Deep Dive: Career and Ultimate Team Modes
*Part Three of my Soccer Gaming Series
Seemingly every year the most asked questions from FIFA gamers is, "so, what's new this year?" The short answer is a lot. A whole lot actually. Covered in the last article was the extensive changes to gameplay and presentation or the matchday experience if you prefer. After playing the beta, the game does in fact have a different feel and look to it. On the field, players move and react to each other in new and more realistic ways. Beyond those substantial changes, we now have details on the core game modes and what's new in each of the Career and Ultimate Team modes.
(Image: EA Sports)
FIFA Ultimate Team
FUT Moments (Earn Stars to redeem in Moments Reward Gallery)
Position Change Update
New Icon and Hero Cards Announced
Forget everything you knew about Ultimate Team with the introduction of a new chemistry system. Squad building has completely changed with more creative options this year. You no longer will see the green, yellow, and red links between players on your team based on positions. Instead, the new system has a team rating which is based on individual chemistry. Linking players is done through a star system which is added up based on nationality, league, or club. For example, you don't have to several players from the same club down your right flank. Instead, it can be a striker, center back and the keeper. It will take some getting used to, but this change will surely be welcomed by most of the community. Players do need to be in their preferred position within their formation otherwise they won't contribute to Chemistry Thresholds for the squad (but no penalty for low chem anymore!) As you add players to your Starting XI that match the club/country/league of the players in your Starting XI, you will hit Chemistry Thresholds that trigger the Chemistry Points of associated players (min=1, max=3).
There is no longer a loyalty bonus, no more lower attributes caused by low chemistry and no more overall squad chemistry. If you're brand new to FUT or just haven't gotten into it yet, this is a good time to jump in. The manager bonus is still effective which boost the nationality matching players. For more details on Chemistry check out the Pitch Notes from EA or the Futbin website or podcast (visual may help, a podcast or getting your hands on a squad building widget to play around with team building).
These changes make it easier to build squads whereas in the past you had to link by position. This caused certain players to be way more expensive on the market than they should be, or even extinct. Combined with the introduction of cross-play (meaning Xbox and PlayStation players can now play against each other online, and the transfer market are combined), these issues are negated. Cross-play is available in all 1v1 modes, not 2v2, and only across the same generation of consoles (PS5 to Xbox X/S or PS4 to Xbox One).
FUT Moments is a new single-player mode in FIFA 23 Ultimate Team that allows you to play mini games and challenges and earn rewards. The more you play, the more Stars you collect. This means by exchanging FUT Stars, you’ll be able to purchase packs, items, and loan players from the FUT Moments Store (or Star Gallery). These are shorter than regular matches, often only a few plays were of time. For example, complete a ground pass from your CB to CM then to your ST consecutively, or enter in the 80' and score a game winning goal. Score a free kick. Within the new Moments mode, you'll be able to track Stories which provide a progression system with a time limit. Each story is made up of Chapters which unlock other Story's. Some of these moments will be recreating an epic goal you saw over the weekend in real life. Another example used by EA, is the rise of a star player. The rewards haven't been released which will likely determine how successful this new mode within FUT is. What I do like about it something that casual and hardcore gamers can enjoy- when you don't have time to play a full game, hop into a quick Moments session. They're short, simple and it's new!
Another very welcomed change is the adjustment to position changes. You will no longer see Mbappe at center mid- thank God! Each player in FUT has a standard secondary position(s) listed on their card. Rather than specific position change cards, we now have just one position change card. Once triggered on a player, you select the secondary position you want to change them to. The goal is to base this off real life soccer which appears largely accurate at this point. The easiest example is Cancelo of Man City. Default position is RB, but he can switch to LB as well. Although there are pre-assigned secondary positions, EA confirmed these will be updated based on real life experiences. So, if your favorite players don’t have the secondary position you want to get into your team, there's still hope!
The LF and RF positions have been removed entirely from the game because nobody really used them. The two formations that had those options are now available using CF positions. The list is too big and updating constantly but there are new icons and heroes being introduced to FIFA 23. Landon Donovan is now a hero card available exclusively in FUT which will come in handy for the integrated World Cup 2022 game mode. EA had a very brief announcement simply confirming that World Cup 2022 will feature within FUT and that more details will be forthcoming. My guess is it'll release in November in the leadup to the actual tournament starting. Chemistry works the same as before, by Confederation or Nation, and that it's a path to glory model. Meaning the cards in that mode will be live and as their team wins, their attributes will increase. We'll likely see online and single player game modes with plenty of content to keep you busy when you're not watching the live games.
If you've played FUT before you know this, but the mode will continually release live content through the year, like the above noted details on the World Cup. Same goes for club soccer. There is enough content within FUT to keep many fans busy throughout the entire cycle if you really enjoy the game mode.
FUT is the most fun when the game first launches since every gamer starts from scratch. If you feel like you need to get a leg up on opponents, you can either subscribe to EA Play for 3 days of early access or purchase the Champions Edition. There are tons of content additions if you pre-order the Champions Edition by August 21 including a Team of the Week and Hero card. If you're not into FUT and you don't care about 3 days earlier access, just pick up the standard edition.
Typically, you want to focus on building your first "starter team" which means avoiding the most expensive players/leagues. It takes time to build up to where you can afford a full team of stars. I find it fun to start with lesser-known players and simultaneously plan out a "target team". Most gamers use a website like futbin.com or futhead.com to plan out their teams. This way you avoid overpaying for players, having a low chem squad or not being competitive in online play. Otherwise, once you have a solid starting squad just start playing matches to accumulate coins and rewards. Although most of us enjoy winning and maybe using "meta" players will win you games, it's usually more fun to use players you like in real life. It will make the grind easier, trust me!
Player Personality - Be a Pro mode now has character choices include Virtuoso, Maverick, and Heartbeat. Each path has unique perk tree and effects the player's style on and off the pitch.
Playable Highlights- Only play highlights of the match. A medium between full sim and playing a full game. Skip to the critical moments of the match when you are simulating through a long season.
New Menu- New interface streamlines your time off the pitch.
Dynamic Moments- Cut scenes during "big" moments in your career.
Transfer Analysis- After completing a transfer, receive a grade, evaluation, and hints on how to improve negotiating in the future.
Authentic Managers- Step into the shoes of real-life managers from around the world
New CPU AI- No more of that silliness where the AI sits back when losing. They'll make substitutions and tactical changes depending on the game.
(Image: EA Sports)
My first thoughts are wow, this is going to bring some life back into Career Mode! A revamped CPU AI may be the most important aspect of the changes made. This was one of my biggest frustrations because it made the game feel empty. Much like the Journey Mode from FIFA 17-19, they've added some polish with the added cut scenes during pivotal changes in your career as well as the authentic managers addition. This includes reaching milestones, like playing 50 or 100 games, not just new signings, interviews etc. There are over 350 authentic managers to choose from including 30 that have star heads (in FIFA, there are Star Heads, Custom and Generic. Star heads are the most detailed and authentic which are based off a computer scan on the players face. Custom includes personable features and detail while generic is well, generic). Customize their outfit and decide which club you want your manager to run (be it realistic or not!).
When grinding out a Manager Career Mode, it is too much for most users to play every single game for most gamers. While the sim option is fine, I'm a huge fan of the playable highlight’s addition. Jump in during key moments, on offense or defense, sounds different and fun. It adds to the options of how you enjoy and get through a long career mode season. Improved and quicker navigation in the menu's is a welcome change too. I mean who wants to spend too much time going back and forth in the menus?
(Image: EA Sports)
Pre-season tournament format has also undergone changes where the tournament will be closer to the actual start of the season. Previously there was an awkward and long pause in between. Tournaments now consist of eight teams playing three total matches each.
Let's be honest, transfers are one of soccer fans' favorite things, right?! The Transfer Analysis feature might seem like more presentation than anything, but it also provides substantive benefit. The goal is to help improve your negotiating ability with the AI via the Transfer Analyst in your club. Generally, you want to scout for players during the season in the leadup to the transfer window opening. That way you've scouted players, identified who you want to pursue and that you're ready to put in an offer once the window opens. Don't pull a Daniel Levy and wait until the transfer deadline when you might not be able to scout your preferred players! If you don't scout players, you won't be able to see their ratings, their asking price etc.
Taken overall, this all looks very positive to me. The life of the game is extended with substantial changes to both Ultimate Team and Career modes. Career mode could still use more attention moving forward. Leaks suggest that EA Sports FC 2024 will contain an online career mode. Meaning you can play against friends in an online career mode where each gamer controls their own club. This sounds like awesome fun! In the offline career mode as it stands, you're using your imagination more. It can be great fun to build up your favorite team, sign new players or start a totally unique project.
If you prefer online, or as a compliment to single player modes, the changes to FUT should keep you engaged for a long time. The new Moments system with accompanying rewards provides a new option to enjoy in shorter doses. The new chemistry system will allow for more creative squad building and easy implementation for new gamers. Position changes were a long time coming which again opens the squad building options. Tons of things to be excited about with the FIFA 23 release.
If you're a fan of MLS, I share your frustration in the lack of attention to our league. Players rarely receive attribute upgrades over time, unless they're an older European star coming into the league. In FUT, most MLS players have low attributes making them less desirable to most gamers but cheaper too. Typically, the big MLS content release is in early June with the Team of the Season release (huge attribute upgrades based off the MLS Best XI of the previous season). Otherwise, if you're a big MLS fan you can also enjoy a Career Mode where you can grow your players attributes by simply training and playing games. You can also change player's positions and mold the team how you want. Play over multiple seasons, restructure the team, or just give it slight tweaks. Both are viable options for MLS role playing depending on your preference. One other note, it's safe to assume we'll see Charlotte FC introduced to the game.
That's it for Career and FUT modes in Part Three of this Soccer Gaming Series. I will likely have one more article released before the launch of FIFA 23 on September 30. We should see a player ratings release, more icon and hero announcements and if any other soccer gaming news pops up I'll make sure to report on it. Thanks for reading, happy gaming out their soccer fans!