You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. That is probably what Electronic Arts think no matter how they handle their various sporting game franchises. Everyone loves Fifa 12, a game which is quite simply the finest football game currently available. Some may argue still available copies of Sensible Soccer or Striker beat it hands down, but in terms of providing real football in an interactive form there’s no question. Anyway, digression aside, everyone wants to be able to drive their chosen team to glory in this year’s most important international tournament, UEFA’s European Championship 2012 in Polkraine. Historically EA have released a separate standalone game to deliver against this expectation and demand. Forty pounds would get you a Fifa +; that year’s main release with some upgrades which will not otherwise be seen until the future iterations of the main event. Of course, in addition you got the razzmatazz of the tournament, some funky cutscenes and game modes. But really, was it worth forty pounds? EA have, for this reason at least in part, made a change. Now UEFA Euro 2012 is shared as downloadable content. It’s sixteen pounds.
UEFA Euro 2012 is the same football game as Fifa 12. There are no new mechanics, no additions indicating where the series is headed. So what you’re getting is the nice dressing of the game in Polkraine’s colours and designs (or, at least, EA’s version of them) and some new game modes. In fact, given it’s DLC UEFA Euro 2012 exists as an extra menu option in the front end of Fifa 12. The game plays very well and it’s nice not to have the poorly executed halfway-house that we sometimes used to get in tournament years when changes were implemented before they were properly executed in the next edition of the main game. Tactical defending and all that we love about the latest version is here. Fundamentally it’s the same game. This is important to note.
The headline reason for getting hold of this is to play in the UEFA Euro 2012 competition. You get some very pretty flower type design to make the menus look different and whilst it was a big turnoff for me - a little too close to comic sans in terms of the font - it makes a nice change from the dreary front end we have been seeing for many years now - although it is the same front end, just slightly snazzier. The tournament plays out similarly to career mode in the main game; you have a news hub whilst the competition is progressing which tells you about upcoming games, provides statistics and talks about your previous matches. It shows the tournament tree once you get to the knock-out and it all works very well. You can even play a multiplayer tournament, obviously, which is more fun in co-op mode local or otherwise, than in opposition given this allows all to progress rather than a need to flip-flop between teams as the superior player / team knocks-out the other. The biggest issue with this is that the Fifa front end is so long in the tooth and really quite cumbersome and counter-intuitive (for example why does the save system use the PlayStation’s own system meaning you’re taken out of and back into the game constantly?) meaning you always feel like you’re in slow motion or running uphill through treacle as you try and move from day to day and game to game. It needs a complete overhaul. Whilst this is reality, at least folks are familiar with it and so nothing will surprise you with the UEFA Euro 2012 content.
There is of course more content here to try and ensure there is more than a superficial reason for buying the downloadable add-on. Challenge mode is a chance to try out various scenarios and will be familiar to players as Football Club mode in Fifa 12. For example, Italy versus Slovenia in September 2011, a real game, provides the chance to defend a free-kick as Italy and go on to win the match. As happened in real-life. The expectation is that as the tournament goes on EA will swiftly generate new challenges to mirror real-life. This is terribly exciting as pretty much every football follower must have - at some point in their lives - watched a match then immediately ran outside with some mates to recreate the same goal, or game, or piece of skill. The downside is there will be a natural expiration to this mode in each player’s eye, dictated by the moment their team gets knocked out.
Expedition is the meatiest mode available though. You start by selecting a Captain from any of the players in the entire UEFA Euro 2012 squad listings (Ronaldo will probably be most common given the absence of Lionel Messi!). Give your team a name, a crest and a novel kit design then sort out your starting squad and formation before embarking on the great expedition. The expedition sees you play teams in Europe. You play them until you win three times. The first win gets you a reserve player, win number two rewards you with a sub and the third besting yields a star player. The aim is to build your squad up and up until you have the finest selection of footballing talent around. Similar in style to Ultimate Team Mode this will be the greatest football game mode ever to many whilst others will ignore it entirely. Very much a black and white issue then, with no grey around but people will know already if it’s for them or not. Another point to note is that here’s where you’ll most likely discover that not twenty-four of the fifty-three squads are not real. A disappointment to many when the news broke but then how many would know the Azerbaijan team anyway in addition to that of Spain’s?
This brings us to where we came in. It’s the very best football game. It’s the jazziest looking tournament around. It’s continuously updated with new and exciting challenge scenarios. It allows you to actually win something for England. It even allows you to play from now until the release of Fifa 13 without getting bored if you don’t mind building a supercharged European team from scratch. All for a rather cheap price of just under sixteen pounds. Not a full fat price for what seems a full fat game. The thing is though, it’s not really. It’s a wardrobe for the existing game you have. It’s hard to justify given the game available here is just the same as the game you already have. But that probably doesn’t matter. If you’re even reading this you know you want this new tournament download. I have it and despite the above misgivings I still want it. Ultimately whatever EA do people won’t be remotely happy with the solution yet those who want to get play, will play anyway.