For the first time, FIFA Ultimate Team is actually getting a co-op mode in FIFA 21. Exactly how it’ll work, we don’t know. But it will be possible, in some form, to partner up with a friend and take to Division Rivals or Squad Battles with your Ultimate Team squad.
On paper, this is an exciting prospect, since FIFA’s dream team-building mode has been an almost exclusively solo pursuit until now. Ultimate Team, particularly for those keen to reach the top echelon of FIFA players, has been all about grinding and sweating results, with both your club’s record and in-game currency balance always at the forefront of everything you do in the mode. But with the prospect of a co-op mode, will the Ultimate Team experience improve now that you can bring a friend along for the ride, or will you just be dragging a pal into the cycle of frustration that many FIFA players find themselves looped in.
For a start, let’s speculate on how this will work. It is rare that FIFA makes enormous sweeping changes to a mode or introduces a feature that ticks every box straight away. It’s often gradual, just as we’ve seen with Volta, the franchise’s modern take on street football.
Volta was oozing with potential when it was announced, but became pretty much irrelevant as soon as fans realised that the gameplay was not unique enough for a stand-alone street football mode and you couldn’t play with a friend. That second concept seemed completely insane to, well, pretty much everyone.
One year on, thanks to FIFA 21, Volta will finally get co-op. Like I said, it’s always a gradual thing. So for FUT’s co-op, don’t expect all the bells and whistles straight away.
In a utopian FIFA universe, this could be a truly immersive and broad co-op experience that could see you and a friend pool your players, coins, and Squad Building Challenge fodder together to run a truly cooperative FUT club.
In realistic terms, it probably won’t be that at all. It will likely just be you and your buddy controlling one or the other’s team, and that’s that. While the prospect of both of you competing for Co-op Objective rewards is encouraging, that’s probably where the originality will end.
This wouldn’t be too much of an issue if there was genuine competitive purpose to playing co-op. However, the only way you can really play competitively against others as a duo is in Division Rivals. Even then, it’s likely you won’t be guaranteed to match up against fellow duos, which could be frustrating for solo players competing in Division Rivals who find themselves outnumbered.
Moreover, if a truly fun and competitive FIFA experience with your pals is what you’re after, the criminally impoverished Pro Clubs mode is there. The limitations of Pro Clubs and the unexploited potential the mode has is a separate topic for another day, but it has been the chief cooperative mode in FIFA. And with Pro Clubs being billed as one of the key areas for FIFA 21 announcements by EA Sports, there’s a good chance that the years of community noise around evolving Pro Clubs may finally be getting through.
There are some positives to Ultimate Team having a co-op feature, though. For those who engage in the sweaty gameplay of FUT’s Weekend League, co-op may be a more chilled respite from that.
Equally, there are always suckers, like me, who have previously suffered from horrendous pack luck and have that one mate, like I do, that always pulls a decent card early doors and is able to get millions of coins in the bank. FUT co-op will at least give the suckers a chance to play with some of the game’s better players.
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If FUT’s co-op capability is to be the half-baked feature that I anticipate, then it’s purpose seems pretty useless to be honest, aside from completing a few extra types of objectives to gain rewards.
Maybe, just maybe, it will be a more elaborate and exciting feature than my pessimistic soul is predicting. If so, it could revolutionise FUT for the better and create a co-op experience with actual depth.