Fourth Coast Entertainment -

By Dr. Anthony Betrus
Game Connoisseur 

(My) FIFA Ultimate Team: Three Decades in the Making

 

Last updated 7/2/2015 at 5:37am | View PDF



It's been five years since I reviewed a FIFA game, and it is time to bring you up to speed with what has been my most played game since: FIFA 15, specifically FIFA Ultimate Team. While technically Football Manager, released in 1982 for the Sinclair, was the first game of this type, my personal history with soccer franchise-building video games goes back some 28 years, to MISL Soccer for the Commodore 64. It was 1987 when first I played this Major Indoor Soccer League endorsed game, and I was instantly hooked. It was an offshoot of Microprose Soccer, which was very popular in England at the time. And while the overseas version featured the top flight Premier League teams, the US version featured each of the MISL teams, the most popular pre-MLS league at the time. To be perfectly honest, it was one of the only two games for which I had a legal 5 ¼ inch floppy disk, as everything else I owned was a copy. In fact most of my friends didn't even know you could buy a legal copies of C-64 software, we rather treated everything as "open source," but that, alas, is another story.

To this point, soccer video games had been largely twitch games, with perhaps the most popular being Nintendo's Goal! series. Don't get me wrong, these games were loads of fun themselves, but once you "figured them out" it turned into repeated spamming of the most effective moves, like the ridiculous 'double-curve' in Goal!. And good luck having fun playing Pele's Soccer for the Atari or International Soccer for the C-64... yikes. In fact what made MISL soccer so attractive really had little to do with the gameplay itself, rather, it was much more about acquiring good players, building your team, and winning titles, which, some three decades later, is exactly why I continue to play FIFA Ultimate Team.

Obviously much has changed in terms of computing power since the 1980s, The old games almost don't look recognizably like soccer at all, unless you squint really, really hard. On the other hand, I had my father walk in while I was playing FIFA 15, and he thought a live game was on. So yes, the graphics and gameplay are fantastic, especially with the next-gen PS4 and Xbox One versions, which feature the enhanced "emotion" engine, among other gameplay improvements. This is Electronic Arts' twelfth version in the series, with the original released in 1994 for the Super Nintendo. FIFA Ultimate Team itself debuted in 2008 with FIFA 2009, and has made steady improvements ever since. Even with these major improvements, the core of what makes the game so engaging is the acquisition of better players, and the march toward division promotion. Simple and elegant, you start off with basic players, and like any good manager, you continue to build and improve by buying new talent. If you have ever collected sports trading cards, this is exactly like that, except rather than sliding your card into a plastic binder, your cards become actual players on the field. And the players each have unique attributes and abilities, with no two players ever quite alike.

Since the original soccer manager games, online play has come to be expected, which allows for competition with other live players for division promotion. I would consider myself to be good, but not great, with an online record in divisional play at 37 wins, 23 losses, and 20 draws.I have climbed my way from Division 10 to Division 4, although I'll likely never reach Division 1. It is worth noting here players do have the option of using real world currency to buy "packs" of players and club items, which they can either use, or trade for in-game coins. You can also earn coins by playing games and trading on the transfer market, which I prefer. In fact I will not spend real-world dollars for packs, so to compensate I spend about as much time time buying and selling players on the transfer market as I do playing actual games, which was also true of MISL Soccer way back when. In the end, what keeps me coming back is really the essence of what games are really all about: learning and getting better. And my game continues to get better as I get older, even if I can't say that of my real-life soccer skills.

Finally, here is my FIFA 15 Ultimate Team "Professor FC" 24 man roster:

Strikers: Lewandowski; IF Aubameyang; IF Benzema; IF Griezmann; Rodrigo; Dos Santos

Midfielders: Schweinsteiger; Gotze; Iniesta; Modric; Perez; Reus; Shaqiri; IF Busquets

Defenders: Alaba; Alba; Boateng; Ramos; IF Pique; Benatia; Piszczek; De Marcos

Goalkeepers: Neuer; De Gea

Want to take on my team? My Xbox One profile name is DrBetrus, and I would love for you to teach me a thing or two.

Dr. Anthony Betrus

The Game Connoisseur

Professor of Educational Technology and Organizational Leadership, SUNY Potsdam

 

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