Tournament tie-in games were annoying little bastards. Served up at full price, Fifa’s World Cup and European Cup games have generally been lacking, both in terms of content and worthwhile gameplay additions. Simply put, World Cup 2010 aside, they weren’t worth the money.
Despite that, being the football-mad idiot that I am, I bought all the bloody things anyway. I hate myself for doing so, but I know I’d do it again.
This year is different, though. EA Sports has not given me the chance to hand my money to them in the usual way. Moving away from the boxed product model, the UEFA Euro 2012 tournament is being represented in the virtual world via a DLC addition to Fifa 12.
Finally, says the wallet. Finally, says the brain. Not so sure about this, says the heart.
DLC means new teams, all the visual pomp of the tournament, new commentary and a new game mode. It doesn’t mean testing out new gameplay ideas, for better or for worse. The gameplay is identical to Fifa 12, probably the best football sim ever made, which is great because we know what we’re getting and we know the quality is high.
However, I do miss the experimentation these tournament-specific games would yield. The experimentation that made the aforementioned Fifa World Cup 2010 such a brilliant game and paved the way for many of the gameplay elements seen in future Fifa games.
I know it sounds silly, and I know in the past I’ve attacked the annual release schedule of certain franchises for not offering value for money. And here I am daydreaming about what a mid-year addition to the quintessential annual franchise could have offered. I’m a hypocrite, I admit it, but I would have liked to see what the team are working on in terms of improving the collision detection and implementation of handballs in a way that isn’t so easily exploitable.
Let’s just hope the team are working on those things and concentrate on what we’ve got.
All 53 UEFA nations are included, so if you’re still annoyed and disheartened that Wales, Scotland and/or Kazakhstan failed to qualify for this summer’s finals then you can change all that and attempt to lead them to glory. Of the 53 teams, all pack the official kits of the tournament, the correct players and (by and large) realistic starting line-ups.
(Correction: 29 teams are officially licensed, 24 are not.)
Combine that with all 8 tournament stadiums, menus decked out with the official (and officially tacky) UEFA Euro 2012 branding and new commentary and this is a package that does an admirable job of getting you into the spirit of the competition. By ‘spirit’, of course, I mean it makes you want to beat the Germans at least 3-0 in the knockout rounds.
Aside from the dedicated tournament mode, Expedition is where you’ll probably find yourself spending your time. It’s not a mode that is easily explained; pitched somewhere between board game and RPG.
The goal is to conquer Europe by building a team of the continent’s elite players. You start with either your Fifa 12 virtual pro or a real player of your choosing, with the rest of your team filled with reserve players from Europe’s lesser known footballing nations. Think Azerbaijan, Lithuania, San Marino and Northern Ireland.
Beat a team and you get to pick one of their reserve players to improve your squad, beat them twice to choose a sub, three times for a first teamer. Defeating nations also opens roads to other, more distant, teams which is key to getting the players you really want – Rooney, Ronaldo, Casilles, Xavi et al.
It’s undoubtedly grind heavy, but it’s also addictive; playing perfectly into the self-improvement and hoarding mentality that resides within many (probably, most) of us. However, Expedition is not a mode for those lacking in patience. Losing a match can mean losing a road, meaning you’ll lose the opportunity to play a certain team and gain a certain player. The result is that you’ll have to beat Andorra again before you give Spain another shot.
It’s not always the easiest pill to swallow in this era of ‘I want it all, I want it now’. As a raw concept, though, Expedition is full of potential and will likely make its way to future Fifa titles in some form or other.
So, all in all, the package is a tight but good one. Yes, it’s Fifa 12 with a new lick of paint and an extra mode, but that’s strength as much as a weakness. It’s nice to have new content for one of last’s years best games, but further additions to the gameplay would have been nice.
If you’re a Fifa fan then there’s absolutely no reason not to buy this. The tournament mode will keep you occupied while Euro 2012 is actually happening, and Expedition has the potential to last until Fifa 13. For the price, it’s a bargain.
Let’s hope England fare as well this June.