Madden Ultimate Team First Look

Like trading cards? Like fantasy football? Then you'll want to hear all about this new update for Madden 10.

I'd like to take complete credit for Madden Ultimate Team, but I know better than that. Ever since the From the Bleachers days--heck, ever since EA Sports released its collectible card feature back in UEFA Champions League 2006-2007--I've been clamoring for just such a card feature to make its way to other EA Sports games, and I've hardly been alone in that regard. Soon, those requests will be answered with Madden Ultimate Team, an upcoming feature update to Madden NFL 10 that mixes trading card collecting with fantasy football. And best of all? It's free.

If you've seen the Ultimate Team feature for FIFA, then you probably have a good idea of what Madden Ultimate Team is all about. Once you've downloaded the feature, it will become a separate menu item in Madden 10, and after loading it up for the first time, you'll be given a randomized set of cards, enough to get you up and running right away. Playing games with your team, you'll earn credits that you can then use to buy bronze, silver, or gold packs full of more cards you can use to bolster your team. You'll also be able to spend real-world cash to buy in-game credits.

Those cards include players, stadiums, playbooks, coaches, injury cards, and contract cards, and the quality of the card will be reflected in its status as either a bronze, silver, or gold card. Elite players like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady will obviously be gold status, while the majority of NFL players will be either silver or bronze level cards. The players in your initial pack of cards will be mostly bronze with a few silvers thrown in (the equivalent to overall ratings of 75 or below), but once you have some credits in hand, you can start working on improving your talent level.

Of course, there's a flip side to getting talent--there are those pesky contracts to worry about. As in FIFA's Ultimate Team mode, every player on your team will have a contract number associated with him. Using a player card in the game will subtract one from that contract number, and once it's reduced to zero, that player card will be discarded and that player will no longer be available to you. That's where another card type--contract cards--comes in so handy. Playing a contract card against a player (or coach) will increase his contract by the amount listed on the contract card. For instance if you play a four-game contract card against a player with one game left on his contract, he'll end up with five games left on his contract. As you probably have figured, contract cards are valuable, especially when it comes to keeping gold-level talent on your team. There are also injury cards, which you can use for injured players to accelerate their recovery.

Other cards available to you include team-specific playbooks, coaches, stadiums, and uniforms. You can have multiple playbook cards in your deck and use the ones you like for any game you play--either offline against the CPU or in online matches against other Ultimate Team players (there will be a matchmaking feature to pit teams of similar skill level against one another). Perhaps most intriguing is the team chemistry feature that has also been carried over from the FIFA and UEFA games. In those games, a team's chemistry rating improved depending on what position a player played (playing a midfielder in the midfield is a good thing after all). In addition, playing in a preferred formation and with players who spoke the same language also helped team chemistry.

In Madden Ultimate Team, chemistry matters, but different factors are taken into consideration. Players who play on the same team in the real NFL will earn a chemistry boost; players who were on the same team in college will also get a boost. You'll also receive boosts for players who are playing with their real-life playbook, with their real coach, in their real uniforms, and in their home stadium. It begs the question: Why, in a game mode that's all about fantasy, do you want to encourage players to homogenize their teams along NFL team lines? Still, with the wide variety of talent available in the card packs, the chemistry boosts probably won't outweigh the simple fact that player skill will win out in the end. After all, why pair Aaron Rodgers with Jordy Nelson at wideout when Andre Johnson is also available to you?

Your Madden Ultimate Team deck will be limited to 100 cards total, with a maximum of 55 players available to you. Any extra cards you get through buying packs can either be discarded, which will earn you a small number of coins per card, or be sent to the auction block for selling to other users. As with FIFA's Ultimate Team feature, you can put any card in your collection up for auction, and the value of that card will be driven by the market. Unfortunately, Madden Ultimate Team won't have the addictive collectible card book that was found in UEFA--which served as a great place to dispose of unwanted cards--but producers said that feature could be a possibility for a future version of Madden Ultimate Team.

In addition to the bronze, silver, and gold cards, there will be a couple types of exceedingly rare cards available to players. The first will be legendary cards--these will all be current NFL players (no legends like Walter Payton or Jim Brown, unfortunately), but the players' ratings will reflect their "glory years." Think of Brett Favre with the Packers or Randy Moss with the Vikings at the height of his power. Playing a legendary player in a game will give your entire offense or defense a boost, and naturally, you'll want to protect those cards' contracts as much as you can. The other type of special card will come through weekly deals--these limited-edition cards will feature only elite players and will be available only for a short time.

The presence of Madden Ultimate Team looks to be great news for those who will be looking to get back into Madden after a few months away. There's no firm release date yet, though producers are aiming for early January as a tentative release window. In the meantime, they'll be tuning things, including features like the final roster in the game, the balance of players' starting decks, final card artwork, and more.

Will Madden Ultimate Team take off? It's hard to say. I was a huge fan of the feature in UEFA and last year's FIFA game--it got me to play more soccer games than I had ever played previously. And while producers are hopeful that Ultimate Team will turn into an annual addition to the Madden series, there are no guarantees. After all, it's telling that the Ultimate Team feature was not included in this year's FIFA 10 (though it conceivably could be added at a later date). On the other hand, FIFA 09's Ultimate Team was a $15 DLC add-on. If nothing else, by giving Madden Ultimate Team away for free, EA is looking to expose the feature to as many people as possible. We'll see if the experiment pays dividends when Madden Ultimate Team is released in January.

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Discussion

28 comments
Flinet91
Flinet91

Sounds awesome like "utlimate team" on Fifa soccer

maverick_76
maverick_76

Wow this sounds like All Pro Football 2K8. Sorry, I already have this feature.....fix the broken game EA before you add any more shovelware!

dylan417
dylan417

This is perfect for me, I have been collecting trading cards since I was like 5 and love fantasy football and I play alot of Madden. Sounds great (thank god it is free)

mrzero1982pt2
mrzero1982pt2

i used to play magic the gathering when i was younger so it goes like this. lets see if i can explain. if you have a guy, say peyton manning, and you got him in a pack, and he is playing that game, and 4 games left, that means FIVE games. you have FIVE times to play with him until his card is in your dead pile. i guess it goes by the title, ultimate team because you are not playing with the seahawks roster. you are playing with the cards you have, so its a mashup of players from many teams. seems interesting

snake3rules
snake3rules

I didnt read all this, but from what I did read, it sounds overly complicated. I wish theyd just bring back the packs of cards from the old madden games ... secret teams, bonus abilities (that dont cost extra money), and more ... it was one of the biggest reasons I would play those games so much ... now I play madden for a month or two and Im done.

REAL_BALLER_69
REAL_BALLER_69

this isnt really that new cause in like madden 06 there were those cards that u could unlock and stuff like that but who cares this is a new feature AND ITS FREEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

derek21345
derek21345

It better allow us to invite friends like it does with ranked online play. I would love to play my friends instead of players picked by a search. This could be great!

sandman3619
sandman3619

The video has a slight problem with it. The speaker says around the 2:05 mark that the gold cards are your best players "like your Peyton Manning's" yet he is clearly pictured on the silver card. Well it is free and they are just promoting it.

kenshin911
kenshin911

TO hyrueprince11 Fifa got ultimate team before madden dude plzz.. didnt you play fifa 09?

DaClint91
DaClint91

Isn't this basically Madden Cards from like Madden 2003?

yman173
yman173

I like this idea, especially after the regular NFL season is over. The whole fantasy aspect of it will be awesome for those of us who are fantasy fanatics during the regular season.

hyrueprince11
hyrueprince11

congrats madden fans you just got one of the best game modes in videogames history while fifa fans have to wait for it :(

bisson76
bisson76

hmm. this seems sick. pretty much building your own fantasy team and playing with it. but you gotta earn your players and everything. seems more competitive.

inline243
inline243

Awesome, the best football game ever just got even better!

tony382
tony382

January? Who plays Football after the Super Bowl?

jazilla
jazilla

I think there was a card system like this in Madden 04 or so? Can't remember all the way but they had cheat cards and player cards like this back then. Way cool to have a variation of that theme though.

WacReD
WacReD

It's Free!!! Thanks EA

valdarez
valdarez

Finally. A reason to play Madden. :)

Da_Skull_King
Da_Skull_King

i didnt really like it in fifa 9, so i probably wont bother with this one either at least its free,

xXFr34k_0uTXx
xXFr34k_0uTXx

Did you say free? If you're a huge fan of football . . . this could probably be a fun way to pass time. I'll be playing it. :)

LosDaddie
LosDaddie

Cool. I'll definitely try this out. Madden10 is amazing. Best sports game ever. thanks, EA :)

TreFacTor
TreFacTor

This is the dumbest thing I have ever seen in my life, with all of the bugs and glitches that made it into the final product, this is what they spend their time on instead of a patch??? I'm done! I'm done! I'm done!