Today on Under the Code, Ultimate Team fanatic – CoreySA takes a look at the first iteration of NCAA Football’s Ultimate Team (NFUT). He details the hits and misses and gives his initial impressions. Also joining Corey, is community member and Ultimate Team fan – David Stone, also known as whitehippo24, for his early thoughts on the mode thus far.
When I first heard that Ultimate Team was going to be included in NCAA Football 14, I had my reservations as I just didn’t see how it would ultimately fit into a collegiate system. After the initial announcement however, my early doubt turned to cautious optimism, and now that I’ve had just over a week of play time with the retail version of NCAA 14, I thought I’d give some initial hits and misses on the mode along with some of my early impressions and worries. I also reached out to community member and Ultimate Team fan – whitehippo24, for his take on the mode so far.
The feature that jumped out at me initially was just how smooth and visually appealing the user interface was – something I’m a big fan of when it comes to the overall appeal of NCAA 14. The tiles are easy to navigate and everything you need to find seems to be easily accessible – something that other title’s Ultimate Team features have had an up and down relationship with. I feel like it’s easy to jump around from current lineups to reserves and easy to find players on your current roster to replace starters with. I feel like while a title such as FIFA’s UT is fantastic, it has struggled with educating newcomers on how to access everything you need and their menus can feel cumbersome and require more scrolling than necessary. NCAA 14’s NFUT, however, does a great job of making it a little easier on both the eyes and the accessibility of info so newer UT players can get into the mode easier than they can in other UT modes.
Secondly, I think having UT rewards built into the Nike Skills Challenges was a brilliant move. Sure, the players you received for getting gold in the challenges weren’t top tier players, but I think EA SPORTS did a good job of placing some good names in there that could very well attract players to the mode when they otherwise would have skipped it. Obviously Aaron Hernandez was a mistake (and will be removed in a future patch – players who unlock Hernandez will now receive Alex Smith instead), but there was no way for the company to know what would soon transpire in Hernandez’s personal life. I was happy to see my Niners QB of the future – Colin Kaepernick in there, and immediately made me want to play the mode just so I could feature him in an Option-type offense in NFUT. These rewards may be small additions to some, but it’s a nice touch – especially looking at FIFA in contrast, where you got nothing in terms of completing all of the Skills Challenges.
Another great touch in NCAA’s NFUT, is the Seasons Mode built into its online structure. Brought over from the addictive FIFA series, it’s nice to have an online system that rewards progression and incentivizes continual play – where as in most online ranked modes don’t motivate me enough to keep on playing random opponents.
I’m also a fan of how the offline CPU challenges work. Most of the challenges have been quick in nature thus far, which is nice for quick spurts of game action when users don’t have a lot of time to hop online. The challenges have either pack rewards or coin rewards tied to them and those increased based on the difficulty as well. I do feel as if there are a lot of options that could be added to the unranked structure, but I’ll touch on those a little further in.
Although I’m having a really positive feeling over the mode early on, I still feel as if there have been a few miscues for the first iteration of NFUT. A few are just minor annoyances, but there are some that are sorely needed in the future.
First off, the omission of user v. user un-ranked games is a huge letdown. When these teams are created, there is a certain level of pride that comes with it. One way UT users love to show off that pride, is by being able to play against friends or friends’ teams that they’ve created. FIFA does this really well, and it’s clear that NFUT is clearly lacking in that department. It’d be awesome if I could sit down and play my friends’ teams offline just for fun or to set up some un-ranked matches for bragging rights.
Another big omission is the fact that there is no trading block to easily trade players with your friends. While I commend them for how well put together NFUT is, I can’t understand why this feature was left out. As a system that prides itself on auctions and marketplaces, it’s somewhat annoying that I can’t set up negotiations with the people I trust on my friends list.
As for the game modes in the UT feature, while what’s there is fun, there is still room for improvement. For instance, the online Seasons feature is nice, but why couldn’t this have been added as an offline component as well? One feature I loved about FIFA’s UT was that you could play that mode either offline or online and you could work yourself up two ladders, which was great.
I’d also like to see more rewards given in regards to individual accomplishments in the CPU challenges. It should matter how much I beat the CPU by and how I defend against them. Giving a few extra coins out for setting accomplishments would help give users an incentive to play and to play well. The rewards for how the CPU challenges are now seem a tad on the low side currently, so that could push a lot of people away – having no real value in something means no time spent on it.
While on the topic of rewards, I wish EA SPORTS hadn’t given us so many quarterbacks with completing the gold Nike Skills Challenges. Wilson, Kaepernick, Smith, Manning, Luck, Newton…why so many quarterback rewards when I only have one team to build? That is a good segue into my next point:
MULTIPLE SQUADS! Why am I limited to a singular team? Pulling another feature from FIFA’s UT – is the fact that you can set up a multitude of different teams. It seems to fit the collegiate system perfectly – building an All-Conference team, or build a team from the same draft class etc. It would be great to be able to build an ‘Air Raid’ team with Manning or Luck at the helm and then build an ‘Option’ team with Kaepernick.
Finally, I’d like to see chemistry play more of a part in NFUT. I want to see chemistry tailored specifically to create bonuses for having guys in the same conference, same team or same draft year. Early signs point to being able to build up highly-rated teams fairly quickly, so this would force guys into sticking with a strategy over just getting the highest rated guys at each position. Chemistry should be a HUGE deal in the college game.
Although I’ve listed quite a few ‘misses’, I really don’t feel as if they detract from how enjoyable the mode is. It’s obvious that this is a first attempt at NFUT, and it’s a very good one at that. Fixing these issues or adding them in future iterations could turn this mode into a go-to feature each and every season. Overall, I’m having a blast with NFUT, and a few tweaks and additions could give this series some new blood and could also help it gain some longevity for those that normally use it as a stop-gap until Madden NFL hits in August. For me personally, NFUT has given the series a much needed injection of excitement. I think the team did a great job in keeping the mode both accessible yet layered in depth for us long-time UT users. I definitely recommend you give it a chance, even if you haven’t tried an Ultimate Team mode before.
With the release of NCAA Football 14, I decided to start by diving straight into Ultimate Team. My previous Ultimate Team experience has been primarily with the FIFA Franchise, so I was interested to see what NFUT had in store.
I started off with the Standard Starter Pack the game gives you when first creating your personal Ultimate Team. These cards will give you a full team to start, but they are all Freshman cards, rated in the 60′s. While they do have some decent stats, I was glad to see a few extra un-opened packs waiting for me from playing and sharing the NCAA 14 demo. I also had accumulated several Silver cards from getting Gold Medals on all the Nike Skills Trainer Drills during the early release on the EA Season Ticket.
These cards had me off to a decent start, but I’m not one to wait on trying to get the best team possible so I invested in some Microsoft Points into buying packs. I bought the biggest bundle of packs, which is 50 All-American packs for 4000 MSP or $50. At $1 a pack, I felt that was a fair price to pay to get a jump toward building the best team possible. The All-American packs consist of 10 cards each with a guarantee of at least 1 Gold or Elite player, and a mix of other player/team items. Also, for buying the bundle, you are guaranteed to receive 2 bonus cards of a 93 or higher rating.
I began opening pack after pack, and gathered up a mixture of Elite and Gold players. I also managed to get 2 legendary cards, which were the Doug Flutie and Archie Griffin Heisman Hopeful cards. Good skill players seem to come out of packs very often, but I had a hard time acquiring good offensive Linemen. I took all my best cards, and formed my team. Within an hour of starting Ultimate Team I had managed to get my Overall Team Rating to a 92. I then took all my Duplicate Elite cards and proceeded to place them on the Auction House. I managed to sell 2 of them (96 OVR Terrell Suggs/93Morris Claiborne) for 25K each.
With the coins I made, I decided to search the auction house and pick up a couple Elite players at positions I was still lacking in. Grabbed a few DT (Sapp/Dorsey) and restructured my starting 11 on D. After placing those 2 cards, I have now managed to get my Overall Team Rating up to a 96.
Now, don’t worry if you are not one to spend real money on Ultimate Team. A lot of the early Solo Challenges shouldn’t be too difficult even with a lower rated team, and they all seem to deliver a coin bonus upon completion, or smaller versions of the different varieties of packs. With a single All-American pack only costing 7500 coins, it doesn’t take long to amass enough coins to purchase one, and it is guaranteed to contain at least 1 gold or elite player.
In just one day, I am thoroughly enjoying Ultimate Team, but of course it is not without its flaws. A big drawback when it comes to purchasing cards, is that if you are going to use the in game coins, you can not buy any of the pack bundles – you are limited to only buying a single pack at a time.
Another issue is that for Ultimate Team being a card trading game, EA has decide to not include a trade block for players to be able to easily swap cards with their friends. I’m not sure how or why this feature was left out, but it is irritating.
Perhaps my biggest complaint about NFUT so far, has to be the lack of an option to invite friends to games for Head-to-Head matches. The only choices available are the CPU Solo challenges, and Head-to-Head Seasons against random online players. Getting to compare teams with friends and then trying to see who has built the better overall team on the field seems like something that should have been a main feature/selling point for this mode.
Top 10 Cards I Pulled Day 1:
- Terrell Suggs 96
- Heath Miller 95
- Manti Te’o 95
- Antoine Cason 94
- Archie Griffin 93
- Doug Flutie 93
- Nick Mangold 94
- Adrian Peterson 94
- Morris Claiborne 93
- Ryan Broyles 93
Have you tried out NCAA 14’s Ultimate Team yet? Enjoying it? Let us know in the comments below, or feel free to add your feedback on our forums!
We’d also like to thank David for his thoughts on NFUT. You can find David on Twitter at: @whitehippo24
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