Platforms: PC | PS3 | Xbox 360 (reviewed)
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports
The nature of sports games, with annual seasons, transfer updates, and the quest for better and more brilliant ways to capture the various games that captivate crowds around the globe, is one of an iterative nature. These are games that release every twelve months, with fresh new rosters, fresh new features (hopefully), and a fresh coat of paint. Of course, when special events roll around, we've seen that yearly trend bucked, with full games released mid-season.
Such happenings have been somewhat controversial in the past, with specific games and full releases for the European Championships and World Cups dating back over two decades. More often than not, changes seemed almost entirely cosmetic, and detractors cried foul for being made to pay full price for what seemed like little more than a makeover.
But we should perhaps be careful what we wish for.
UEFA Euro 2012 presents us, for the first time, with an entirely digital answer to the whole debate. This year, the price tag has been slashed in half (down to £15.99/1800 MSP), with the new content packaged as an expansion pack for FIFA 12, and distributed over the Net.
A snazzy little intro video welcomes into the new game where we find a colourful custom-built menu, along with a handful of new game modes. The titular Euro 2012 mode itself is little more than a jazzed-up tournament, with precious little pomp and circumstance to separate itself from your average FIFA 12 affair. You can take it online and work your way to the final against human opponents, but once that's done you'll swiftly return to the head-to-head leagues that stole your evenings and weekends beforehand.
It's a shame really; with 2010 FIFA World Cup you could tell what the game was about every time the pre-match screens loaded up. For all of the criticisms that could be levelled at the cash-in, a lack of presentation wasn't one of them. Sadly that can't be said for this bundle. Although Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend have recorded some new commentary for this expansion, giving rise to welcome anecdotes, and fact and figures from tournaments past, the sense of occasion isn't really reflected in the stands, nor on the pitch.
This being a FIFA 12 expansion, there are no tweaks to the game engine whatsoever, which is no bad thing necessarily. But those who enjoyed picking up these tournament-specific games in the past, eager to get a little preview of gameplay upgrades in progress, might be left disappointed. Whereas the likes of 2010's World Cup effort saw changes to the AI, and slight tweaks of the passing mechanics, the on-field action will remain the same for this title.
Still, that's no bad thing. What is slightly less impressive is that in spite of all 53 UEFA teams being represented here, only 29 of those teams are fully licensed. The fact that co-host nation Ukraine isn't properly reflected in the official game of the tournament is somewhat unforgivable. Moreover, considering the effort undertaken to put these 53 teams into the game, it's somewhat inexplicable that there's no option to play through the qualifying rounds, particularly considering the rather frugal nature of the tournament mode itself.
The lack of content is somewhat addressed, though, by the arrival of a new game mode: Expedition. Taking place on a map of Europe, a little like the World Tour mode in FIFA Street, you begin by nominating a captain for your team from any of the 53 squads available (or your Virtual Pro), and are then given a battalion of reserve team misfits to start off with.
From there, you pick a group of European teams - the groups being made up of nations with teams of varying abilities - and begin your march across Europe. Each nation you beat will yield rewards. Beat a nation once and you'll be gifted with a random reserve player. Twice, and you'll get a substitute. Three times, and you can trade for a starting squad member from that nation. Victories will also bring roads that can connect to further nations, opening up new adversaries, and new recruitment opportunities. There are also pieces of a mosaic to unlock along the way, with three chunks for each team.
It's relatively straightforward stuff, which actually turns out to be a bit of a shame. The framework is there for an ambitious singleplayer mode, but sadly, although Expedition brings a few nice ideas with it, and is marginally more engaging than FIFA 12's career mode, it's far less engrossing than FIFA Street's World Tour, and offers fewer rewards for greater grind. Additionally, the more casual game came up with the brilliant idea of allowing you to play these matches out online, something that Euro 2012 could have at least considered.
The way you construct your team is more down to luck than anything else too. You don't get to choose the player that is offered to your growing squad, and at the start it's not uncommon to receive offerings that actually pale in comparison to your existing team of underwhelming minnows as you source players from the likes of Moldova and San Marino. Having to play teams three times just to get a whiff of an international-quality player quickly becomes repetitive, with the entire structure pointing towards something of a rush job.
At 1800 Microsoft Points, Euro 2012 is one of the most expensive pieces of DLC we've ever bought. In fact, you can buy the full FIFA 12 experience for just a few quid more these days. But what you're essentially paying for with this is Expedition. There's precious little here that couldn't just have been integrated directly into FIFA 12. The fact of the matter is that the menu screen and a few lines of dialogue are the only things that separate the tournament mode out from simply designing your own in FIFA 12 itself.
By presenting itself as DLC, the FIFA 12 engine is a given, and it's still a lot of fun. But by making it so that you have to own FIFA 12 in order to play this half-hearted, half-licensed, half-baked expansion, EA Sports have shut the door to impulse purchasers, pumped on the spirit of the competition. No one in their right mind will buy FIFA 12 just for this, and those that already own the game will find far better services there than this paltry offering.
The best part of Euro 2012 is the challenges that pop up, recreating old conflicts from tournaments past, and delivering headline content when the tournament kicks off. But this is all done via the same Football Club service that exists in the main game already, and could surely have been better integrated there, and at a lower price too. Alternatively, why couldn't the challenges have been integrated into the Expedition mode? It would have provided much greater variety, rather than slogging through the same matches time and time again.
Thus, when it comes to giving a final verdict on this expansion, it's important to judge Euro 2012 solely on its content. Sadly, for over £15, there's just not enough here to recommend at all. This game, perhaps even more so than the full releases that came before, underlines the cash-in nature of these tournament spin-offs, and it's difficult not to feel, even though we've arguably received what we asked for, that we're not just being ripped off in a new way.
- The fact it's DLC is something
- FIFA 12 is still pretty great
- All 53 UEFA teams represented
- ...sort of
- Not much additional content
- What is there could be significantly better
The Short Version: It's nice to see EA releasing content like this as DLC rather than a fully priced game, but somehow it still feels like something of a rip-off. With few presentational touches, half-hearted licensing, and uninspired or half-baked game modes, it's frankly difficult to recommend Euro 2012 to anyone but die hard fans. And even they could buy Fez twice over and have some money left to spend on some worthier indie games.