I must admit that EA’s decision to resurrect the FIFA Street franchise came as a bit of a shock. The original concept had obvious potential, with the original ‘FIFA Street’ debuting on the Playstation 2 around seven years ago, but EA somehow managed to drive the street-football genre into to the ground with some pretty appalling sequels. To EA’s credit, it was realised that a current generation FIFA Street would have to be a total re-inventation of the franchise. And, thankfully, the latest effort, this time coming from the same developers as the core FIFA games, is pretty damn good.
The re-inventation of the FIFA Street franchise is immediately apparent from kick-off. Gone are the caricatured players and cringe worthy ‘stereotypical gangster’ commentators; 2012’s reboot reeks of the smooth, streamlined quality that featured in last year’s FIFA 12. Player likenesses are strong, the presentation is slick and the menus are easy to navigate, with big-name chart-toppers making up the games soundtrack. All these changes make for a better package, but unfortunately some of franchises personality is lost in the transition between the old and the new. The annual FIFA games are often accused of being the same old formula every year, so it would have been nice to see the developers express themselves a little with this side project.
Naturally, however, a game of this nature will ultimately be judged on its core mechanics, and in that sense, it’s an absolute blast. The stand-out feature here is the ability to literally control even the slightest movement of your player’s foot with the left-analogue stick whilst you have the ball under control. It allows you to draw your opponent into making a tackle, only to flick it past them before they can compose themselves. It’s a system that works both on and offline, and makes up the basis of a one on one confrontation between two players in contests that are staged across the pitch constantly throughout any given game.
Instead of the pretty non-inventive game modes of yester-year, there are plenty of different things to do to keep FIFA Street fresh. First off there’s your standard timed game mode with two short halves with the simple objective of scoring more goals that your opponent. Similar to that is Futsal, which is played in indoor stadiums and includes goalkeepers, fouls and free-kicks. Whilst these game-types are pretty standard fair, the game also offers two pretty inventive alternatives to the usual formula.
My personal favourite is ‘Last Man Standing’ – four-on-four matches, where every time you score a goal, the player that put it away automatically leaves the field of play with the objective being to be the first team with no remaining players. It always makes for close, compelling games, which usually finish in a nervy one-on-one at the end. There’s also ‘Panna Rules’, in which showing off with tricks and ‘beats’ are the main focus. You get three points for a ‘panna’ (or nutmeg to you and me), two for and air-beat and one for a regular beat. The catch, however, is that the points you earn are banked, and only go towards your final score if you ‘cash-in’ by scoring a goal. Naturally, games under ‘panna rules’ become very tactical affairs, and are always thoroughly enjoyable, especially when playing against friends or real online opponents.
Whilst you can pull of some pretty tricks in 2012’s Fifa Street, they can’t simply be performed by pressing one button like the old games. In fact, tricks are performed in the same way as the core FIFA games, which usually revolve around flicking the right analogue stick. This may put a few people off, but the new risk-reward nature of using trickery is actually very well implemented. Time your move right, and it can easily get you into an attacking position. Mis-time it, however, and you yourself can be in a tricky situation.
Whilst FIFA Street has a lot of things going for it, my experience with EA’s latest street-football sim was far from perfect. Passing between players is very inaccurate, and I often found myself accidentally passing the ball off the field of play or just into open space. Through balls, in complete contrast to FIFA 12, are also particually inaccurate and are very difficult to pull off even in the best of circumstances. These gripes by no means ruin matches, but their definite drawbacks that can get pretty frustrating, and do, unfortunaltey, detract from the overall experience.
My biggest complaint, however, is the amount of content the game offers. Outside of just jumping into a game either on your own or online, FIFA Street puts plays all its cards on one key feature, entitled ‘World Tour’. Essentially, you can create a team of players you yourself have created and take them from humble beginnings to the world championships. You start off with events around your local area, but you can quickly move up to national, continental and eventually global tournaments.
What’s most impressive about this mode is its online functionality. Cities are populated with other-players teams that you can play against in tournaments. There’s plenty to see and do here, with a variety of pitch sizes and game types set around the globe, but it can get a bit tiresome eventually, and rewards for winning tournaments, which usually come in the form of new kits or boots to outfit your players with, don’t feel particually rewarding at all. It’s not the kind of thing that keeps you coming back like ‘Ultimate Team’ or ‘Career Mode’ succeeds in doing in FIFA 12, and so it’s somewhat dissapoiting that it makes up so much of the games overall content.
FIFA Street also feels somewhat inferior to the core FIFA games in terms of the amount of teams it offers. All top-division clubs from England, Spain and Italy make the cut, along with teams from across Europe, but lower league clubs don’t make the cut along with seemingly well-fitting South American teams like Corinthians and River Plate. The players for each team are also pretty limited, with only around twelve players per club. All the stars are present, but you may find yourself a little dissapointed not to have the full squad for your favourite side. The biggest blow is easily the non-inclusion of internet cult-legend Emile Heskey.
Ultimatley, however, despite these evident drawbacks, my time with FIFA Street has still been thoroughly enjoyable, and I fully intend on playing on to improve my team, challenge friends and just generally kick-ass on the pitch. Whilst the game may not have the lasting impact of its bigger brother, it still manages to proudly stand alongside it.