In previous years, EA has used its biennial tournament games to introduce new gameplay tweaks and test out certain developments to their core FIFA franchise. They’ve bundled it up and sold it as a full game. This year, they’re treading a different path. The UEFA 2012 content is being sold as DLC for the existing FIFA 12 game. It’s still a premium price, for DLC at least, but it is significantly less expensive than a new disc-based game would be, provided you already own FIFA 12, of course.
The download is around 650Mb, it varies slightly depending on your platform. The price is 1800MSP or £15.99 on PSN. So it’s expensive on the stores but less than a budget range retail title, although judging from the increase in sales that FIFA 12 received after this DLC was announced, it has led some to pick up that game in anticipation of this expansion.
The problem with this new method of distributing the game is that corners appear to have been cut. Presumably there was pressure to keep the price down because of the nature of distribution and that has resulted in a game which doesn’t feel complete. Several of the lower-ranked nation’s squads consist of made up players – most notable for our readership is probably the absence of the real Wales squad but plenty more are incorrect (of 53 squads in this expansion only 29 are licensed). Realistic kits are usually something FIFA games are known for but plenty of those are generic – and often poorly constructed – approximations of the real thing.
There is no qualification campaign. The Euro 2012 mode features the teams that qualified by default, although you can randomise a selection or replace teams at will, and you play through it either against the AI or against online human opposition. This mode is solid enough, with the real stadiums and squads all present. The ability to play the entire tournament online is smart and although it’s all a bit obvious, it packages everything up as you’d expect and presents an enjoyable way to play.
The stadiums all come with different cameras so in some you’ll feel almost like you’re in the dugout and in others you’ll view the action like an away fan at the Nou Camp. You can, of course, change the camera to the usual angles but little touches like this add to the realism and give each stadium that little bit of post-introduction-sequence variation.
There’s a Challenges option that gives you a new challenge, only active for a set period of time, with which you can earn big XP bonuses for your level. At the time of writing, this was Spain vs Czech Republic when Spain were 1-0 down with half an hour to go. Your task is to meet the requirements of the challenge – in this case, to score twice and win the game. The higher difficulty setting you select, the more XP you’ll win.
The Expedition mode is the most innovative and interesting. You select a captain and then you’re given a randomised team of reserve players with which to tour Europe. You’ll have to beat a team in order to unlock a road to travel to another country and take on their team. You can beat a team three times, unlocking a player from their reserves the first time you beat them, their substitutes the second time and finally, a first team player. Players are awarded, rather than selected so it’s slightly restrictive but you can choose which of your squad to swap for them. The idea is that over the course of many games against varied opposition, you’ll explore European football and assemble a multi-national team of stars.
Commentary has been revamped slightly too, with the abysmal pairing of Townsend and Tyldesley back on the microphones. There are new phrases and stories of European exploits to hear but most of it uses phrases like “this team” in order to avoid having to record for too long – another corner cut that is painfully apparent in every match. If you’re a fan of this commentary duo, and I think it’s only the bosses at EA and ITV that are, then you’ll be happy enough with their delivery but otherwise, it’s worth turning them off altogether after the first few matches. I also found several instances of incredibly bad mixing in the commentary where Tyldesley would be mumbling along before suddenly booming a single line of dialogue much louder than his preceeding and ensuing speech had been. In fact, the crowd noise is also often subject to sharp and unnatural spikes and dips in volume.
It’s not a bad package and it’s difficult to argue with the way it is being delivered this year but the efforts to keep the cost down have hampered the game in a number of ways that make it feel like a slightly unfinished product.
- Expedition mode is innovative and interesting.
- Challenges keep you up to date with the tournament.
- Play the full tournament online.
- Silly made up player names and ugly fake kits for some squads.
- Lazy commentary with characterless delivery.
- Poor audio mixing in general.
- No qualification campaign.
UEFA 2012 is what many of us have been asking for since DLC became a major part of console gaming. Unfortunately, the desire to deliver it as an expansion, rather than a unique product has meant that corners have been cut. While that has made the end product less expensive than in previous instances, it still appears quite costly when measured against other items on the relevant stores. Trials Evolution is cheaper on XBLA, PSN users could get Journey and keep plenty of change. Both of those options, while not directly comparable, are potentially much more enticing value propositions.