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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.