The remarkable success enjoyed by EA Sports and its FIFA franchise has made it virtually untouchable at the top of the football gaming market – with Konami slipping behind with PES and eFootball offerings – but a new rival is entering the fray as Strikerz Inc prepares to deliver Ultimate Football League (UFL).
Due to be released at some point in 2022, UFL is set to compete for a slice of a lucrative virtual pie when the free-to-play simulator is made available on PlayStation and Xbox consoles to supporters all over the world.
It is not the first to challenge the established elite, and probably will not be the last, but how does UFL shape up when compared to the global phenomenon that is FIFA? GOAL takes a look...
How does UFL gameplay compare to FIFA?
UFL dropped an exclusive gameplay reveal trailer on January 27, offering interested observers an insight into what to expect from the game.
Unsurprisingly, given how long it has been around and the money spent on fine tuning a market-leading product, EA Sports appears to have the upper hand when it comes to gameplay.
Through-balls and general passing details are more refined on FIFA, while dribbling motions on UFL appear slightly more robotic, but Strikerz Inc should be applauded for its short passing mechanisms and more realistic goalkeeper animations.
There is not much to choose between the two games when it comes to graphics, with impressive facial detailing implemented by both, but FIFA does go into greater overall depth.
For example, UFL has made players more generic from the neck down, whereas FIFA goes out of its way to ensure that individual quirks such as Luis Suarez’s wrist tape, Roberto Firmino’s tattoos and Jack Grealish’s low socks are included in its annual offerings.
It is also impossible to ignore the fact that, while being free-to-play, UFL lacks the sponsors of real-life kits that would make the overall experience more authentic.
How do UFL game modes compare to FIFA?
Given the success of FIFA Ultimate Team, UFL was always going to look at putting its own spin on that mode.
Player card designs are not as elaborate as they are on FIFA 22, for example, but the concept will feel familiar to gamers and will be a minor sticking point.
The main difference when it comes to UFL’s version of FUT is that it also combines some elements of Career Mode, with player development included alongside the basics of creating a club and acquiring players with in-game currency.
As well as the usual co-op and offline modes, UFL is also looking to offer more team-based ranking options, with there a hint of Football Manager about the way in which teams are managed and developed.
That is intended to deliver a “fair matchmaking system”, with Strikerz seeking to offer long-term benefits to gamers that remain loyal to the brand.
Company CEO Eugene Nashilov told IGN: “You will manage your club, form a roster, develop tactics and compete with other gamers in seasons to prove your skills and climb to the very top of the league. Competitive, fair gaming is at the very core of UFL’s gameplay. In this competition, your victory depends solely on your gaming skills and the choices you make.
“This is one of our core principles, essential for everything we do. We believe that our players’ success should not depend on the number of in-game purchases or the value of donations they make, but on their gaming skills, experience and mastery. You will never be obligated to purchase anything in UFL to achieve high ranks and remain competitive.”
Strikerz has promised that there will be no sequel to UFL, meaning that – unlike FIFA that is regurgitated every autumn – players will not see their teams wiped on a yearly basis and any trophies or rewards will be retained over time in “seamless and persistent gameplay”.
How do UFL licenses compare to FIFA?
United Football League has a deal in place with FIFPro, just like FIFA does, meaning that many household names will figure prominently in the game.
A statement from Strikerz Inc reads: “In UFL, players will be able to create their own football clubs made up of more than 5000 licensed footballers and compete with other gamers worldwide to prove their skills and climb to the very top of the league.”
A number of high-profile players and clubs have also signed up to partner with Strikerz Inc – including Liverpool forward Firmino, Manchester City pair Oleksandr Zinchenko and Kevin De Bruyne, Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku and Manchester United superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.
West Ham, Monaco, Celtic, Rangers, Sporting, Besiktas, Shakhtar Donetsk and Borussia Monchengladbach have all been announced as licensed teams.
Strikerz CEO Eugene Nashilov has said of how partners will play an important role in the game’s development: “With UFL, we’re building an ecosystem unique in sports video gaming. We are planning to hold special events featuring our ambassadors and partner clubs — a hybrid of on and offline activities.”