In times past, it was agonisingly difficult to create a World Cup or Champions League tournament experience in an annual FIFA game. The modes and methods were deliberately absent, as EA looked to its separate World Cup and Champions League releases to increase revenue from the same engine.
Times have changed. Now that EA brings a significant portion of its revenue through the Ultimate Team mode, it’s able to provide a World Cup tournament format as FIFA 18 DLC — and offer separate World Cup versions of its Ultimate Team cards. The DLC will be available to download on the 29th of May.
It’s nice to have this feature. After so many years in the cold, managing your own brackets for exhibition matches, the new World Cup DLC takes care of everything for you.
It’s generous, too. You can even customise the tournament to represent World Cup tournaments of yesteryear. Shoehorning in a country that narrowly missed out on qualifying is an option, too. You’re welcome, USA.
What’s Been Changed?
Aside from the tournament structure, this is mostly a cosmetic update. The crowd, commentary, and broadcast format is all reskinned to be a World Cup presentation.
The same commentators are present, though Martin Tyler will occasionally lament the plight of South American countries with skilled players fighting for limited spots. Or perhaps he’ll wax historical about a particular nation’s football traditions.
Flags fill every square inch of the Russian stadiums, national anthems preclude the first whistle, and cameras will cut to fans with faces painted with the colours of your selected country. The UI and broadcast elements like instant replays have also been given a World Cup overhaul.
News updates punctuate tournament matches, keeping you informed on the big performers in the group stages. Unsurprisingly, you’ll see a lot of the usual suspects here.
“Ronaldo Impresses For Portugal” says the news blast, next to a posed model of the Madrid star with his Man of the Match award, the corners of his mouth twisted into a smile. It’s the type of thing that would’ve been a great meme, if it weren’t implemented so well.
These UI updates stretch into the Ultimate Team mode as well. For those with the completionist itch, the special World Cup brand of player cards provide a whole new range of collectibles to obsess over.
The Ultimate Ultimate Team
Ultimate Team is a very popular brand of evil capitalism. One of EA’s earliest and most successful loot box programs, this flamboyantly pay-to-win mode has somehow avoided the ire of gambling backlash over the years.
Yet in this, the year of our World Cup Russia, Ultimate Team becomes a blessing as well as a curse. After all, it made this mode possible, as opposed to EA proactively making this tournament format into a Sisyphean task. So that’s good… right?
In FIFA 18‘s World Cup DLC, these specially branded Ultimate Team cards will be dynamic, changing as the World Cup progresses. EA tells us that the powers that be will be paying particular attention to Man of the Match awards when changing player stats.
These World Cup Ultimate Team cards can be mixed with your normal cards as well. Though, the World Cup DLC cards will have more of an emphasis on nationality and confederacy in their chemistry calculations.
We have very little positive to say about Ultimate Team. It’s pay-to-win. It pretends to be an esport despite a high barrier to entry — the very opposite of the World Game’s values. Worst of all are the gambling systems it depends on. It’s a loot box system endorsed by the faces of your favourite footballers.
But this year, it’s a business model that brought us the World Cup DLC. All those development hours justified by the “whales” pulling the lever for a Neymar card with the World Cup icon. If you don’t want to roll the dice, you don’t have to. But spare a thought for those who paid for your DLC.