This year’s UEFA European Championship competition is soon upon us and EA are offering up a companion piece to the event in the form of a downloadable attachment for the fantastic FIFA 12. A solid move on their part to choose a more convenient, less expensive DLC expansion option over the summer retail release stance taken in years prior, some would argue… until you start playing the UEFA Euro 2012 DLC and discover that beneath deceptively intelligent design lies shoddy foundations. Instead of a non-expansive fully fledged retail game we’ve been given a half-assed, pint-sized contemptible downloadable bundle of bull-
…yes, well you get the idea.
FIFA 12’s menu has a new tab to select. If you do purchase UEFA Euro 2012 – which as may already be evident, I definitely do not advocate – and boot up FIFA 12, if you’re lucky you’ll be able to access the game you’ve just spent £15.99 on. On two separate occasions already at the time of writing, I’ve experienced issues with FIFA 12 recognising that I own this DLC expansion. I’ll give the technical difficulties I’ve encountered the benefit of the doubt though, and roll right on with criticising the things that EA have no excuse for.
Let’s start with the content provided: of the 53 teams, only 29 are licensed. In amongst the 24 unlicensed ‘generic’ teams that receive generated players and kits are the likes of Ukraine – one of the tournament’s hosts – and Wales. While EA required individual licensing, it could be considered a major faux pas on their part not acquiring the licensing for one of the hosts: in the standard Euro 2012 tournament mode, it does somewhat take the shine off.
EA did include a fully fledged mode outside of the tournament itself and the routine Kick-Off/Online modes to be expected: the Expedition Mode is a world-roaming style continual competition that sees you play with a created team against the countries in the preliminary groups. Beating countries will gain you access to ‘roads’ that expand your global reach and subsequently give you access to more countries and more matches. If you beat a country once you can take one of their randomly selected reserve players; another two victories against them earn you one of their substitutes and starting XI players respectively. Victory also adds a real, relevant photo to a 180-tile mosaic; losing doesn’t strip you of an earned mosaic piece or player but will close access to another country.
The concept is interesting but it’s one that has the distinct feel of an idea canned from a prior FIFA game, restored from the recycling bin to provide necessary padding to an expansion that needed something substantial. There’s minimal incentive to even traverse the globe in the first place: the game has you create not a country but a team, hands you a platter of distinctly average generated players (potential imported Virtual Pro aside) that won’t all fit neatly into any chosen formation, then tells you to beat other countries and replace your players with stolen ones.
You don’t build any form of attachment to your team like you do with the Career modes on FIFA 12 and FIFA Street and subsequently aren’t truly motivated to globe-trot. My own personal amusement of creating a team to represent the Vatican City was short-lived: after a couple of frustrating scraped wins with a crop of unremarkable players against better countries in one of the now irrelevant groups, I felt no reason to go and get comprehensively schooled by Portugal but was told there was no need to play Cyprus or Iceland again.
It’s not just the Expedition matches that are frustrating: a minimal team management option in the main Expedition hub means you can only properly analyse your players and customise your team tactics right before each game. Tactics created here are saved thankfully, but choosing a formation in the hub will override one chosen in the pre-match settings. You can’t view player statistics in the hub, only their overall rating and default position; those familiar with the FIFA formula will instinctively look to customise their team before choosing kits and game settings. It’s only when you get to Team Management right before kick-off that you’ll find yourself leaving a good player on the bench or playing one out of position. Oh, and injuries don’t mean anything now since each Expedition game resets your team before you play the next one.
Cosmetic changes have been implemented to the surface here that pay credence to the tournament, yet because FIFA’s aesthetic in recent years has been about being ergonomically practical this expansion somewhat takes a step back in terms of functionality and accessibility. Since you have to own FIFA 12 to play Euro 2012, it almost goes without saying that you’ll be comfortably familiar with how to browse the game menus: there’s an acclimatisation period that may linger for too long. In the match component, there’s new Euro 2012-specific commentary that just about does enough to mask the obvious corner-cutting taken during the recording process, along with a new extra pre-kick-off camera angle included that does nothing except add another button press to the filler skipping… and that’s about it, really. The in-game music aside from the Euro 2012 theme is derived from FIFA 12, the game plays exactly the same, the celebrations are the same and there’s no change in the game settings either…
Playing this ham-fisted tie-in expansion after handing over a now contentious entry fee leaves about as bitter a taste in the mouth as helplessly watching your favourite team figuratively fail to show up to a match and crash out of a competition in the first round to a worse side. It’s a mightily bitter pill to swallow; small solace taken is that, true-to-life, this competition is but a distraction from the bigger picture that can and will soon be forgotten.