All-new FIFA 18 Ultimate Team details: Icon Stories, Squad Battles, and Champions Channel

EA aren’t keeping their cards close to their chest any longer: they’ve released a wave of brand-new info for FIFA 18’s Ultimate Team, including a big change to Icons, transformative tweaks to fan-favourite modes and a litany of extra options to bring you back to FUT again and again for the 17/18 season.

Icon Stories

Having already revealed that Legends have been re-branded to Icons, EA took a bigger step to whetting your pack appetite by announcing that Icons are available in three flavours, titled Icon Stories, each representing a key moment in their career. Take Thierry Henry. Recent uproar over his 90 LW card has been put to rest with news that you can find three Thierry Henry cards in packs: an 87 LW card from the Frenchman’s Monaco, Juventus, and early Arsenal days; a 93 ST from Henry in all of his Arsenal swagger and, finally, the controversial 90 LW card taken from his swansong at Barcelona in 2009. Lev Yashin, Maradona, Pele, OG Ronaldo, Rio Ferdinand, and Ronaldinho also have three cards from their careers, along with the returning Icons. Don’t go spending all of your coins on packs just yet, though. The highest rating of the three available cards for each players – their Prime version – will be available intermittently throughout the year during FUT’s #ThrowbackThursdays

All-new pack openings

Ultimate Team is nothing without its bread and butter, the pack openings. Except EA have replaced the bread with fireworks and the butter with confetti. Yup, pack openings have been turned up to eleven this year. And then some. Big players such as Dele Alli and Cristiano Ronaldo are not only accompanied by blazing explosions and all the pomp and circumstance of a new signing, but also their trademark moves. Ronaldo has his lovingly arrogant ‘Siiii’ celebration and Alli comes with, umm, his wave. It’s a neat touch and makes packing quality players an even bigger occasion than before.

Squad Building Challenges 2.0

Squad Building Challenges have undergone an overhaul too. Last year’s fresh, utterly addictive addition now includes ‘Brick’ cards. Put simply, they’re an extra layer of devilish depth to keep your scratching your heads. Bricks act as generic placeholder cards of certain clubs and countries to build around. An Argentinian midfield card, for example, will be crying out for a Di Maria or Messi to link to. They’ve even given us a ‘clear squad’ feature, which removes the frustration of having to shuffle and remove every player manually.

First confirmed One to Watch cards

Also returning this year are Ones to Watch cards. For the uninitiated, any top players who have moved clubs in the transfer windows get their own special cards to be upgraded should they have a great gameweek and make the In Form Team Of The Week. The first five OTW cards confirmed this year are Alexandre Lacazette, Douglas Costa, Romelu Lukaku, Leonardo Bonucci and James Rodriguez. You can even deck your team out in the new threads of the swanky One To Watch kits.

Bye-bye Manager Tasks, hello Objectives

Struggling to motivate yourself to play another Seasons game in FIFA 17? EA hear you and have removed Manager Tasks and replaced them with Objectives, a multi-faceted list of daily and weekly tasks to keep things ticking over. Even if you’re suffering defeat and defeat, FUT 18 provides many, many chances to be rewarded, perhaps even offering a greater incentive to play with silver and bronze teams – a part of the mode sadly made practically useless in previous years.

Squad Battles

For those with a single-player bent, Squad Battles will be your new go-to game mode. Every week, new squads will be available to face off against but – here’s the kicker – the XI you come up against will be created by players from the FUT community and handpicked by the EA team. What frustrating controller-crushing concoctions will FIFA players come up with? Only time will tell…

Champions Channel

Finally, if you’re pining to see the world’s best do their thing on FUT then there’s also Champions Channel. Highlights and games from FUT’s Weekend League will be available on-demand, all lined up and ready to watch in curated packages. You can take notes, nod approvingly or, if you’re like me, cry that you’ll never ever be quite that good.

Images: EA

Bradley Russell

I'm the Senior Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.