Before we get into the meat of a review that may, we might as well warn you, be more negative than you’d expect, we have to say that we fully applaud EA for releasing its bi-annual licensed international tournament game as an add-on for the superb FIFA 12, rather than a stand-alone game.
Too often the FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro games are simply slightly modified versions of the same game engine with new fancy graphics and fewer features. Not so here, this downloadable content is a reward for die-hard FIFA 12 fans. Of sorts.
Great engine, good looks
Superficially, it ticks the right boxes. For starters, as DLC, it uses the best football game engine out there, one that we proclaimed as, “the closest that a bunch of pixels, polygons and, in effect, spreadsheets can get to emulating a real, bone fide football match than we've ever been treated to before”, in our review in September last year.
It also adds some nice new flourishes to graphical presentation, in its rendered stadiums, camera angles and user interface. There are some interesting new modes too, including a career-like expedition mode and challenges that allow you to replay some key moments from tournaments past.
However, it also carries a big bag-for-life full to the brim with caveats, some of which are merely annoying, others inexcusable.
Glitchy and sometimes unlicensed
Minor problems, such as the occasional glitch, the inability to choose your own squad from a larger roster of players - you’re stuck with whatever squad is current, downloaded as and when necessary - and the omission of qualification rounds can be overlooked. But, the fact that 24 of the 53 playable teams remain unlicensed - including one of the actual hosts, Ukraine - is shocking.
For those countries that aren’t covered by EA’s existing FIFPro licence, or signed up individually, made-up player names and approximated kits replace the real-world versions. It makes for a very odd “officially licensed” UEFA Euro 2012 experience when just under half of the content is gobbledygook. If it wasn’t for the feeling that your game isn’t complete without the DLC, you may as well create a roughly similar tournament in FIFA 12 and save yourself some dosh.
Online mode is simple, but more realistic
That said, there are some other aspects that bring things back up a notch or two. Its online mode, for example, allows you to compete in the tournament as you would normally, but with real-life opponents. It’s basic, allowing you to play only against random foes and not your chums through party or the like, but adds a variety in game play styles that you’d never get through AI.
Expedition mode too is an interesting addition – a bit like the latest FIFA Street in a way. You start out with a created team full of unknowns and grow it into a squad of international superstars by nicking players from vanquished nations. It’s odd (and difficult) playing as what is essentially a pub team and taking on Spain, Germany and Italy, but at least it allows you to start with your Virtual Pro (from FIFA 12) as the captain.
The challenges too, while not exactly unique, are interesting enough for you to come back for more, and you’ll definitely want to play through the single-player tournament with different teams to give yourself a test. So there’s definitely replay value in UEFA Euro 2012, if not a fully fleshed-out game in its own right.
And thar’s the rub. What we most like about UEFA Euro 2012 - the fact that its DLC and not a £50 game you’ll only play for the duration of the tournament itself - is also one of its biggest failings. Electronic Arts hasn’t put enough effort into putting meat on its bones. It feels distinctly undernourished.
In gameplay terms, it’s superb. It is, after all, FIFA 12 with a lick of paint, and that will probably be enough for most. We can’t hide our dismay about the lack of licensed teams, but as any PES player knows, you soon learn to look beyond it. And the stadiums and overall presentation levels are excellent.
You’d expect more for your £16 - especially if you consider that there are those who may feel compelled to buy FIFA 12 itself first, which is still roughly £30 in many places – but ask a Tiger Woods fan about DLC charges and you’d realise that this particular add-on is relatively cheap.
We’re also willing to bet that it’s a darn sight cheaper than a ticket to the tournament itself.