A good time alternative to the FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer simulation in the 2000s, EA Sports FIFA Street is back after a four-year absence with a reboot of the franchise. While the previous generation of the game was developed by the team at EA Sports Big (makers of games such the NBA Street and SSX series), the new FIFA Street (available at Amazon.com) was made by the Vancouver-based team that brings us the annual installments of the much-acclaimed FIFA series.
Over the past week, we’ve been immersed in the world of FIFA Street on the PlayStation 3. Here is what we thought of FIFA 12’s showboating little brother.
Graphics and Presentation
When we last saw FIFA Street in 2008 with FIFA Street 3, it was flashy and in your face. Players were cartoonesque representations of the world’s best and menus were graffitized. Nothing was wrong with this as it was a trademark of the EA Sports Big Street games and was what we had come to enjoy at the time. However, the 2012 incarnation of FIFA Street is much tamer. Players look just as they do in FIFA 12 while the menu system is reminiscent of those seen in FIFA since it debuted on the current generation of gaming consoles. Meanwhile, FIFA Street’s whooping 35 game courts look much like those frequently by soccer players searching for a runout in urban environments around the world. These include car parks, basketball courts and Futsal courts with vivid details from cracks on the playing surface to low-rebound wire fences.
A few of nice new touches to FIFA Street are the option to use authentic match kits for club teams (such as all of the English Premier League and Spanish La Liga) and players speaking during matches. In the case of the latter, you’ll hear players calling for the ball or advising you to shoot in the accents associated with their nationalities. This comes across loud and clear given that the formal commentary of FIFA is absent. After all, there are no commentators in street football.
There are three games modes in FIFA Street — Exhibition, World Tour and Online.
Exhibition mode is a great place to start as you can play as any team from MLS, the English Premier League, Italian Serie A, German Bundesliga, Spanish La Liga or French Ligue 1 to learn the game’s features and practice its many skills moves. Match versions available at 2 on 2 Panna, Futsal, 5 on 5 and Last Man Standing.
The World Tour is the heart of FIFA Street. You build a self-styled team (from designing the kits to the choosing the team crest to creating players or importing them from FIFA 12) and take it around the world in a series of 20 street soccer challenges. Along the way you can poach players from vanquished opponents (including some of the biggest stars in world football), unlock countless skills moves for your ungifted created players and gear yourself out in footie wear from Nike, Umbro and more.
Online mode is very reminiscent of FIFA 12 in that it offers Head to Head Online Seasons of 10 matches each with promotion and the dreaded relegation included, 16 tournaments against other gamers’ created teams, and one-off matches that includes other online gamers on your team.
While the Head to Head Online Seasons and tournament s are quite addictive soccer gaming experiences, matches in which other online gamers control your team members are forgettable. This has nothing to do with the gameplay of FIFA Street but rather with the selfishness of fellow gamers. Since the matches involve smaller playing areas and no more than 6 players per side, we often ran into gamers who upon receiving the ball refused to pass it and insisted on attempting to dribble the entire length of the pitch to try shots on goal. When the other team had the ball, everyone would congregate around it like a mob of school children to try to win it. The person getting the ball with usually sprint off wildly to attempted to score.
FIFA Street uses the same gameplay engine as arguably the greatest soccer video game ever made — FIFA 12. This includes its Impact Engine and Precision dribbling. As a result, when it comes down to soccer gaming in the purest form (fancy footwork aside) FIFA Street impresses. The only real differences that we could discern are that the much-lauded FIFA 12 Tactical Defending and Pro Player Intelligence systems are not part of FIFA Street. Indeed defending is not much different from FIFA Street 3 and comprises mainly of stabs for the ball via the PS3 X or O buttons. This is fine for all of FIFA Street’s match types except for the more formal Futsal which is the most akin to the eleven-a-side matches of FIFA 12 of the lot.
Comparisons to FIFA 12 aside, FIFA Street does possess a plethora of gameplay features that are unique to less formal versions of soccer such as our beloved impromptu 5-a-side pickups. These consist of over 50 skills moves designed to intimidate and embarrass opponents while earning skills points for your players. While you might think that you could never memorize all of them, you would be amazed at how easily you do so after playing FIFA Street for a few hours. Of course, you will have your favorites once you figure out which ones are most effective for you. There is also an In Game Tutorial that demonstrates core skills moves as well as text guides to skills moves throughout the game as matches load. We found these to be great reminders.
While FIFA Street is a great reboot of the series, we do have a short wish list for the next iteration of the game. Here it is:
1. The FIFA Futsal World Cup – FIFA Street includes most of the major international soccer powers and Futsal courts. We’d love to see these put together in the form of the FIFA Futsal World Cup given that the 2012 tournament takes place in November in Thailand. It’s not too late to include it as an add-on!
2. Female Players — Females are as much a part of small-sided soccer a males are. Many a guy has run into women on 5-a-side courts how could hold their own against the best and who possess wicked freestyle skills. Let’s have some of these ladies in FIFA Street! It would be great to see some of the stars of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in FIFA Street.
3. Gamebreakers — Players of the old FIFA Street games, NBA Street and NFL Street will remember these. For those unfamiliar with them, they were brief periods of time in which your team had powered-up attacks that were harder to defend and that earned you more points or goals that a normal attack. We miss them and would love to see the option to include them in the new FIFA Street series.
FIFA Street is a much-overdue and excellent return of an old favorite. While living the dream in the big leagues and cathedrals of world football in FIFA 12 and Pro Evolution soccer is fantastic, as in real life, we sometimes need a break for the formality and pressure of such environments. FIFA Street provides just that with enjoyable and as casual as you want them to be kickabouts where you can showboat to your heart’s content and be rewarded for it. Live the dream on the streets!