Game Rant's Anthony Taormina reviews FIFA Street
Time to time EA Sports has been known to take their traditional sports franchises, or just a traditional sport, and branch them out into arcade-style titles that lack most of the depth of a Madden, but more than make up for it with faster-paced, approachable gameplay. Among those properties that EA has under their belt is FIFA Street, a series that has been on a brief hiatus, but is now back to capture soccer fans' hearts once again.
Street soccer, as opposed to soccer that is played on the pitch, involves a much more exciting style of play that favors players with tremendous footwork and speed - versus precise passing and shooting. The game itself is pretty similar to a regular soccer match, score more goals than the opponent, only with less players and the play spaces are usually pretty enclosed.
Most of the appeal of FIFA Street, versus a traditional FIFA title, is its on-the-ball play. Rather than a traditional pass, dribble, shoot formula, Street encourages the player to be the ball hog and pull off numerous tricks, jukes, and acrobatics. It all comes off as a bit "showboaty" and borderline impossible when compared to the dribbling mechanics of a standard FIFA game, but that's part of the beauty of Street.
Those precise dribbles and juggles are executed with a combination of a button hold and various movements of the right joystick, making any player feel a sense of accomplishment and skill. There's a depth to the move set that increases as you play and level your team, but even out of the gate the controls are responsive and exciting.
A lot of the skills that have been ingrained into the hands of a FIFA veteran won't be of much use in Street; however, that shouldn't necessarily be a detractor. Combining high flying juggles with some exciting juke moves makes any player feel powerful, and never does the chance for a comeback feel out of reach. On offense the player and his squad are a force to be reckoned with, even if your teammates aren't always in the right position or all that helpful. Unfortunately defense is a completely different story.
One of the biggest flaws in Street is its inability to adapt traditional soccer physics to a more close quarters style of play. On the surface, the collisions look realistic and true to life -- EA Sports new impact engine is at play -- but weird phenomena like players getting intertwined and falling down for no reason are far too common. It almost appears as if EA Sports took the impact engine, gave it a few boundaries that would suit an indoor soccer experience, and didn't test it all that much. At least a dozen times a scenario like those depicted in this video would occur and, while funny, they usually were pretty frustrating.
Another big issue with the defense is the game's inability to keep player from diving towards the ball. By its very nature the game's mechanics are supposed to bait the defender into going after the ball, and the opposing player is supposed to run by - but usually the game's AI will just sit there waiting, rather than make any sort of forward attack. Jockeying is available, but typically the best course of action is simply to contain and wait for the dumb AI to make a foolish mistake, which it does pretty often on both sides of the ball. There were even times where the opposing AI had a wide open goal, but decided that a few more impressive dribbles were more important than taking the shot.
Like any EA Sports title FIFA Street features a robust suite of modes, character customization, and incentives for the player to sink their teeth into. There's enough fresh content — from 2 -v-2 matches that award goals scored with style to 5-on-5 arena style matches — to keep the game from feeling like the same regurgitated scenario over and over. Not to mention, improving your squad, while extremely time-consuming (no auto upgrade option), allows the player to balance their team to their play style.
Each of the different types of game experience has its own strengths and weaknesses, but nothing compares to a 4-v-4 or a 5-v-5 match. These matches feel the most engaging and true to the spirit of street soccer, while the other matches, like Panna matches that award more than one point per goal, are pretty uneven, and can get out of hand really fast.
Online play is a mixed bag as well: most players will feel-eachother out within the first minute or so - and those with a higher level of skill will usually trounce the other with little effort. But getting two evenly matched players together, while not a perfect alleviation of the AI problems, at least gives the match a little more intensity and brings a new dimension of replayability to the title.
There's a lot to like about FIFA Street from the diverse selection of play "arenas" to the deep customization, but not a lot that impresses beyond the game's dribble and juggle mechanics. Clunky AI and poor attention to defense leave most of the experience feeling more frustrating and open to chance than a traditional soccer game fan is used to, but the wealth of modes available ensure there's enough content to keep those that enjoy the experience playing for a long long time.
It's worth acknowledging that the faster paced trappings of a street soccer experience can lure in casual sports or soccer fans and the shallow nature of the title's gameplay might not be as bothersome as it would be to a FIFA veteran, but as a game that is meant for soccer fans familiar with the FIFA brand though, comparatively, it's hard not to feel as though Street received less attention and less polish. Still, it's something new and (mostly) fun for soccer lovers to sink their teeth into.
Have you had a chance to check out FIFA Street? How does the balance of arcade style play with a diverse selection of modes strike you?
FIFA Street is out now for the PS3 and Xbox 360. Game Rant played the Xbox 360 version for this review.