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It’s time to leave the packed stadiums of FIFA 2005 and head back to the raw football of the streets...
Electronic Artsâ?? BIG! label has always been a haven for the less serious sports titles, with the â??Streetâ? franchises most notably bringing the arcade feel into your lounge/bedroom/games room (delete as applicable). Having recently released NBA Street v3, itâ??s time for Zidane, Beckham and co to strut on the streets like itâ??s a Pepsi ad.
The structure of the game is 4-on-4 football, with three player controllable characters and a goalkeeper; while the marketing money informs you all too overtly that the wall doubles up as a â??5th playerâ??. Within that however, are a couple of modes; the first mode is â??Game Onâ? option that works as a quick match where you can pick an international team from a choice of 15.
The rules are quiet simple â?“ there are none bar the first team to score five goals wins the game. You can scratch FIFAâ??s jurisdiction over strong tackles and throw two fingers to the offside rule, which means that at least you can make the hardest of tackles without having to worry about whether the ref will give you a straight red or let you off with a yellowâ?¦not that a referee would survive the brutality of FIFA Street. With games undetermined in length, the one â??ruleâ? leads to some highly tense situations, with everything depending on putting the ball in the net for that all-important fifth occasion.
But having to score five goals and win the match is certainly not enough in Street, as the gameâ??s moniker shouts from the rafters, â??Its not enough to win -you have to win in style!â?
FIFA Street feels similar to its FIFA sibling and shares a few techniques, although within the confined spaces you wonâ??t find a through-ball option here and the game instantly feels a lot different â?“ more akin to playing a game of Ice Hockey!.
In the desperate first few attempts to slot through the decisive through-ball youâ??ll stumble upon a large factor within FIFA Street, pulling off deft touches and neat tricks with style. In conjunction with the right thumbstick and the left shoulder button, the assortment of buttons provides control to a vast variety of crowd-wowing trickery. The system may take a little time to work out, although it is crucial to succeeding within the game. It certainly grabs your attention to begin with as youâ??re nutmegging an opponent before slotting a shot in with the back of your foot or rebounding a perfect cross against the wall, but suffers from a somewhat â??skill-devoidâ? nature and a slightly clunky implementation.
The actual game is certainly fast, frantic and often fun, and most definitely addresses the â??pick up and playâ? objective that EA BIG! stamps upon its games; however itâ??s the lack of finesse and depth as a result that becomes its biggest flaw. It takes next to no time to learn the tricks of the trade, which means that the game retains the arcade influences and instant gratification that it brings. In true EA BIG! tradition, building up the combos helps to fill the â??Gamebreakerâ? gauge at the top of the screen, pulling off an unstoppable shot that would have the Real Madrid chequebook wagging â?“ those who do bravely get in the way of the shot are left crippled for an age, often guaranteeing a goal despite their valiant efforts.
Which brings us on to another criticism, but one that has thankfully improved immeasurably since we last saw it, the time that it takes to get off the ground when youâ??ve just performed a slide tackle; FIFA Street is fast and the most frustrating experience is having missed a crucial tackle and watching helpless as your â??superstarâ? lifts himself from the ground.
A lot has been made of the poor AI of the other footballers especially the goalkeepers, and itâ??s certainly true that whilst they seem to perform amazing feats such as plucking the ball out of the air as though it was standing still, they also have the ability to miss the slowest balls and even lack a reaction until the ball has sailed past them into the back of the net. It could be argued that if they were to have similar levels of AI to the keepers in FIFA 2005 they would be capable of stopping pretty much anything thrown their way, however we canâ??t help but bay for their blood when a stupid mistake costs us the match and the overall effect is cheapened by some absolute howlers!
Away from the â??Game Onâ? option the bulk of the game is set around the â??Rule the Streetsâ? mode; a series of matches that unlock the 10 locations throughout the game, taking in the likes of Barcelona and New York City to London, winning the relevant trophies and showing off as much in the process. In order to play in the local tournaments to Rule the Streets though, youâ??ll have to firstly increase the Reputation and Skill level of your team (not to mention pay the entrance fees) by playing in â??Kick Aboutâ??sâ?. This is where you play any other teams available in that area and once again, itâ??s the first to five that takes the win and the reputation points.
In order to participate in the â??Rule the Streetsâ?, youâ??ll have to create your own player and compile your squad from â??lesserâ?? player in the game. The Create-A-Player feature is now well used in EA Sports titles and FIFA Street is no different, with gamers able to customise their very own Street persona from a number of options and settings. Once youâ??ve gone through the characteristics its then time to add your playerâ??s attributes which you can select from a range of options including Speed, Shot Accuracy, and Shot Power. Once youâ??ve done all of that, itâ??s then time to set up your squad of eight made up of one goalie, your created player, and six others. At first you wonâ??t find any truly world class players to enrol in your team, but that changes when you play the â??upgradesâ?? team and get players such as Rivaldo and Cisse to join you (on condition of you beating their old team.) Itâ??s certainly a neat idea on how to improve your team especially since it would have been all to easy for the player to become automatically unlocked and added to your squad after you win so many games.
Besides building up your team and taking over the streets, you can also choose from one of fifteen â??internationalâ?? teams from Argentina and England to Mexico and Ireland. All of the teams are well represented by their national luminaries so you can expect England to field players including Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, whilst France will play Thierry Henry, Patrick Viera, Fabien Barthez and so on. In other words, FIFA Street is a somewhat lengthy Nike advert; which given the amount of in-game advertising along with fellow rivals, Addidas, seems to be not far from the truth.
The game also includes a Friendly mode and a Star Team Mode, which enables you to play your homemade teams against dream-team matchups; although the lack of online options on any format is questionable, but something weâ??d expect to see in its likely sequel.
Visually the game is striking in the fiercely fought football genre, simply because the focus on close-quarter tricks and unbelievably outrageous techniques throws up a vast assortment of animations at such pace compared to the more realistic offerings. Itâ??s not without its faults, some sequences blends into others awkwardly and there are one or two frequent glitches, but on the whole it maintains the EA BIG! tradition of being overly in your face and FIFAâ??s visual brilliance. Naturally the character models appear to have been lifted straight from the FIFA series, and as such are the closest representations youâ??ll currently see in a videogame; although disappointingly the environments and courts are a little uninspired.
But what about the sound in the game, after all â?“ this is EAâ?¦Well the EA Trax are of course a staple of EA Sports titles these days and FIFA Street is no different, but to fit in with the whole urban style of the game youâ??ll find acts including Roni Size, Fatboy Slim and Dizzy Rascal providing the beats and lines. The FIFA dreamteam of Motson and McCoist have found themselves kicked out of the commentary box (probably because Mottyâ??s sheepskin wasnâ??t â??streetâ? enough), instead in their infinite wisdom EA have dragged in â??musical maestroâ? MC Harvey from So Solid Crew to air his thoughts and opinions on the game in hand, and whilst his attitude is right for the game, the spur of the moment MC-ing and the exceptionally irritating â??Re, Re, Replay!!!â? samples only brings Bo Selectaâ??s Craig â??Can I get a Rewindâ? David to mind.
Now that you mention it, perhaps it wouldnâ??t have been a bad idea to get MC Motty involvedâ?¦
FIFA Street is certainly a neat addition to the Street franchises and EA have certainly got another franchise here with the sequel already in development. It’s far from perfect, with issues such as the crazy swings in player AI and overall lack of finesse and skill required; but for the most part we’re more than willing to forgo them in the name of fun – in multiplayer bouts particularly, FIFA Street throws up some highly frenetic yet engaging, competitive fun…
We hope that FIFA Street 2 can iron out some of these issues, and perhaps FIFA will include one or two of the Street features (such as the goal mouth representation at the bottom of the screen.) Overall, not a bad start to a franchise, but there’s certainly room for improvement – just please bring us John “MC” Motty back!