Review: FIFA Street (PS3)

Title: FIFA Street
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (4567 MB)
Release Date: March 13, 2012 (US) / March 16, 2012 (EU)
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Vancouver
Original MSRP: $59.99 (US) / £39.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: E
FIFA Street is also available on Xbox 360.
The PlayStation 3 version was used for this review.

FIFA Street is the 2012 reboot of the series EA Sports BIG presided over last decade. Now though, the team behind the core FIFA titles are in control – opting for more of a serious soccer sim than fun fantastical footy. Gone are the crazy, ridiculous, over-the-top skill moves with thunderbolt shots and brick wall tackling. In comes a nigh on flawless physics system and a game engine that has been polished beyond belief. So, is FIFA Street still fluid and enjoyable, or is it too cold, too calculated, and almost too perfect? Let’s find out…

Gameplay:
On first looks, many will think FIFA Street is simply FIFA 12 on a smaller pitch, with fewer players. While it is arguably more akin to current FIFA’s than the old spin-offs, that point of view is far too simplistic and would be harsh to judge it that way. The main crux of FIFA Street is the ‘streetball control’ system, where you can hold down L2 and use the analog sticks to have precise control over your player’s feet and the ball. Moving the left stick in this mode will allow you to move the ball in a 360° motion around your body, while the right stick is used for tricks.

What this allows you to do (or more pushes you into doing) is standing in one spot goading the opposition player while you keep the ball as far away from him as possible. It’s tough to describe in words, but anybody who has played any sort of football ‘on the streets’ will identify with immediately. And this is a common theme throughout the game, which is a little surprising.

Whereas the previous games were maybe an entry point to the sport for non-fanatics, this seems to be one for the hardcore. The old ones were crazy but very easy to understand and get to grips with. FIFA Street is not the toughest game in the world to play once you’ve tried a few matches, but most of the little nuances will be lost on anyone who didn’t spend their childhood switching between playing football between two driveways, to football on the playground, to football in a court at the park.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t give this a go, even if you’re not completely ingrained in the sport – there are redeeming features that anyone can appreciate. The matches are usually quite slow-paced, methodical and tactical; but when there’s that spark, that burst of pace that is injected into proceedings, it’s incredibly satisfying. The most common occurrence will be a simple nutmeg. You use the aforementioned control method to draw an opponent in, before unleashing the right trigger and right stick, embarrassing one guy, then using your pace to jostle through a congested group and fire home a goal.

Game modes are standard fare; the major time-sucker being the world tour, and it’s exactly what you’d be anticipating. You start off in your home area, win various events, and then go to a tournament. Then you progress to choosing from events around the country, then around Europe, and so on and so forth. Nothing jumps out at you as being special – everything functions as it should but it doesn’t do anything spectacular. You level up your players, acquire new ones, unlock kits and boots; we’ve seen it all before.

In this career mode (and of course in the one-off play options) there are various types of match that you’ll encounter. Normal 5-a-side street football is your starting point, with futsal, freestyle, last man standing and panna matches on top. Panna (a Latin term for nutmeg) games are definitely the most interesting, and bring back an aspect of the old FIFA Street’s I loved: gambling with your ability.

Unlike some, I didn’t think the gamebreakers were a cheap gimmick. I enjoyed them because it was always tense when you were trying to decide on the spot whether to gamble the goal you would have by shooting, or attempting to beat the other players and end the game early. That mechanic is obviously gone in the re-imagination of the franchise, but the strategy remains in panna matches. It’s all about how confident you are.

Any points you build up from beats (1 point) or pannas (3 points) are not actually given to you immediately. You have to ‘bank’ them by scoring a goal. This makes for such an exciting game, and will test your resolve as to whether you go for one big total, or play it safe each time. To make matters more tense, if the opposition scores, you lose any unbanked points.

There are a few minor grievances that can be levelled at FIFA Street though. One of which being that on futsal matches, it seems like the ball is made of metal and the posts are huge magnets, because you seem to hit the woodwork an inordinate number of times. I’ve also noticed that sometimes what is recognised as an own goal can be incorrect. There have been quite a few occasions where the ball has deflected in off a defender, but the striker gets the goal; yet there have been instances where it was a clean strike, but an own goal is signalled. Nothing major, but just a little strange to see.

However, on the whole, FIFA Street is painstakingly polished. The engine has been perfected and there are absolutely no glitches or little pauses in play. Smooth is the only way to describe how the on screen action flows.

Visuals:
The game looks fantastic; it definitely shows that this is based on EA’s extremely polished football engine. Player models are all lifted directly from the main game, and it doesn’t look like many enhancements have been made. The arenas are varied and a pleasure to play in; the majority of them look amazing. The location your match takes place in will depend on the number of players. For example, for a 2-on-2, you may be playing in a small car park, contrasted to an indoor stadium for a futsal tournament. There really isn’t much more to say on the visuals – there won’t be a moment when you think there are issues graphically.

Audio:
As this is a street game, there is obviously no commentary during matches. Instead, we rely on the shouts of players and spectators, along with music. The voices you hear are the same every game and just spout ridiculous clichés that often have no bearing whatsoever as to where the play is. It makes for an annoying experience, especially as it’s accompanied by some horrible music (which you’ll be enjoying in the menus too). In-game sound effects are not bad, but nothing special.

The crowd for the futsal tournaments are stupidly loud; it actually sounds like a normal game of football in a huge stadium. Also, if they wanted to go for realism, people wouldn’t be too passionate in those situations. Whenever you have these indoor exhibition games, the crowd applaud and appreciate what’s going on, but it’s not their team, so they never go wild when a goal goes in. Overall then, a pretty shoddy effort as far as sound is concerned in FIFA Street.

Online/Multiplayer:
The online play is exactly what you’d expect from an EA Sports title – it’s solid, there’s plenty of people online at all times, and it just works. There are only a couple of game modes though, which is slightly disappointing when compared to the mammoth number of options on FIFA 12.

One of the options that was only added on that most recent outing appears here though; the league mode. Rather than play meaningless one-off games, you play through 10 games and depending on how many points you have, you either get promoted, relegated, or stay in the same division.

The other mode is also plucked from the main series, where you only control your virtual pro. Four human controlled players are on each side, with the computer in charge of the keepers, much like FIFA 08-10. These 5-a-side games are fast and furious, but with a significant (and surprising) element that makes them brilliant to play in.

You would think that players would be more ball-greedy and attempt more tricks in FIFA Street, but for some reason, there is a much greater sense of teamwork and community. In the standard titles, I usually stay away from this mode as everyone is in it for themselves and thus defeats the object of the game. You end up having 22 people running around like headless chickens on a huge pitch. With FIFA Street however, unbelievably, everybody plays smartly and sensibly, taking up suitable positions, passing when necessary, not congesting the play into one area. It works astoundingly well, and it’s all down to the online community being much better than the normal FIFA’s – probably due to the fact it’s smaller and more hardcore.

Conclusion:
So to sum up, FIFA Street is a good game, a very good game. But it lacks the element of fun that could turn it into a great game. If you are a proper footy fan, chances are that you picked this up on launch day and have been very happy with your purchase. Casual soccer enthusiasts may well want to rent this first. Whilst those who had a keen interest in the previous titles, should tread carefully with this one, as it is drastically different.

Score:
7.0

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Written by Raj Mahil

Raj Mahil

Journalism & Marketing student in London. Huge gaming fan and collector, with a slight fanboy bias towards PS. Life revolves around football/soccer (The Arsenal), but also love most other sport, especially the NBA and NHL.

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