EA Sports is bringing Madden fans a free mode for Madden NFL 10, called Madden Ultimate Team. In this mode, you will be in charge of assembling your very own Ultimate Team to play against the AI or take it online and battle it out on the digital gridiron.
When competing against other teams, you earn coins, based on how well you do in the game. With these coins, you can buy new cards and upgrade your team, via packs of cards, bidding in the auction block or getting a rare card in the weekly deal. You have a limit of 100 total cards and 55 player cards, going over that limit requires you to discard some of them.
Cards have tiers and a coin values associated with them. You have the option of Bronze, Silver and gold cards, gold being the highest value cards.
You also have the ability to get legendary and limited cards, featuring players in their prime, such as a Vikings Randy Moss or a young Packer Brett Favre -- although he's doing just fine this year. Legendary and limited cards are typically sold in weekly deals and will be hard to come by.
There are also contracts and injury healing cards, every time a player plays in a game, he loses a game from his contract, you need to aquire contract cards to keep them around. If a player gets injured, he can't play until he is healed. You can speed up that process by grabbing injury healing cards.
At the beginning of the mode, you start with a fairly lackluster roster of players, a head coach, an offensive and defensive playbook, stadium and home/away uniforms. Afterwards, you are taken to your HUB, where you can see your total number of coins, team chemistry, overall record, decks total value and team's skill.
When setting up your starters, you'll notice your team chemistry and skill change in the HUB depending on who you start and place on the bench. Team chemistry can be increased in multiple ways. Using players, playbooks, stadiums, uniforms and coaches from the same team and having multiple players that went to the same college, the more the chemistry increases.
You can compare your team with friends, via the leaderboard on the HUB. While you can get coins by playing the game, you can also buy some with real money, if you are really into your Ultimate Team. Coins can be bought in varying allottments at varying costs:
40 Microsoft Points - 1500 coins
80 Microsoft Points - 3000 coins
160 Microsoft Points - 6000 coins
240 Microsoft Points - 9000 coins
320 Microsoft Points - 12000 coins
400 Microsoft Points - 15000 coins
800 Microsoft Points - 35000 coins
1200 Microsoft Points - 60000 coins
1600 Microsoft Points - 90000 coins
When you are making up your team name, don't mess it up. You are only given one chance to name your team and if you have a typo or decide the name isn't for you, too bad so sad as they might say.
My starter pack included Robert Meachem, Brady Quinn, Rams uniforms, Jack Del Rio as my coach in Ralph Wilson Stadium with a run balanced playbook and the Jaguars defensive playbook. My highest rated player was a 69, lowest being a 48.
My team has a 63 rating, so I started them off by playing the lowly Chiefs, with a team rating of 69. You are referred to as the "home" team, not the team name you give yourself, at least as far as I can tell. When playing against the AI, it doesn't look like there is a way to play on the road, you are always the home team.
I managed to get 262 coins after the first win. Winning by 20 points gave me 240 coins and holding the opposing offense to under 95 total yards, netted me 22 more. You can adjust the difficulty, sliders, etc. but I'm not sure if this effects the amount of coins you receive or not. I played on default all-pro settings, which seemed a bit easy, but I was playing the Chiefs. Didn't seem to get any coins for a shutout. Brady Quinn went 18 of 20 for 194 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Marcus Robinson, behind a lackluster offensive line had 19 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown, but neither player gave me any points, individually.
The next game, I wanted to play someone a bit tougher, so I played the Colts. Losing in the final seconds as Manning took his team down the field to score the game winning touchdown. This time I only received 183 coins. 165 for losing the game by 3, giving up 247 yards on defense gave me 11 coins and I got a measly 7 coins throwing 3 Quinn touchdown passes.
Just browsing around, as of right now, I'm not seeing anything being offered in the weekly deals, but they do have a tab for constant deals, which is where the contract cards are available. For 100 coins, you can get a gold contract card that gives you 9 bronze, 6 silver, 3 gold and 3 legendary game contract extensions, respectively. There is also a super contract card, offered for 500 coins. This one gives you 21 bronze, 18 silver, 15 gold and 12 legendary game contracts, respectively. Looking at the expired offers, I noticed McNabb was going for 4500 coins.
After playing a few more games, I had enough to buy a bronze pack. Included in the pack were 12 cards, including a couple of cards I already had. None of them had a player rated higher than a 67. I did get an injury recovery and contract extension card though. Moving on, 1500 coins gave me the opportunity to purchase a Silver pack, which included Deion Branch as my highest rated player (76), Mike Singletary (80), as my head coach, the Dolphins defensive playbook and more contract and injury cards. Checking out my roster and changing up a few players, which included 3 Rams players, boosted my team chemistry from 47 to 58, team skill went up a few points.
Onto the Gold packs. Here is where my roster started to really take shape. Jon Beason (92), Clinton Portis (89), Adewale Ogunleye (81), Capers (head coach - 90) and Henning (head coach - 89) all became available in my deck, along with the Giants and Raiders light uniforms. I also noticed I picked up Deion Branch again and added him to my starting lineup. Going into a game, sure enough I had 2 Deion Branches running patterns. Team chemistry and team skill, both went up to 66.
I played a game with the new roster and lost to the Dolphins by four. This netted me 41 coins, rushing for 132 yards, only netted me 1 coin and another coin for good measure for giving up 270 yards on defense, for a whopping 43 coins for that game.
Platinum Packs is where it's at, if you have the time to play that many games or have the money to purchase them. Purchasing a pack of these gave me a 95 rated Olin Kreutz (C), 90 rated Shawn Rogers (DT), and 90 rated Laveranues Coles (WR) all in their prime. Also scooped up Bob Sanders (95), Osi (94), Hines Ward (89) and quite a few other 89-92 rated players.
By the way, it costs a coin (at the least, depending on the options you set) to add someone to the auction block. When placing them there, you can have them available for a maximum of 3 days, set your starting price and a buy it now price.
Tinkering around with your roster will take time and patience. I've stacked it fairly well and my team skill is 81 while my team chemistry has dipped to a 55.
Madden Ultimate Team is a free add-on to Madden NFL 10. Keep an eye out for it in January.