FIFA 15 Ultimate Team Mode: Solid Gameplay or a Gateway to a Gambling Addiction?

October 11, 2014

It was the kick off to the second half of a game of Scottish Premiership Football at Tannadice Park; Dundee United’s Nadir Ciftci took the ball from the centre spot and ran at the opposition defence, ultimately winning a free kick at the edge of the box from which United ultimately scored.

That was great to watch, but it only worked because it seemed an unusual way of attacking from kick-off. Subsequently, Ciftci has tried it plenty more times in other games, but it’s never had the same effect.

If only that was the case in FIFA 15.

Almost every game you play online starts like that, as your opponent seeks to exploit the new style of defending – or should I say hopes that the opponent has yet to grasp it – and makes a beeline for your goal.

And what’s annoying is that even if you are a solid defender in your own right, if someone tries that on you ten times, the chances are it’s going to work for them once or twice.

I like FIFA 15, but it’s not without its flaws  – although it has thankfully improved some of the issues I brought up last year in my “Five Things That Piss Me Off About FIFA 14” article – and that’s probably the biggest one of the lot.

Well…that or the way that because EA have probably twigged that people will find themselves through on goal more often, they’ve decided to make shooting an almost completely random act where you’re never quite sure if you’ll tuck it in to the corner of the net or send it out for a throw-in.


Anyway, that aside, the point of this article is to discuss one particular element of FIFA 15 that I’ve paid more attention to this time around and have found mildly baffling.

I want to focus on FIFA Ultimate Team.

FIFA Ultimate Team: Solid Game Mode or Gateway To Gambling Addiction?

Ok, so you’re probably going to roll your eyes at that title, but it’s something to ponder.

Spend double the price of the game to get the best deal on FIFA points! Sounds like a good use of your money

Spend double the price of the game to get the best deal on FIFA points! Sounds like a good use of your money

The idea behind FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) is that you build a team based on getting player cards through a sort of sticker-pack system, or you buy them on the FUT transfer market.

Then you play matches with the team to earn coins that can be used to buy new players or the contracts to keep the ones you’ve got.

The catch is that to build a good team, Chemistry is important. So if you build a team based around players from the same division or of the same nationality, they’ll have better chemistry than a random 11 build from players from all around the world. What they trumpet is that a weaker team with solid chemistry can defeat a better team with poor chemistry, and they do that by tweaking the game engine so that players in teams with poor chemistry fail to make good runs, misplace passes to each other or – as was the case in a game I played yesterday – in the case of goalkeepers, misread the flight of an easy cross and walk the ball into their own net.

What this does is make you want to get the right players to build your Ultimate Team. And the best players are rare. Like any system of economic scarcity, the players with the best stats are not readily available to buy on the transfer market, and if they are, they go for highly inflated prices. When you consider that you’ll only win about 300 coins for each match and a player like Gary Mackay Steven goes for 10,000, how can you expect to afford the world class players?

The answer? You spend actual money. And that’s where EA make their dough; the microtransactions.

As far as I can see, what they hope you do is buy the card packs in the hope of landing a rare gold card; a Lionel Messi card or a Gareth Bale card. On their own, the packs aren’t expensive, but I sense there’s a chance that people out there – and that includes kids – will spend 50p time and time again in the hope of getting that elusive card that will help their team do better. Soon enough they’ll have spent the cost of the game twice over.

And these Premium Gold Packs are dressed up as being a guarantee of getting something amazing. It has a picture of a big-name player on it and it proclaims itself as containing more rare cards than a  cheaper regular gold pack. I’ll admit to having bought a few of these packs when I started out, but it became apparent that it was a scam. The rare cards  contained in the packs weren’t player cards – the only cards that really matter – but instead were “rarities” like a slightly longer player contracts or a differently designed football that you could use in games.

You get the feeling that the sort of card you really want to get will only come up once in a blue moon. It’s like a scratch card basically; you’re gambling on the contents of a card pack, and it could become quite addictive to some. When you buy points – and I bought 750 for £5 because that was the minimum amount I could add to my wallet – it proclaims the best deal to be 12,000 points for £79.99. Who needs that? But what’s scary is that 12,000 would only buy you 80 Premium Gold packs, and the chances are you won’t get that many good cards from it.

Having had a brief look online, there are posts from people on forums and Reddit discussing how they’ve spent hundreds of pounds on FUT, and one of the top search results is from someone proudly showing off the ultimate team he spent 24,000 points (or £160) to get.

Amd what’s the point? If you want to play as world class team, why not just play regular online games? And if you want to sign players to build a bespoke squad, why not play career mode?

Premium Gold Packs contain more "Rare" cards, but those cards are usually ones you don't care about like balls or contracts

Premium Gold Packs contain more “Rare” cards, but those cards are usually ones you don’t care about like balls or contracts

The alternative of course is to play FUT as a slow slog, building up coins and playing against teams online with your own modestly crafted 11. I make a good Scotland side consisting of Silver and Gold carded players and achieved 100% Chemistry. That’s what I want is it not?

Well yes, but then when I play online seasons or tournaments on FUT I find that most of the people you do play have a better team, full of players with FIFA’s most important stat, Pace. Casual players like me just don’t have the time or the want to spend five hours a day playing relentlessly to get that better team, and when the option is there to play against equally matched opposition online with a game engine that hasn’t been tweaked to handicap players, then that seems a more attractive proposition, and one that ultimately, to pardon the pun, I’ll stick with.

Don’t get me wrong; I see why people like FUT and it will undoubtedly be the main source of appeal for some, but for me, I just don’t quite get it, and I have tried my best.