FIFA Street sounds like exactly the wrong type of game to exist in today’s current market; a flamboyant, arcade-like, trick-based footballing simulator that takes the core mechanics of one of the worlds’ most successful sports games, FIFA 12, and moulds them to fit an entirely new brief. Now only one question remains… is EA Sports’ latest outing as revolutionary as the Barcelona player who now represents the series?
Short answer… sort of. I think it’s safe to say that if the FIFA Street franchise was a skill-move, it would certainly be a “roulette”. The past three iterations have seen radical changes in graphical style, gameplay, structure and multiplayer focus – the majority of which have been met by a cacophony of negative reviews. It seems that this has been an issue “keepy-upping” its way into the sights of Gary Paterson, FIFA Street’s creative director, for some time. Since the game received confirmation way back in August of last year, it was always evident that this entry would prove to be a mixture of realism and radical exaggeration – utilizing FIFA’s sublime physics engine to offer players the most authentic yet visually satisfying street-footballing experience gamers have ever seen (not forgetting Chris Kamara’s Street Soccer, of course…)
I’m pleased to report that the gameplay is exactly what I’d anticipated it would be; a toned-down version of FIFA 12 with a heavy focus on tricks and skill-beating – the latter of which has been radically revised in order to help give all types of players a chance to humiliate their opponent. With a diverse mixture of game-modes available, players will be given the opportunity to hone their skills in a variety of customized scenarios ranging from 5-aside, 6-aside (with or without walls), Panna Rules (where you rack up points depending on how stylishly you beat players, but they only count if you then net a goal), 2 vs 2 and Last Man Standing. In terms of a solo experience, you can also “Hit the Steets” (the street equivalent of an Exhibition match) and go on a “World Tour” where you and your fantasy team battle through various customized games to be crowned world champions of street football.
Controls have also undertaken a severe makeover, with the new “Street Ball Control System” offering players the chance to hold the ball out of the opponents reach before quickly tapping the sprint button to touch it past them, either hilariously as a nutmeg or just into open space. Depending on how successful you are with these panna’s, however, ultimately falls down to how well you’ve progressed as a created character/team. Yes, there are a limited selection of real clubs available from a few famous leagues (most notably La Liga and the Premier League) but these are shockingly minimal when compared to the wonderful back catalogue you are offered in FIFA 12. Instead, FIFA Street really encourages you to set up your own street- team from scratch, perhaps pulling in your own virtual pro from FIFA 12 or even your friends if you fancy pretending you and your mates are the bee’s knees. This also offers some nice variety, as you can hand pick which skills each team member can improve on based on how well they’ve performed individually in a game – ultimately meaning the higher up you progress, the more chance you have of statistically becoming a better player than Leo Messi. Now isn’t that something!
Sound-wise, a lot of things have been considered to make sure that this isn’t just regarded as a poor-man’s FIFA 12. Gone is the current-gen commentary courtesy of footballers’ greatest pundits, instead EA have opted for a more grounded approach – with the voices of crowds, players and announcers all ringing around the pitch, responding in real-time to the events that are unfolding during the match. For example, if you’re 5 – 3 down at half time and begin the second half with a quick goal – then chances are you’ll hear your manager shout “good job, now come on – push forward, one more!” Listening to your surroundings definitely adds to the authenticity of the experience, and for somebody like me who only plays 11-aside football in real life – this sound consideration is perfect in constructing a convincing atmosphere that genuinely absorbs me into every game. Menu’s obviously have the FIFA treatment in so much that they feature an eclectic mix of well-known and not so well-known pop songs from all sorts of genres and continents, and some of these are often brought into a game – playing quietly in the background (the most prominent example which comes to mind is Unorthodox by Example).
Whilst player likenesses are 99% accurate (they are taken from FIFA 12, after all) and arenas are beautifully illustrated, varying from 7-aside grass pitches and urban streets right up to American basketball courts and stadiums, I still feel there are a few essential ingredients that seem to be missing from FIFA Street which stop is from reaching its true potential. First of all has to be the bizarre lack of teams available in the “Hit the Streets” mode – FIFA already have a license to feature almost every team and kit in their franchise, so why they didn’t choose to add more options to the casual game I’ll never know. Another is that the varied, arcade-esque modes such as last-man standing and 2 vs 2 are really, really enjoyable and would be fantastic to play online with your fictional team against other fictional teams – however for some reason the only modes available to play online are 5 aside, 6 aside and Panna rules. It’s little bits and pieces like this which confuse me as a games critic – they’ve done the hard work of coding and creating these game modes and teams, and then don’t include them properly in the final product. I can only assume it’s a strange design choice by the developers and not some sort of lazy error.
In a nutshell, FIFA Street is a game which achieves what it set out to do. If you liked or played the demo, then FIFA Street is more of the same with a few different modes, customizations and unlockables to keep you occupied. Whilst it’s definitely a welcome change to the sublime-if-a-little-repetitive FIFA series, it’s far too brief and meatless; this lack of depth really hindering the longevity gamers could have had with this title. It’s a great concept, an even better game – but an underlying emptiness really prevents it from achieving its true potential. I guess you could say it’s a few own-goals short of a clean sheet. I’d definitely recommend it to hard-core FIFA fans, or if you’re one of those people who finds FIFA a little too complicated then this is probably the ideal compromise for you.
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