UEFA Euro 2012 review: FIFA ditches the discs - and much of the content
24th Apr 2012 | 08:00
The prudent question for sports fans is always the same: "Why don't they just make next year's instalment DLC?" Or: "Why not charge a few quid for a roster update". A naive stance, maybe - name a single company that'll ask for less money when it could get more - but you can't say it's not a sensible one.
Rather than committing the game to a million discs and trying to convince us all this year's increment is worth the plunge, why not put out a smaller, cheaper download? While EA's yearly sporting behemoths certainly aren't disappearing into the ether just yet, their biennial tournament tie-in's just might.
With UEFA Euro 2012, a quick and easy XBLA/PSN download means you can play it on your sticky-fingered FIFA 12 disc, accessed through the menu bar. No constant CD swapping or popping by Gamestation to trade your outdated sports game for Skittles and toenail clippings. It's blissfully convenient - a smart precedent and promising toe-dip in the future pool.
That is until your realise just how shallow the pool is.
EA has cut the price, but it's also cut content. For one, the gameplay hasn't been touched. It might be the same brilliant FIFA that we awarded a monster 9.3 to, with tactical defending, unique personalities and the much-vaunted Impact Engine, but it's FIFA all the same. If you've spent the last seven months together, it could all start to feel a little old hat, a little quickly.
Not even well-worn niggles have been ironed out. For example, for throw-ins players still clumsily shin the ball away before reaching down like a toddler to paw at its shadow, and occasionally limbs bend and splice to remind the developers they haven't mastered physics just yet.
It's less an expansion, more of a reskin, eight new stadiums, 53 teams and a coat of paint the selling point. There's little life after the final whistles blows, especially when you can already make your own international tournaments in FIFA 12. This is an indulgence, with three new modes not enough to justify the price.
The headliner is, of course, the officially licensed tournament itself, complete with branded hoo-ha and sponsored pageantry. The groups have all been set and squads contain all the real world players heading to Poland and Ukraine, meaning you can exactly mirror the action in deepest, darkest Europe.
Contextual commentary spices up play ("Rooney's set to win the Golden Boot, but he's just missed a sitter!"). However, all those different stadia, updated kits and real world relevance just don't justify the initial price tag - or should you shell out for it, repeated plays. You'll probably boss the tournament with England then go back to feebly tempting Messi over to Watford in FIFA 12's cosy career.
That is, unless you get embroiled in the only mode here with any depth: Expedition.
It's a fantasy romp around Europe, beating teams, taking their players as prisoners of war and eventually establishing a team of superstars. It's FIFA Street on a continental scale, each win opening routes to countries you've never heard of. You'll start by picking a player as captain - your created Pro will do - and then designing crests, kits, and a team name that strikes fear into the hearts of men. The rest of your ranks are swelled by random no-names; win one match and the defeated will offer their reserves as spoils, win another and you'll get someone off their bench, and win a third time for a member of their starting 11.
With 53 teams in total, and three matches each necessary to win players that won't trip over their own feet, there's a lot of game here. Once again, though, matches themselves are still FIFA 12 at their core. It's also ineffective as a dream-team-builder - seeing as each player you receive is random, you're limited to Europeans, and it takes so damn long to assemble even a halfway decent squad.
The last hope lies in multiplayer, allowing 16 players to compete in an online Euro 2012 tournament (a nice touch) and offering a bread and butter scenario mode which EA promises to bolster with a downloadable stream of mid-match objectives post-launch.
What we played of FIFA 12's multiplayer is near perfect, so by default this is too - seeing as it's pretty much the exact same game swanning about in new tournament livery. Computer-controlled footballers still frustrate with ludicrously accurate passes and an annoying and uncanny knack of fleeing back to their own goal when the pressure mounts, but fortunately human opponents make human mistakes.
When you're playing against real life people, skill moves actually work, for one, and the ability to beat your marker (a feat that's almost impossible against a cautious AI that backs off and backs off and hardly ever jumps in) completely changes the way the matches feel and play.
The good news is you have the choice of partaking in friendlies both split-screen and online, as well as the aforementioned 16-player official tournament. But the novelty of a competition that contains nothing but all-Euro teams wears thin pretty quickly, and you'll soon find yourself going back to FIFA 12's more extensive multiplayer modes and larger team list. It's not bad if you want to relive the games from Euro 2012 as they happen, but we'd imagine you'll be hard pushed to find a game online once it's finished.
And that's just the problem with Euro 2012: there's little to justify playing it ahead of FIFA 12, other than to coincide with three weeks of Euro footy fever over the summer.