I’ve never simultaneously hated and loved anything like I do EA Sports FIFA 15’s Ultimate Team mode. I’ve come close to breaking controllers, nearly popped blood vessels, and I’m pretty sure my significant other will never look at me in the same way again after the countless primal screams she’s heard issuing from the depths of my diaphragm.
For the uninformed and uninitiated, Ultimate Team (or FUT) is FIFA’s most popular mode, allowing users to earn, transfer and buy players in order to build their own dream team. In principle FUT is a fan’s dream come true: you have the opportunity to put together an all-star team of players selected from all around the globe using the game’s coin-based monetary system, and take on a number of game modes including online play against fellow FUT players. At long last, you can create that blasphemous hybrid Dortmund/Schalke team to topple the Bayern Munich hegemony. Pick your squad to combine Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s pure pace with the power of Jefferson Farfan to feed Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, while Mats Hummels and Benedikt Höwedes marshall the back line and Roman Weidenfeller cleans up the scraps. Just as Atlético Madrid did in 2014, you can battle back against the Real Madrids and Barcelonas of the world in your own way, by marrying the Mexican panache of Carlos Vela with Atléti’s suave Frenchman, Antoine Griezmann. The possibilities are endless.
At its core, FUT is a wonderful concept and can be an absolute blast to play. FIFA’s consumable system allows you to make minor changes in player positions, boost attributes, manage the game’s contract system and more. The highlight of the game is the team chemistry feature, where a number of factors including player nationality, league, team and position makes the number of squad permutations endless. I’ve already spent countless hours tinkering to create the perfect Serie A squad, build a Dutch all-star team, and mix some South American flair with Dortmund’s core in an attempt to dominate anyone who crosses my path.
There’s always a “but” though.
FIFA has long been panned for the importance of speed to the game, and FIFA 15 is no different. FUT however, is on a completely different level. Online, users often stack their teams with players rated 90+ for pace, and quite literally attempt to run you in the ground. The speed of the game is lightning quick, and often, the slightest slip of a thumb can be the difference between a win and another broken controller. Despite the frustrations in dealing with overpowered speed demons, FUT’s biggest downfall is the root of all evil: money.
Real-life money can be used to buy “packs” which contain consumables as well as players. Packs can also be bought with coins, but extensive research (read: angrily trawling message boards) has lead me to the knowledge that many players simply take the easy route and pay actual dollars and cents to quickly and easily build super-squads. Progressing through the online divisions, it becomes more and more common to see absurdly stacked squads featuring multiple players worth millions of coins. Playing with my own “modest” squads purchased in the traditional sense, personal rage levels have shot through the roof as I’m forced to take on team after team with forward lines comprised of Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar backed up by Iniesta, Di María and Kroos with Thiago Silva, Sergio Ramos and Manuel Neuer protecting their net. I’m fed the hell up.
Here’s that “but” again, though: I can’t stop. As maddening as it is to face players who have (most likely) taken the easy way out to purchase all-star squads, it’s a great feeling to put them in their place with a team I earned myself through hard video game work. As my record shows, however, I’m often on the wrong side of results, and the vicious cycle of happiness and rage is constant. It’s too much fun to create a team from scratch, send them out and see how they fare against whomever may come.
FUT is awful because of how great it is. It has to be. Only something so wonderfully flawed could produce such extreme emotions. Maybe one day I’ll quit, but until then I’ll scream my lungs raw for each loss, and celebrate each victory like the real life World Cup.