The beautiful game quickly goes sour when there’s no suspense on the pitch. FIFA Street (PS3, Xbox 360) aims to provide a more consistently exhilarating take on the world’s game by pitting you with the sport’s best players in snazzy locales. Inhibitions, by-the-book managers and traditionalist fans aren’t allowed at this party. This is futbol in the most expressive, humorous and self-indulgent sense.
Prepare for frustration if you approach FIFA Street like you would the other vanilla FIFA games. Counter attacks and proper defense are still important but the game obviously puts the emphasis on playing with flair. It’s natural to make the mistake since the two brands share similar graphics and control layouts. Then the 2 to 3-minute halves remind you lollygagging on a deficit isn’t advised. Games range from 2-on-2 to 6-on-6 and there’s no offsides rule in effect. However the condensed courts and small to miniscule nets curb cherry picking just enough. Also, the concrete, linoleum and hardwood surfaces put great zip on the ball. You’ll have more success playing slick passes and through balls through defenders but, since passing feels semi-assisted, there’s some skill involved in threading the needle.
Offense and defense transpires like lively contests of cat and mouse. Ornate dribbles, spins, rabonas, rainbow flicks and pannas are at your disposal to make the opposition look flat-out lost. You’ll need a few games to get into your comfort zone but the straightforward controls lets attacking becomes a joy. Players jockey, tackle and can deny pannas manually so none of the tricks are flat-out unstoppable. That said, most wingers and strikers have a tough time containing world class attackers.
Style and presentation are the furthest of FIFA Street‘s problems. Colors fly in abundance, the soundtrack holds some jams and the mostly slick animations maintains Street’s exuberant pace. Disciplines like Futsal and Panna, where goal values increase based on the variety of tricks you complete, offer cool twists to competitions plus Street Network keeps track of your friends’ progress and uploaded replays. Funny how clever social networking can keep gamers, a pretty anti-social crowd, connected.
“World Tour” is the game’s meat and potatoes. Your created character will traverse the globe to recruit amateur/pro players, level up, unlock tricks and run the best squad on earth. Tournaments and single-game challenges line each region and higher difficulties are sweetened with exclusive threads and kicks from brands like Nike, Adidas and Puma. You’ve seen this layout already if you’ve played EA’s previous Street games but some novel ideas make the cut. FIFA 12 virtua pros can be imported into Street despite lacking EA’s Game Face and relearning abilities. Friends’ pros are downloadable and upgradeable to your club and you can even play the tournaments online.
“World Tour” is also good to people who want some progression to their footy. What about the heads who want to get going with their favorite club? Hit The Streets offers exhibition games featuring clubs from EPL, La Liga, Ligue 1, and German Bundesliga on top of some international and all-star sides. You’ll naturally want to take your favorite teams online right? Tough luck, online play is reliant on your World Tour club in street seasons and team play modes. That means you won’t see any Barca, Real, Man U and the like on the e-courts. This is a pretty egregious omission on EA’s part despite, via playing street seasons, you can gain XP for your team. Consider yourself warned if you had the intention of trolling heads worldwide with Chelsea starring cyber-Torres.
Matches usually go by pretty smoothly but you’ll notice some bothersome trends. Beats incorrectly register sometimes, passes rarely direct to the wrong target and the players’ force fields makes dribbling around defenders occasionally feel unnatural. FIFA 12′s inconsistent impact engine fuels Street and, while it’s more tuned up this time around, players frequently get tangled. Additionally, higher difficulties makes your team react like molasses while the computer has a field day on your goalie. Developing a strong team makes up for the difficulty’s cheapness but, when starting out, you’re compelled to play keep away once you go up a goal on the A.I.; stifling the fun FIFA Street is all about.
FIFA Street excels and establishing its identity, doesn’t take itself seriously and provides enough soccer for people who’ll want to eschew standard rules. However, between weird transition animations, garden variety single player offerings and the utter lack of licensed clubs online, EA does its best to troll us on an otherwise entertaining experience. FIFA Street‘s core gameplay is refreshing, strong and at its best with local or regular online competition. The rest of the game is relatively clean but doesn’t shine like it should.