absolutely atrocious, and might kill off Ultimate Team for me before anything else does.

The screen below is already a drearily familiar sight, and I’ve only been playing since Friday.

FIFA13 UT glitches

This is very bad. Because it stops you playing.

The early days of Ultimate Team see you very often running to the online Auction house to buy contract cards. And then the system either stupidly thinks your card pile is full (when it’s empty), or fails to respond at all, as above.

This has happened at least once in every session so far.

And if you start playing a match it’s quite common for it to crash back to the main FIFA13 menu with a ‘lost connection’ error. Even though I’m not playing online (and never will) the mode requires a persistent connection to function.

Most hatefully of all, I had a full console freeze on Saturday night when I only wanted to buy a goddamn contract card. Had to do a hard reboot of the PS3, which I HATE doing. Not good.

You can’t use the iPhone or web app (both 100% reliable so far) while you’re signed into the game on the console, so that’s not a solution.

I know that a lot of readers fret around this time of year, anxious about time spent with FIFA, and regard my eventual return to PES as another soul saved for Jesus.

That might still happen this year, but at the moment not because of the game. I cannot see myself putting up with Ultimate Team’s online connectivity problem in the long-term. Which would be a bitter thing for me, because I am enjoying it.

Feel free to focus on the negatives—I’m by no means sold on UT or FIFA13 yet, just very intrigued.


  1. NG – yes, Siegenkude is a year zero youthie – plays across all midfield positions, has 2 skill cards, good growth rate, form of 7 but plays incredibly ordinary for me, like a Van Den Berg. up to 5th now so considering a few more offloads if Jan is good to me. Wroughllen has started pulling his weight in Min’s absence – I now spread the goals around, Castolis is great in the air I find.

    FF7 – it’s because I know the story I want the dialogue to whizz through (it’s all a bit hippie anyway). I now remember how annoying the random battles against crap enemies can be. Interestingly I was reading up on forums about the best team combination (knowing that one of them…) There seems no clear favourite. Me and Barrett I reckon, then maybe Tifa till a long ranger shows up.

    leroy getz – not sports but the Battallion Wars games always plug a spare few hours for me.

  2. leroy getz—try the Blood Bowl games—based on American Football with a strategy twist. Not strictly sports-related, but the DS is a bad fit for sports action games IMO.

  3. Uncle Turf—you are pressing through the FF7 dialogue portions aren’t you?! X or circle, whichever is your cancel button.

    My Castolis never did a single thing in the air. It’s down to your play-style that you’ve found that trait in him, I think. You will always hunt for the ghost of Ribeiro, eh?

  4. NG – oh yes, this time. I’m still not sure it was possible on the old PS1 but the dialogue is whipping by but you still have to do the whole ‘walk up to the guy, press the thing, listen to his story, get the item, etc’. Maybe it’s having played Disagea but I just want to cut to the punch ups.

    also been playing Sniper Elite 2 – the CSI style impacts are a horribly guilty amusement.

  5. Uncle Turf—dialogue-skipping definitely was in FF7 on the old PS1, as I would never wait for the dialogue to appear tickertape-style, but tap to make it all appear immediately, read it, then tap again to dismiss and speed through to the next panel. That double-tap rhythm for getting through dialogue on PS1 FF games was almost as much a part of my life as the R1 squeeze on ISS/PES. The chatty bits of FF games never used to annoy me much, although they do nowadays.

  6. all sounds good fun not-greg, nice to try something new. How is defending on FIFA13? There was some chat on here about it being less precise than the excellent system on FIFA12

    Just signed regen Del Piero (didn’t get ‘special’ cutscene though?) and Farinos on my PES2012 ML last night, hopefully help finally take my team to the next level i.e. challenging for trophies at last

  7. abbeyhill – I never had a cut scene on 2012. Didn’t get one when I signed the original C ronaldo, original Rooney or regens of various ‘stars’. Not had one on 2013 either (probably more unlikely you’d need to buy them anyway). Farinos, however, in tandem with Heycory was the heart of my 2012 side. Opinions seemed to vary but I thought he was perfect in a slightly advanced CMF role. Time to get the brasso out…

  8. I’ve never ever had a special cut scene either and I’ve signed all kinds of players, in either 2012, or 2013.

    I am now seeing more ‘scenes’ in NSS soccer, such as the out wide view to put a cross in, interviews after matches etc. Nice touch, keeps it fresh.

  9. abbeyhill—don’t know yet about the defending as I’m still plodding along in UT with the FIFA equivalent of Jaric & co. (I know Jaric is highly regarded by many, but I haven’t rated him since the very first PES he appeared in—PES4?). You can see my current UT team here. Yep, I’m in trouble—a CDM forced to play at left-back, players out of contract, no money… More tomorrow.

  10. Uncle Turf—I think we can only put this getting the cutscene/not getting the cutscene thing down to random glitching on the part of something or other within the code. There’s surely no logic behind it. Perhaps it depends on the overall current profile of your club, i.e. you’ll get the cutscene if you’re in the top 20 club rankings, something like that. That’s all I can think it might be, but I bet somebody has been in the top echelons of their ML world and not had the cutscene for a legendary new player, so I don’t know.

  11. Paul—being out wide in NSS is one of the strongest positions on the park. Plant a cross in your striker’s path, and it’s a goal almost always. Try cross-shots as well, where you aim for the goal but know your player could get to it if you mess it up. Taking corners is a pleasure too—but that’s where we need those banana shots so we can go for goal…

  12. Havent had a corner in NSS yet..
    Can you not play one of your CB’s who are on the subs bench at LB in your UT Team? or are they out of contract too ?

  13. Paul—corners in NSS are indeed rare, but they come along more often as you go through the seasons. I think I remember you saying you were only 2 or 3 seasons in. I’d like to take a lot more corners and free kicks. The dev hasn’t updated for a long time, certainly not since I got the game a few months ago. I’m not even sure he’s still working actively on the mobile version of NSS. His favoured project seems to be the desktop version (PC and Mac), which is featured the most prominently if you Google ‘New Star Soccer’ and go to the website. I picked up the Mac version from Steam yonks ago, installed a driver to get my Windows Xbox360 controller working with it, and haven’t been back since! The age-old problem of time and opportunity. It does look decent though—worth a look at the demo at least.

    In UT I played that CB at LB the last-but-one match and he handled terribly, despite having reasonable pace (click player>Bio). His fitness was low I think (drop-down status menu>Status). That CDM had a good game there last time. I’m still limping through the matches on account of the damned disconnections.

  14. NG/Paul – I’m finding NSS way too easy on a personal note (and yet still not winning many trophies – presumably it’s up to the player to drag the team to success). I spent one season at Basingstoke, turning down a move after half a season, one season at Fortuna in Holland (far too many teams want to sign you IMHO) then got a transfer to Man Utd, where as an 18yo I start every game and own a private jet! Surely there should be some regard of the player abilities rather than just ‘if you have the energy you’re in’? It’s fun but it’s a tea break game.

  15. Uncle Turf—don’t worry, nobody’s having Footy Manager-style epic struggles with NSS! (Or if they are, they’re doing it wildly wrong.) The accoutrements of footballing life, the automatic selection no matter what… it’s not a hardcore game by any means, just a fun football-themed phone game. I’ve just moved from a Double-winning season with Barca to play for Coventry City in L1, and the level of your team is a critical factor in the overall performance that dictates the number and type of opportunities you get per match. Try moving back to a lower-league club. After winning something of course.

  16. ML2 – haven’t lost for 8 games now and not missing Minandinho. Could be the year after all, and a radicle change of approach.

  17. not-greg – yes that’s a plausible theory (that you only get the special player signing cut scene if you’re a top club); my ranking has dipped back to a lamentable 154. I now fully agree that you need absolutely top-class players (unfortunately I disabled the classics) to succeed on PES2012 superstar, unless you’re a genius player or know how to exploit Ribeiro etc fully. I’m sure I could have won the title with my current team on any previous edition of PES!

    So, did you get lots of antagonistic e-mails/deleted posts from diehards after ‘turning to FIFA’ this time compared to 12 months ago? I thought most of the comments here looked pretty reasonable, rather than revealing ‘raw, tender nerves’?

  18. although I would also add that ‘c*nty f*ck B*llo*ks 2001’ made me fully laugh out loud (in the office) more than anything else I’ve read on the internet this year!

  19. Uncle Turf—the inflection point already? I suspect not just yet, but it’s an early thaw all the same.

  20. abbeyhill—thinking back, I’m so glad I played PES2012 with Classics. They made that problematic PES a bit of a special experience for me. Somehow all the shooting issues were counterbalanced by having Hagi, van Basten &co.

    Re. my current switch to FIFA, the only bit of trouble came when I anticipated some unhappiness about me ‘turning to the dark side’ and tried to make a pre-unhappiness joke about the unhappiness within the body of Monday’s post itself. It didn’t go down well, and set the tone for a fractious Monday, where I became a bit frustrated at what I perceived to be an expectation that I should be able to provide an instant justification or overview of a mode—Ultimate Team—that I knew very little about. There haven’t been any emails or deleted posts. But give it time… Here’s a shock revelation for me to be dropping in a reply to a comment: I’m enjoying FIFA13 and Ultimate Team so much that I can see myself playing it until the Autumn. Interesting times ahead.

  21. not-greg – wow, now that is an interesting revelation! I take it the network connection issues have eased?

    after 8 months on FIFA12 followed by 8 months on PES12 (with more to come) I am starting to accept the reality that console footy game fatigue is not going to set in for me, given that the standards are now right back up to the PES2003-5 glory years.

  22. Tonbridge promoted to Premier League and FA Cup winners. Also made England debut.
    Pro Evo 2013 arrives in 3 days!!!

  23. Abbey hill – Del Piero was awesome for me in Pro Evo 2012, played as a SS and 106ovr by age of 20.

  24. NG – in Div2 terms, I think so, yes. Since I lost my opening 3 games I’ve won 8 and drawn 3. Haven’t even been close to losing another. I lost 3-1 to Fulham in the cup but Fulham have always been my curse. What’s especially pleasing is I have 5 of the top 10 league scorers and 4 of the top 10 assisters. Maybe the shift back up in AI is to come but for the moment it’s fill yer boots time.

    p.s last ML Messi was transferred at an alarming rate. So far in 2 and a third seasons he has played for Barca, Man U, Paris SG and now Inter. WTF?

  25. Correction, Pro Evo 2013 arrives tomorrow. Good old Amazon.

  26. abbeyhill—it could be argued that the decline of football gaming is just a perception, something that’s deemed to be true because everybody says it is—i.e. a by-product of the increased means of talking about football games (i.e. the Internet). No question that PES2008 on next-gen was a catastrophe for the PES series though. It kind of handed the ‘moral agenda’ to FIFA08, which was a great football game. I bet the first PES4/Xbox720 PES game will be so polished you’ll be able to see your face in it.

  27. Lloyd—I’m actually ahead of everyone in NSS! It’s nice to be that for a change. I debuted for England a few seasons ago and won the European Championships with them, scoring in the final against Russia. Currently going through World Cup qualifying.

  28. Uncle Turf—I never keep track of the top players in PES because I’m so used to them being too old to bother with by the time I can afford them. Their Regens, now…

    I think Master League 2013 is the most disappointing one ever, that still works in spite of itself. Oh for the days of PES2010.

  29. Oh the weight you carry on your broad blogging shoulders NG 😉
    I think maybe you mistook peoples interest on here for an expectancy, as you say, to deliver a definitive verdict on FIFA 13 and UT, that certainly wasn’t the base of my comments, I simply sought information about the new offline seasons mode.

    Still bumbling along with S10 of my ML, playing 2 games here and there due to my mashed finger means the pace of progress through the season is naturally slower, managed 3 games last night though, won all 3, beating QPR 5-1 and Norwich 3-2 in the league, and dumping Derby County out of the FA Cup with a 3-0 win, all on Superstar level of course, so I’m doing Ok considering the injury.

  30. NG – it’s purely because he keeps pipping Hazard for the awards. New club every transfer window.

    But check your small print for the shock revelation… “I think Master League 2013 is the most disappointing one ever” – wow! strong words sneaked in there. I think Paul and I agreed early doors that there just wasn’t enough to do. I’m keeping the boots and items going purely for ML1 comparison but there really is no management aspect at all this year.

    Paul – with a knacked hand a 5-1 win is tremendous and 11 goals in total suggests you have pretty much cracked it too. Are your scorers varying or one or two getting hat tricks?

  31. Paul—I did mistake the curiosity as demands for instant Answers, yes. Which today’s post might actually provide. Curating the team is the end in itself in Ultimate Team, I am discovering. The ‘world’ is secondary, but still interesting.

    You’re doing really well with that finger. You’re not off work sick with it are you?! If so, watch out for investigators snapping pictures of you wielding the DualShock…

  32. Uncle Turf—I will always love ML and always want to see the best in it. It’s taken the last week or so of ‘other things’… shiny Evil Empire things… to really see the difference between what is and what could be. ML has fallen since PES2010, and fallen badly. It’s a shadow of what it should be. The amazing thing is that it’s still as compelling as it is. Which just shows that its core concept is still as strong as ever. It just needs more.

    I keep smiling while playing Ultimate Team, thinking about ML 2013 and what now seems reasonably certain to me, that this year’s ML’s boots and items were a half-arsed attempt to incorporate UT-like elements within ML. ML’s boots and items are like one of those amusing mistranslations from English into Japanese that you sometimes hear about.

  33. No not off work with my finger, haven’t taken any time off, I even carried on playing footy after I’d pulled the finger back into place, I’m just a one handed typist currently.

    I did rant about the hollowness in ML back in the early days of PES 13, not that i think its any better now 10 seasons in, but I’ve just come to accept it for what it is, and don’t think about what it lacks.
    PES 13 ML in its shallow form allows you to rocket through matches at a good pace, as there’s not much else to do, which isn’t a bad thing but the non-ability to have more control over things, training, transfers, player contracts, communications etc is always in my mind. Hopefully PES 14’s ML will see some love and we’ll get a bit more of a happy medium between PES 13 and PES 10, in terms of immersion.

    Uncle Turf – I wouldn’t say I’ve ‘cracked’ Superstar yet mate, long way to go, I haven’t played many of the bigger better teams yet so it could all change, but for now I’m doing OK.

  34. Today’s commenters headline;

    “NG says PES 2013 ML is a load of sh1te!!”

    “Give me Fifa any day rants angry Coventry blogger”

  35. NG – I also had no bones to pick over your Fifa-ings. Perhaps purely out of laziness and lack of time, I was and still am looking forward to your insight into UT in the hope I too will come to understand it and maybe play it without the frustration I often get with all new things – not just games.

    Even though I miscounted my ML season (I’m half way in 7 not 8) I sense I am getting to that unbeatable phase. My team are romping games and certain players (Weisz particularly) have become godlike in their ability. This could be a treble season but of course I know it’s not all up to me.

    Football games are my end-of-the day wind down so I need to keep one on the go. A South American ML is a possibility but I’d need house rules I think. UT may also fit the bill if it does indeed smooth over certain issues I fear that game has when playing Career Mode.

    I look forward to today’s post.

  36. Uncle Turf—we shall see! What I think of FIFA (and UT, and/or CM) a month from now, two months from now, is what really counts as we all know. But I think they’ve smartened their game up this year. E.g. not every player has an almost perfect first touch now. You get a lot more stats-and-context-dependent ‘bobble-away’ first touches in 13 than in 12 (sorry).

  37. John—the Treble-winnign attitude when you achieve that unbeatable escape velocity is that it is all up to you! Not even scripting or momentum can overcome a fully-developed team and human player, I firmly believe. The old ‘clean sheet no matter what’ approach will clinch it if nothing else does.

    The problem I had Monday was my inability to just say ‘I don’t know yet’. I’ve got more of a handle on UT today than on Monday, and am getting more clued-up all the time. It really is all about the focus on the team- and club-building. The matches aren’t incidental by any means—there is a sense of a world—but it’s the world of your team, if that makes sense. It’s not the familiar league world of an ML or a CM.

    Perhaps most importantly, FIFA13 gameplay is holding up and revealing itself in all sorts of ways. I’ll look at that in more depth over the coming week or two. For now the focus is on the mode.

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