How I lost my way with FIFA Ultimate Team

It’s fair to say that I’ve had a love/hate relationship with FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) since 2012. My housemate at the time was heavily into it and after watching him farm squad fitness cards and contract cards to raise a ludicrous amount coins in the web app even before the game was out, I decided I’d give it a go.

2012 was my year: I ended up with a phenomenal Premier League squad, including Gareth Bale, Robin Van Persie and the mighty Gervinho. I have fond memories of playing, despite the inevitable crushing defeats and broken controllers.

Fast-foward to FIFA 17and after skipping FUT in 2015 and playing a tiny amount of FUT 16, I felt refreshed enough to dive back in.

To start with everything was hunky-dory. “What a fantastic game mode,” I thought. I spent hours each day refining my squad, saving up coins and bringing in marginally better players to build a fairly well-rounded Premier League squad. Here it is in all it’s division 7 dwelling glory, in case you were wondering:

You’ll note the rather risqué 3–4–2–1 formation…I’ve been reading Pep Confidential so it’s fair to say some of his ideas have rubbed off on me

The problem

‘So Liam, what exactly is the problem?’ I hear you cry. Well, I’m glad you asked…

The problem I have is that I’m now stuck. I point-blank refuse to pay any actual money to a random chance of getting something good in a pack, so instead I’m left hoarding coins from game to game hoping to save up for slightly better players. And that’s the problem: the realisation that I’d never afford Ozil or Hazard or Aguero is super frustrating, disheartening, and unrewarding.

This will NEVER happen

I’ve pumped 15,000 coins in the past into jumbo gold packs only to receive players like Lee Cattermole and Fellaini. Countless blogs/reddit threads indicate that buying individual players over pack luck are far more fruitful endeavours, so when it costs around 400,000 for Hazard, I know I’ve got a lot of saving to do.

Even more frustrating is the knowledge that my squad can easily be superseded by any 12-year-old with a bit of pocket money and some PSN/Xbox credit. Here at DLC Not Included, we believe that a game should be won by skill and not the size of your bank balance (it’s literally part of our mission statement) and the main subject of our concern with the gaming industry.

In fact, let’s take it one step further: football is a sport built on the foundations that an underdog can take on anyone on any given day. Burton Albion can take on Man United in an FA Cup tie and win. Wigan can beat Man City in the FA Cup final. So when I come up against someone with a Ronaldo, Messi and Suarez combo up top, I should be able to tweak my squad defensively to deal with this threat. I’d play 5 at the back, tell my midfielders to man mark the danger men, set up a constant press, and set up offensively to counter (a 5–3–2 if you will). The problem is with FUT I can’t really do this. It’s a mode so focussed on statistical differential between players, that this no longer matters. A dogged performance on a cold, windy night in Stoke doesn’t translate in FUT. It’s the reason why the faster the player, the more expensive they are going to be.

Other standard modes simulate a far more realistic version of football than FUT. Slow build up through the midfield, moving the ball in triangle formations and custom tactics are way more useful in these standard modes. In Ultimate Team, a pair of pace strikers and a ball over the top will spell all kinds of trouble.

Granted, this has been improved over the years, but dialled up pace and shot power on FUT make it too arcadey for my liking. Yes, it’s personal preference, but FUT does not have a wide versatility of play styles in its ranks. Everyone focusses on pace and shot power above all else. If you fail to get with that programme, you lose; simple as.

So…to bring this back to my initial frustrations, that means that effective players in FUT are so excruciatingly priced that the average pleb cannot afford them. This means that I’m at an impasse. I don’t have the time to put in the man hours required to get a half decent squad capable of climbing up the divisions. This leaves me in the division 6/7 limbo where I climb up one division before dropping straight back down. That has made me lose interest rapidly, especially when I get decimated 5–0 despite producing by far the better and more attractive football.

I get that it must be insanely difficult to balance this game mode, but I feel like EA has leaned too far towards the paid model. Of course, this is the money-maker, but even just chucking a pack my way when I climb a division would help.

I’ll stick with Career Mode for now, thanks. I love the tactical depth available, the fact I can nurture players into the first team and focus their training and, more importantly, when I lose I know that it was justified because of a defensive frailty, rather than lag.

A final note on Squad Building Challenges: do EA Sports really think we can be bothered to tinker with our unwanted comrades to dig out 11 South Korean players who have a chemistry of over 60 and a team rating of 70? To do all of that and then get Charlie Adam in a pack is a giant kick in the teeth and I, for one, I’m done with it.