In all the hubbub about the Olympics, it's easy to forget that a major football tournament is just a few weeks away. In any other year, Euro 2012 would be dominating the TV advertising world and splashed over both covers of every red top in the country. As it is, though, we've got a national team with no manager and seemingly no hope of achieving anything, and absolutely no-one seems to care.
EA still believes, but perhaps not quite as much as in previous years. We've been used to tournament tie-ins being their own boxed product, and despite the rampant cynicism that usually accompanies these releases, ardent FIFA nuts know these off-season titles are where the development team tries out new ideas and tinkers with features that could make it into the next 'proper' version.
UEFA Euro 2012, though, is nothing more than a DLC pack for FIFA 12, and offers absolutely zero gameplay improvements. That's not a horrendous crime - FIFA 12 is a competent footie sim after all, but it's difficult not to feel a pang of disappointment. World Cup 2010 was such a joyous package - a beautifully presented combination of South African festivities and clever gameplay tweaks that, at the time, made it the best football game around.
This feels much less emphatic, although obviously it's a hell of a lot cheaper. While the gameplay remains untouched this effort is still a lovingly produced, bringing all the stadia, teams and kits from Euro 2012, new themed menus and commentary, a slick official tournament mode and the utterly bizarre but strangely compelling newcomer: Expedition.
It's a real oddball, this one. Essentially it's a fantasy team builder, but once you've been assigned your random collection of no-hopers and selected a home nation, you go to war with neighbouring countries in Europe. Beat them and you can take one of their players. Keep winning, and you'll open up 'roads' to distant nations, challenging countries from further afield until you conquer the continent.
Expedition is the workings of madmen, surely. It's as if Alexander the Great suddenly got seriously obsessed with Panini stickers. But it's far from bad; what a great way to justify playing against the CPU. It beats manager mode in FIFA 12 hands down, and it's utterly daft throughout, so I found building an international army surprisingly compelling.
Of course, with this actually being FIFA 12 in a new coat of paint, some of that game's hangovers remain. There are still amusing physics issues - which I see as far more of a bonus than a problem - but the niggles with tactical defending are still frustrating. While the ambition and concept is hard to fault, FIFA 12's tactical defending doesn't take into account the fact that you control eleven men in a football game and not just one. It's less of a bugbear against human opposition, but the CPU can dance around your defence like Stavros Flatley circumnavigating a kebab shop queue, and it's bloody annoying.
Nevertheless, FIFA 12 is still the best football game around; beautifully animated (when the players aren't humping each other), incredibly detailed and capable of making you jump out of your chair like an idiot from a bad sofa advert. UEFA Euro 2012 is a thoroughly decent piece of DLC, and even if it does make me yearn for a feature-shifting boxed version, this is probably the better solution for tie-in games in the long run.
Now, if only England could get themselves a manager...
Version Tested: Xbox 360
VideoGamer.com Score8 Score out of 10
- Expedition mode is bizarre and amazing
- Beautifully presented
- Clive Tyldesley
- No gameplay improvements