A brief period of excitement fading to disappointment. No, it’s not the epitaph on the gravestone of another England football campaign, but Lee Hall’s thoughts on EA’s UEFA Euro 2012 DLC for FIFA 12.
Why, though, are there gaps in the licensing which mean, for instance, Wales boast A Rumsey in midfield when his doppelganger Aaron Ramsey is playing for our FIFA Ultimate Team in an Arsenal shirt?
The headline news that EA was to release this content as DLC – as opposed to the full-price tournament games of yesteryear – was certainly welcome. But, while UEFA Euro 2012 is a must for diehards, it is essentially a collection of extras that does little to advance the appeal of the outstanding main game.
Yes, you get to play the UEFA Euro 2012 tournament – in the correct stadia, at the right time and with what we fear is the official anthem blaring in the background.
So far, so EA – official, licensed and slavishly realistic. And no build up to any major tournament would be complete without a virtual chance to predict the outcome. Why, though, are there gaps in the licensing which mean, for instance, Wales boast A Rumsey in midfield when his doppelganger Aaron Ramsey is playing for our FIFA Ultimate Team in an Arsenal shirt?
And what if you want to reshuffle your squad and call up your favourite League Two clogger to do a job on Torres should England meet Spain in the knockout phase? Tough. There’s simply no chance to call up a player.
If that shortcoming makes you feel restricted, the other new mode Expedition is designed to give you a sense of freedom and purpose. In it you mount a quest to conquer footballing nations while navigating a European map, stealing players to add to your own squad with every win.
The prize at the end of 159 victories; three for each of the 53 nations who will give up a reserve, substitute and finally a first-team player in deference to your greatness? You unlock a giant mosaic of photographs showing each football nation in action. Or inaction, in the case of Scotland. Not really worth battering Armenia three times on a rain-sodden pitch for, is it?
The real sin of this mode is that it’s a missed opportunity. There was no real need to create a dressed up fixture list. The Euro qualification process would have been a welcome replacement. Or – given that it was good enough to restore faith in dramatised sporting scenarios – what about something akin to Fight Night’s well-written and compelling story mode?
If you do enjoy a bit of narrative, the DLC’s challenges give you a chance to recreate the real-life drama of some of the defining matches in Euros history. You kick off with a mission to relive Spain’s 2011 comeback from a goal down to win 2-0 against the Czech Republic. You choose the difficulty level and receive just-for-fun experience points on a sliding scale.
So, there are several features here that will enhance your FIFA experience. And, while there’s no fundamental problem with UEFA Euro 2012, this expansion does cost 1800 Microsoft points, or £15.99 if you’re of the PlayStation persuasion. That might sound cheap if you’re an oil baron, or phenomenally expensive if you eat your dinner out of a sock while sheltering under a railway arch, but it’s certainly a wedge of cash. And there’s not a huge amount to justify the outlay.
This DLC is essentially a single-player experience. Though ironically the best bit is the online Euro championship, which is a welcome third way between the uncompromising sudden death of knockout cups or Ultimate Team tournaments and the sometimes pedestrian head-to-head seasons. You enter the tournament at the group stage and play three games with the aim of amassing enough points to advance, facing opponents matched up with you based on their own progression in the competition.
Most of the UEFA Euro 2012 action is solo – which is not ideal given the nature of FIFA. When it comes to head-to-head games such as sports titles the appeal of beating AI when you can outwit a real-life adversary is growing increasingly unappealing. It’s like choosing to have a sly bit of self-gratification when you have a willing partner waiting for you upstairs in the bedroom. Ready to play co-op FIFA, obviously.
It turns out that for all the predominantly justified moaning about editionised games they do have their advantages. Chief amongst them is the fact they can be used to correct irritating gameplay foibles.
That might include subtleties you notice when you’ve put in the hours on FIFA, or the obvious stuff such as AI defenders running away from pressing opponents like they’re being threatened with a taser. As UEFA Euro 2012 is essentially an extra option on your existing game menu there are no such updates – though, in fairness to EA, we were never expecting any.
What we were expecting was sound content delivered neatly. And that’s exactly what’s on offer. Aside from some odd camera behaviour, including defaulting to way too distant or far too close angles, actual mistakes in the game’s build are almost non-existent.
For the tweaks and reskinning it’s pretty much impossible to tell you are playing anything other than main game except for a few extra random camera shots in the build up to matches, the gaudy stylings of the official tournament design team and garbled East European stadium announcements that wouldn’t sound out of place in a prisoner of war camp.
In truth, FIFA 12 is a victim of its own success with this DLC. One of the main game’s key appeals is that out of the box, it comes with so many deep and rich game modes. Therefore, this extra feels more like a ‘nice to have’ than an unmissable expansion.
UEFA Euro 2012 is out now on PSN, PC and Xbox Live Marketplace for 1800 MS points/£15.99. The actual tournament itself kicks off on June 8 in Poland and Ukraine.