Anyone who’s reading this will already be well aware that this year’s officially licensed UEFA EURO 2012 tournament offering is paid DLC rather than a full blown retail release. Only time will tell whether that turns out to be a good move, but we can tell you exactly what it’s like right now.
The DLC is split into five sections. The tournament itself, Euro 2012 specific challenges, Kick Off, Online and the all new Expedition mode. As with FIFA Street and our later FIFA 12 playtests we weren’t able to get online, so we won’t be able to comment on that. The same goes for challenges, although they’re unlikely to be live given the fact that the tournament hasn’t started.
Euro 2012 Tournament
Much has been said about the decision not to include the qualifying stages in Euro 2012, with producer Sebastian Enrique stating that they looked at the metrics and decided to leave it out because based on Euro 08 and WC2010 data, they saw that many people skipped straight passed them. It’s a massive shame that they’ve done this as funnily enough, the tournament itself is the best bit of the DLC and being able to progress through the qualification stages to extend that experience would have been most welcome. Instead you’re left with just six matches to play to lift the trophy which you can blast through pretty quickly and although the presentation is superb, there isn’t much of a draw to play through it more than a couple of times.
The tournaments homepage is similar to a stripped down Career Mode homepage and much like World Cup 2010 too, with team management and statistics options available on the left and the ability to cycle through the current group standing on the right. In the middle you’ll see your next available fixture and the news panel, which will display things like suspensions or reactions to results, at the bottom. One really nice touch is the simulation of fixtures played before your next match, meaning you can quickly keep up with other teams progress in the tournament without having to dig back into the statistics menu. All the fixtures are scheduled for the correct dates and times and the match conditions reflect that.
On the pitch everything is very much FIFA 12, but the match atmosphere has been nailed and you really feel like you’re participating in something big. The new commentary in particular stands out, with frequent references to happenings elsewhere in the tournament as well as progress in the golden boot, previous games and so on. Going into the Euro 2012 Final Rooney and Bent were tied with three goals each and when Bent scored, Tyler noted that he was now ahead of his team mate in the chase for the Golden Boot. Hopefully we’ll see more depth like this continue to leak into Career Mode as time moves forward, as such small touches do wonders for the games authenticity.
The stadiums themselves are again, top notch. The advertising and official branding have been plastered on with a spade and although it can look a little busy at times, I fully expect the tournament itself to look this way too. The trophy celebration will disappoint many and I’d have expected some change here, but sadly there isn’t. It IS basically just FIFA 12 reskinned for the tournament, with new stadiums, commentary and updated kits, but that said I’m very much looking forward to loading it up again once the tournament starts. EA have managed to capture the magic of international tournaments in these six matches and I can imagine it’ll only be more enjoyable once the tournament starts proper.
Expedition mode makes up the bulk of the DLC and it’s certainly the part which is going to demand the most time investment should you attempt to finish it. The concept is somewhere between Ultimate Team without the control and the winning players model we saw introduced in FIFA Streets World Tour. You start with a poor team and you tour Europe playing matches to make it better, fairly straightforward really, but it’s a bit of a mess.
Your captain can either be your Virtual Pro or a player of your choosing and once they’re confirmed you then need to select the rest of your squad. You’ll be given a mash-up of players rated roughly 49-59 (in our experience) from various nations which you can refresh as many times as you like, but it probably won’t make a blind bit of difference.
The team customisation options are pretty thorough, with plenty of options to modify your kits, badges and so on, much like FIFA Street but without the option to unlock others further down the line. You can revisit these options and make changes at any time should you fancy it.
Nations are sorted by their qualifying groups, so once you’ve selected a starting point you begin by playing the teams that didn’t qualify (I could be wrong about that, but it certainly seemed that way, you need to play the lesser teams in the group before the better ones unlock). Beating nations gifts you one of their players, the first time you beat them you’re awarded a reserve player, the second time a substitute and the third time a first team player. You don’t get any control over which player you get, but you can choose to reject them if you wish. The problem with this is that you might be looking to strengthen up at the back, but if you keep getting rewarded with strikers the idea of designing your own team goes out the window. The possibility of hunting out the better players just by playing against better teams isn’t available to you either because you need to beat the smaller nations to unlock the bigger nations.
Winning matches also allows you to build roads to other nations. You can’t play a team until you’ve built a road between them and somewhere else that you also have unlocked so usually you’ll be given the option at the end of a match to pick which path you want to open. It doesn’t always work however as sometimes you’re only given one road to open (which in my case was one I’d already opened, even though there were other locked paths within that group). If you lose a game then the road to that country is destroyed and you’ll need to revisit other nations and beat them to unlock it again. Every win (up to a total of three against each country) will unlock a photo from the tournaments history. Each photo counts as a piece of a mosaic you’re slowly building as you progress through the Expedition which I guess is the goal of the mode – to complete the mosaic. How likely that is though I’m not sure as there are a total of 180 pieces to collect.
Given that it’s the largest part of the Euro 2012 DLC, it’s a shame that Expedition Mode is so convoluted and drawn out. To make any sort of progress you’re looking at a huge number of matches (150+) and at the end of it, all you’ll have is a mosaic and a hodge podge team that you’ve had little to do with sculpting beyond choosing the teams to play against. I’d have been happier if it had been left out and the DLC was cheaper. Sounds harsh but I really didn’t get the concept at all. Maybe it’s just me.
The overall presentation is fantastic and completely faithful to the Euro 2012 branding. The tournament itself was hugely fun to play through even with the real deal being so far off and the prospect of frequent challenges being made available throughout make this a good piece of DLC for FIFA 12 which I will certainly be buying. Expedition Mode feels like a massive swing and a miss, although it’s entirely possible that some people will enjoy it. The balance between investment and reward just seems completely off to me. Overall though, UEFA Euro 2012 is definitely worth a look.