Madden Ultimate Team First Impressions

Posted January 7th, 2010 at 5:40 pm

EA Sports introduced the Ultimate Team idea with FIFA 09 and will be doing so again coming up for FIFA 10. However for Madden 10 the Ultimate Team mode is provided for free. This was a good move in that it allows everyone to try it out while on EA’s end it increases the number of potential users who will be completing microtransactions to improve their teams.

While the concept is great and the mode has some fun ideas it does end up feeling like the way to go is to pay money for the card packs or individual cards. You definitely don’t have to as with the proper patience coins can be gained just from playing games with the team. However comparing time cost vs money cost it clearly slants towards paying as being the most effective route to take.

The first thing after getting the patch and downloading Madden Ultimate Team from the Madden 10 menu is to get your starter pack. This will be a group of players that range from terrible to mediocre. I thought I came away with a decent offensive tandem of Josh McCown, Lamont Jordan, and Limus Sweed.

You can take your team and play the CPU or take them online to play other Ultimate Teams. Going up against the CPU means playing the real teams. The frustrating thing about using such a poor team isn’t the struggle to compete as I actually held up well in the games I played outside of so many dropped passes. Instead it is knowing the coins depend on it. It is going to be difficult to beat the CPU, or especially other users, with these base teams.

I’ve played three games and used Supersim (to test) on the other and now have a 1-3 record. The first two I went with eight minute quarters which meant they lasted about 45 minutes. I lost both and despite them being close I only had earned 280 coins (27-21) and 260 coins (20-13). I then played a game with one minute quarters and won 6-0 and got 310 coins. So there is some imbalance there.

Bronze – 500 coins
Silver – 1500 coins or 40 MS points (50 cents)
Gold – 3000 coins or 80 MS points ($1)
Platinum – 9000 coins or 240 MS points ($3)

Basically if I were to play legit and challenging games I’d be looking at about four hours to earn a Silver pack, eight hours to earn a Gold pack, and 24 hours invested to earn a Platinum pack. Despite wanting to avoid paying for these it almost feels necessary to get off the ground at the very least. Clearly the packs were priced low enough so that many people will see them as the better value and I actually would agree based on my experience so far. It’s tempting to say that it’s just 50 cents for a Silver pack so why not?

Apparently you get higher defaults from playing online games meaning you could potentially earn 400 or 500 coins in those. But there is no way I feel comfortable taking my team that drops so many passes and can’t tackle online since you can’t play friends. I understand why they did that, so people wouldn’t lay down to boost the other team, but it’s a bummer to know you can only play randoms. There are already Pro Bowl caliber teams online which is scary. Getting disconnected from the MUT server during any game online or offline means getting no coins and losing a game of eligibility which is definitely frustrating for anyone that goes through such an event.

EA has done a good job designing MUT so there aren’t any clear exploits in gaining coins. The number of coins earned varies based on difficultly level so taking advantage of the Rookie or Pro will see a penalty factored in and playing on All-Madden will offer a bonus. Also if Supersim is used there is a huge penalty enforced. I Supersimmed one game to see what would happen and ended up with just 22 coins. This was partially because my team is terrible and got blown out but also because of the heavy Supersim penalty.

Despite avoiding those type of exploits it was suggested to me on Twitter by patriotscpfc that playing multiple one minute quarter games is the quickest way to earn coins rather than devoting time to longer games. Instead of spending an hour in a challenging game I could play for about five minutes this way and progress much faster. Xoque has since added in that he lost a one minute quarters game 10-0 and got 265 coins. Playing the short games may not be as beneficial once a team has stacked good players but early on with the terrible talent it seems the best way to go. Get enough coins in the first 10 games to purchase a good pack or two and then build from there.

I really dig the auction setup as well as the limited edition cards. Those are great ideas that add to the strategy involved in putting teams together. For example up now (but already sold out) was a 98 rated Jerome Harrison built off the game where he put up 286 yards. Once they’re gone they’re gone and the only way to obtain them would be from the auction block if someone were to put them up.

I’ve already heard from a few people who played one game and haven’t found any motivation to continue, as well as people who are locked in and really enjoying it. I think it depends on how much patience people have, how good they are at Madden, and whether they’re open to paying for cards. After that it is how much that individual enjoys playing online against random people.

This will be a good test run for Madden Ultimate Team. There should be a great deal learned from it that will hopefully improve the mode in future years. This would be a perfect application for Teambuilder to be utilized also. MUT does have a lot of potential but it doesn’t feel as though it completely delivered on it in its first attempt but that could change the deeper I get into it. Then again the mode is free so as long as people are getting some enjoyment out of it as it extends the value of Madden 10 then it was worth it.