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FIFA Street returns to our neighbourhood for a kick-about, and this time it's got the razzle-dazzle of next-gen technology on its side...
- Brilliant multiplayer experience.
- Simplified, yet more intuitive gameplay.
- Great music and stylish visuals - no Zane Lowe!
- Poor single-player offerings.
- It needs more teams to choose from.
- A short lifespan as it's easily mastered.
When we saw FIFA Street 3 last year, we were certainly impressed by what EA Canada had done with the series for the next-gen formats. Although we saw it last October, the game was in a near publishable state four months prior to its eventual release. This has no doubt helped to provide such a solid final product, as EA Canada must have had oodles of time to correct minor glitches and balance gameplay features.
Another aspect of development that has obviously helped EA Canada is the rock-steady engine that's been inherited from NBA Homecourt for use in FIFA Street 3. As the developers were keen to remind us last October, the engine effortlessly spews out 60 frames per second and, to EA Canada's credit, we haven't experienced the tiniest inkling of framerate issues on the Xbox 360 code we've been playing. Clearly, the development team has focused on making a seamless transition for the series from previous-gen consoles to the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3.
Best Enjoyed With Mates On A Lazy Sunday
Besides the changes in visual style in FIFA Street 3, perhaps the biggest change in the gameplay comes with the multiplayer offerings. EA Canada has obviously taken note of the fact that FIFA Street is perfect for multiplayer fun and frolics whenever you've got a few mates over for some easy-going gaming. It certainly won't have you nailing down the perfect formation or performing precise long balls (a la PES and FIFA), but FIFA Street's format is perfect for light-hearted party play. Realising this, EA Canada has focused on offering a variety of new game modes and streamlining the gameplay experience to make for intense, yet simplistic, games.
In FIFA Street 2, there weren't any multiplayer match types beyond the standard format (first to five goals etc.). On the other hand, FIFA Street 3 has this standard format, timed matches, Headers and Volleys, Gamebreaker goals only, and straight five-a-side games (without any Gamebreakers). This multitude of new match types comes into its own during the multiplayer game and provides the kind of 'jumpers for goal posts' gameplay style that fans of the series will be looking for.
In addition to this there's the new Playground Picks mode, which is kind of like that Adidas football advert from the 2006 World Cup where two kids pick from the world's best players for their playground kick-about. In FIFA Street 3, you choose an international side and then each player takes turns to select their five team members from that nation's line-up. It's not a huge addition to the game but, as with the match types, it certainly helps add to the variation of the multiplayer offerings. As an added bonus, the last player picked strolls over to his team with a dejected look, while kicking pebbles aimlessly - it's just like school...
Life Is Frittered Away By Detail
This attempt by EA Canada to expand the multiplayer game isn't limited to the match types/game modes either - it's also been carried right through to the gameplay. Performing tricks has been made simpler as the ball will stick to your player's feet more diligently than on the previous-gens. For example, if you flicked the ball over your head in FIFA Street 2 then you had to ensure that you were in the right place when the ball returned to the ground in order to carry on the combo. Once you've flicked the right thumbstick to perform a trick in FIFA Street 3, then the rest of the trick plays out seamlessly, with your player automatically tracking the ball's path. This may seem simplistic, but it actually improves the flow of the game and makes the players move more fluidly. Additionally, this more simplistic approach doesn't make performing a trick feel any less intuitive, so the game's depth hasn't been compromised as a result.
Juggling the ball in FIFA Street 3 has also been improved. If you're standing still then all you need to do is hold the juggle button down to keep the combo going (similarly to the previous-gen games). However, if you're moving along while juggling the ball, then you have to tap the juggle button at just the right point in order to keep the ball up. If you get this right, then your player will perform deft body spins between the opposition as he flicks the ball over their head. If you fail to keep the juggle combo going, then the ball falls to your feet lifelessly. As a result, juggling becomes a much more active part of the gameplay than in FIFA Street 2 and can make for some pretty mesmerising moves.
Tackling has been made harder but also easier (somewhat paradoxically). It's more difficult to physically tackle someone, which is definitely an advantage to the team in possession and certainly fits the game's attacking style. However, EA Canada has also done away with the irritating animations of your player falling to the floor or standing around helplessly whenever they're nutmegged or kippered, as they often did on the previous-gens. This was annoying in the last game because it meant that your player would redundantly writhe around on the floor while the attackers went off and scored an easy goal. This time around, tackling is performed by a swift leg sweep or a precise body nudge so, if you fail to make the tackle, you can at least get back into the action with the same player fairly instantaneously.
The final improvement on the gameplay front concerns the Gamebreaker meter. It's now a lot easier to get used to without the previous 'Beats' system and 'KO' end-game. When you juggle the ball and perform tricks it fills the Gamebreaker meter with a yellow bar. You then have to convert this yellow bar to a blue one by taking a shot on goal, which has the effect of banking the combo. If you fail to do this and your opponent steals the ball, then your yellow bar gradually ticks down until you regain possession. Once the meter is filled with blue, you can initiate your Gamebreaker and this has the effect of making each player an expert in every skill area (Trickster, Finisher, Enforcer, and Playmaker). In short, this means goals aplenty (as well as a cool psychedelic colour scheme) for a short time period. Once again, it's a simpler system than the last one without sacrificing gameplay or depth, improving the game's flow while also making it more accessible.
As well as 2-8 player online multiplayer for both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, there's also offline multiplayer for 1-4 players on Xbox 360 and 1-7 on PS3. This rounds off a spot-on footie game for easy-going party play, which is something that isn't particularly well accounted for by any other game on the market. While FIFA has PES to contend with, FIFA Street has no other natural predators. This makes it all the more impressive that EA Canada has made such huge improvements to FIFA Street's gameplay when they didn't necessarily have to.
Not The Solitary Type
Our one problem with the game is its single-player offerings, which are lacklustre to say the least. There are only a few hours of gaming here at most, and it only takes about 30 minutes to realise that the AI is too weak to actually offer any sort of challenge. The AI isn't flawed, as the basics have been well accounted for. However, the opposition finds it very difficult to score, while scoring against them is shockingly easy. If you can overlook this, then you'll be treated to various match types throughout nine different challenges (including Youth, Trickster, Adidas, All Star and Classic Challenges). Further progress rewards you with more teams and extra players (such as footie legends), which might make the painfully easy task worthwhile for somebody with a bit of time to kill.
Far from keeping the same visual style and updating it for the next-gen formats by smearing the environments with overly bright lighting effects, the development team has gone back to the drawing board and given the series a complete graphical rebirth. As the screenshots make clear, all the players are caricatured versions of their real-life counterparts. This produces stylised visuals that are much more in keeping with the light-hearted feel of the game and make for a more enjoyable visual display all-round.
Sound is also much improved from the previous-gen versions. Gone is the inane drool of Zane Lowe and replacing him are players simply calling to each other as if it was a real game of playground football. EA Canada simply recorded guys of different nationalities playing football and then recorded their calls of 'man on!' or 'pass it back!' (or the equivalent in French), before putting the best picks of their one-liners into the game. The soundtrack is also spot-on, with an eclectic mix of today's most happening beats that comically wind down like a record player whenever the ball goes out of play. Other sound effects, such as clicks every time you up your Gamebreaker or thwacks when you pelt the ball around, are similarly right on the mark.