Madden NFL 15: Ultimate Team
I’ve been playing Madden since 1994, and playing professionally (GameStop Tournaments, online tourneys, Madden Challenge, etc…) since the mid-2000s. In that time, we’ve seen tons of Madden modes and features added (and taken away). One of the coolest game modes EA has ever come up with is Madden Ultimate Team (MUT). I’ve only really been playing MUT for about 3 years now, but in that time I’ve become pretty efficient and knowledgeable concerning the details and such. I’m not going to get in a general Madden 15 review or even the basic how-to of MUT, you can go to EAsports.com for that, but instead I’d like to do a quick recap of Madden 15’s MUT. If you’re looking to get into MUT, or curious on what’s new in the Madden 15 version, check this out and let me know what you think in the comments below.
Madden NFL 15 (Ultimate Team)
Systems: PS4[Reviewed], PlayStation 3, XBox 360, Xbox One
Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: EA Sports
Release: August 26, 2014
MSRP: $59.99 ($69.99 Ultimate Team Edition)
I’d like to start off with a few new features I believe are worth mentioning.
The first is “ease of access”. This year in MUT, everything is easily moved and placed; it’s a massive improvement from years past. The previous process of adding cards to sets was not only slow and clunky, but could get down-right frustrating trying to remember what card went where. Luckily, they fixed that. Now, you can do just about anything with a card right from the card menu. Even as you open a new pack, you can flip the card, see the players attributes, Style rating, auction it off, trade it, or add it to any pending set. If the player/collectible can belong to more than one set, it’ll bring them all up and let you choose where to put it, very nice. Not only can you easily gain access to all of the options, but when you choose where to send the card (auction, or a set for example), it happens quickly and doesn’t force you to leave your current screen. The speed and user-friendly menus in Madden 15 make playing MUT a much, much more enjoyable experience this year.
Another nice edition to Madden 15 MUT is signature players, and Weekly Rising Star players. These are basically upgrades to existing player cards. With Signature player cards, you get a signed version of the player card with boosted Style (looks to be about +3 OVR per player). Nothing earth shattering, but something neat that adds to weekly games. With this new version of a card, comes Certificates of Authenticity. To gain the signature card, you need the actual card, and a certain amount of Certificates of Authenticity depending on what the specific card set requires (usually 2 for weaker cards, 4 for stronger cards). You can gain COA in packs or earn them winning weekly games. Once you have enough COA, and the player card, you add them all to the set and it transforms the standard card into a boosted Signature card, sweet.
Rising Stars is something I took advantage of rather quickly. A Rising Star is a player that is newer (young) and playing well. You can gain Rising Star cards from packs, or in my case, buying them from auctions. To gain the actual player, you must collect two (2) of the same card and add them to the specific set you want. The twin cards come together to form one Elite-like red player card with an OVR boost and a GREAT Style upgrade. The first player I bought was Paul Worrilow, MLB for the Atlanta Falcons. He was an 80 OVR Gold card with 9+ Pass Rush, and was transformed into an 83 OVR Rising Star with +18 Pass Rush; yes you read that right, +18 Pass Rush. Each Rising Star player has multiple different sets of Style; they’re not limited to just one Style like most other cards. I could have added my two Gold cards to a Double Zone Defense, Double Pass Rush, Man Defense + Zone Defense, etc… Since Pass Rush is my Defensive Style, I went with the Double Pass Rush card, well worth it, WELL WORTH IT. From the Auction House, I got one Worrilow RS card for 4K coins, and the other for 3.5K coins. You get the card AND 1K coins for completing the two card set, so I essentially spent 6.5K coins on a 83 Gold card worth +18 Pass Rush, that’s sexy. This may be the most efficient, sensible, and cost effective way to build your Team Style at this point.
As in years past, MUT games are only 3 minute Quarters. This means turnovers and general screw ups hit hard. Everything you do in a MUT game seems to be amplified, which can add to the excitement of playing Madden, or frustrate the crap out of you. Don’t let that scare you though, if you’re a sound player and understand the fundamentals of football/Madden, you can still win right away at this mode. At the time of writing this, I’m 26-7 through 2 seasons (Playoffs in season 3) and I’ve made the playoffs in both previous seasons, getting a first round bye both times. I made it to the Super Bowl in my 2nd season, but sadly fell short in the big game. Last year you had to win the online Super Bowl to get your trophy, but this year you just need to make it to the Super Bowl. I did platinum Madden 25 last year as usual, so not needing to win the Super Bowl actually disappointed me a bit this year, but I’m sure I’m in the minority on this one. I’m not gloating, I’m just saying it’s possible to play this game mode without spending tons of money or HAVING to possess a crazy high OVR team or high Style rating to do really well. As you can see below, I’ve accumulated an excellent record with just one Team Style active (you must have an 85 OVR before two can be active at the same time). MUT is definitely a mode you can pick up and start doing well right away, with just a little patience building your team. I usually just play offline solo challenges and wait a bit before I start online seasons until I have a few good players. That being said, Ultimate Team is a mode that is super fun to play right from the start.
Season #3 (current)
I’m a “poor mans” player with out a doubt. I choose to grind my way through challenges and earn everything as opposed to drop a few real-life dollars on items for the most part. Since I don’t normally spend real money on packs, I earn everything through playing challenges and using coins, and I rarely get Legends or Elite players. Actually, in the past three years of playing MUT, I’ve NEVER had a Legend on my team. I’ve found Legends and some Elite players are just not worth their cost in coins, often costing 3 or 4 times as much coins as the next player down in their position, just doesn’t make sense to spend 150K on a 92 OVR Legend when I can get a 89 OVR player in the same position for 30K or 40K. I could get three really good players for the cost of one amazing player, so I don’t usually go that route. The best example I can give is the RB situation for a Short Passing Style (my Offensive Style). I can spend 120K for an Elite 88 OVR Lesean McCoy card, or spend 20K on a Gold 86 OVR Frank Gore card. McCoy is a +2 OVR and like +3 Style boost over Gore, but 6 TIMES MORE EXPENSIVE, just plain stupid IMO. It doesn’t help that I’m like the worst pack opener ever. I say I’ve opened about 75 packs over the past few years, not once have I ever received a Legend, or even an Elite player, nope, not once. It’s pretty bad when my 9 year old daughter likes to watch me open packs just cause she finds it hilarious I get scrubs every time. I’ll be sitting there saying “come on, come on, give me an Elite” only to move to the next card and have it reveal a bronze Rex Ryan and hear her say “Haha Dad, he doesn’t even play football”. Weak. I usually go after a few Elite players that make the difference or I have to have, like Elite Brady, and Calais Campbell, then fill in the rest with the best players available that are not insanely priced. I’ve learned to never ever buy a player that I feel won’t make the final roster. What I mean is, I don’t buy just to upgrade, or to try and fill in a gap. If I buy a player from the Auction House, he’s my final answer for that position. It may take a while to save up 30K per player, but it’s actually quicker than buying 10K guys, then buying the 30K type of guys later. My advice is to buy the best first, don’t waste valuable time and coins on guys that don’t fit into your final roster. Here’s an example of someone I’d LOVE to have, but will most likely never have due to his Auction price and time consuming set completion tasks.
Madden 15 is a sound game as far as play control, graphics, etc… are concerned , so I’m going to stick to a few things I feel are off and directly related to MUT.
My biggest disappointment with MUT is lack of online pre-game presentation. It’s kinda ironic really since presentation is all the Developers and such have talked about for the past few years. You’d think if they were so focused on it for the core game, some of it would have rubbed off into MUT, but it hasn’t. I understand speed is important for MUT. Quick 3 minute quarters, no half time show/stats, no player video introductions etc… but we really, really need some info before the game starts. The coolest thing about MUT is me building my team and showing it off. Me putting all this time and effort to get Brady playing with Wes Welker (again), and getting that 88 OVR Calais Campbell, or awesome Legend you’ve played hours and hours of games to earn. I want my opponents to know that! I want my opponents to see what I’ve done, and for me to see what they’re all about. When the game starts, we should get a quick rundown of the other team. I want to know what Style(s) they’re running, I want to know their top 3 cards (players), and what I’m up against. You don’t need to create a 5 minute intro, just a quick 10 to 15 second intro with the top 3 cards, Style, OVR, etc… that would be awesome. Football is all about strategy and planning, teams spend all week focusing on their opponent, scheming and making sure they know what they’re up against, it’s part of what makes football so great, I want that in MUT. I want to know what I’m up against before the game starts so I can properly scheme.
The other major thing I’m not fond of in MUT is weekly Madden Season give away cards. I understand the point of them, to give a free reward to everyone just for showing up and help those that don’t play often build their team, but I don’t like them and think it hurts the integrity of team building this early. I think if EA waited to start giving them away, like maybe mid-season, or around late November, it would make more sense. It’s going into week 5 of the regular season and everyone already has a free Aaron Rodgers, Brandon Marshall, Lynch, Vernon Davis, Antonio Brown, etc… Yes I know these cards aren’t the real deal, they’re 80 OVR generic cards, but they’re still good Gold cards none the less. I waited to start my online season till I had my Elite Brady that cost me 52K only to come up against everyone using their free Rodgers. I earned mine and took my time, kinda disheartening how everyone then got a free decent QB. Like 80% of the people I played my first season was using him too, so that was a clear indication they grabbed him then was focusing building elsewhere. I’m not saying it’s the worst thing ever, but now everyone is using these free players and it almost feels like you’re playing the same teams every game cause they’re so identical. All I’m saying is, EA, you should consider holding off on the whole “everyone gets a trophy day” till later in the season, let us earn our teams and not have these generic teams so quickly.
Madden Ultimate Team is fun, it’s that simple. If you like Fantasy Football, card collecting, and Madden, MUT is without a doubt a game mode for you. There is a great sense of personal accomplishment when you build a team, player by player, take them online, and crush the competition. Since the quarters are only 3 minutes, most of the games are low scoring. I’ve never seen more than 31 points for one team in a game before, but that’s OK, the strategy is still there. The only major turn off I could see people having is the time and effort it can take to build a great team. As I mention earlier, you can win right away if you’re talented, but a great team sure helps. It’s going to take hours and hours, and weeks and weeks of gameplay to build a great team with a high OVR (unless you just wanna buy it), but it’s worth it IMO.
So, with all that being said, Madden 15 Ultimate Team gets 8 Tom Bradys out of 10. If we see the online pre-game presentation boosted next year, it could move up to a 9 or possibly even a 10 and be the greatest MUT ever.