FIFA Street Review (Xbox)
As the latest addition to Electronic Arts' successful "Street" series of games, "FIFA Street" boldly goes where three NBA and two NFL titles have gone before, but unfortunately, it doesn't strike the same balance of old-school arcade fun and excitement of it's "Street" cousins.
In some ways, "FIFA Street" boasts bold, beautiful graphics, but in other ways, it's tough to look at. While player models are accurate and impressive as a whole, their animations are a mixed bag. Some of the tricks are fluid and fast, while some seem to just hop through brief animations with no transitions. This problem occurs much more often when players interact. If they're unmarked, and the players are by themselves, almost every animation is wonderful and eye-catching, but when a defender is around, some odd transitions tend to crop up. Some seem far too quick, some far too slow, and it often looks like some are just plain missing. It doesn't help that clipping also occurs far too frequently, and collision detection can be borderline atrocious. I've seen balls that bounce off a "force field" in the sky when they've been booted higher than the fences that ring the playing field, and the ball also can pass through player's bodies on occasion.
The lighting is excellent (an EA hallmark), and many of the field designs are clever, as well as awfully nice to look at. However, few of them really look much like a soccer field, and that makes it difficult to completely buy into the concept. "NFL Street" has a similar problem, but you could imagine that a pick-up football game might be played on most of their fields. In "FIFA Street", it's tougher to buy that. It just comes off as odd that Ronaldo, Beckham and Henry would be suiting up to play in a series of concrete Euro-slums and unfortunately, this detracts from the experience. The players' faces and the games' cut scenes are solid, and do add to the presentation, however.
On the whole, "FIFA Street's" graphics are pleasant enough, but the clipping issues, poor collision detection and curious field designs tend to push you away rather than draw you in.
I can only assume that "FIFA Street's" audio package was designed for a completely different audience than my own. Of course, I have no idea as to who that audience may be - but I won't be asking to borrow their I-Pod. I'm a person with eclectic and varied musical tastes, but this scattershot mish-mash doesn't celebrate world music - it's simply an ear-splitting mess.
I say this in every review of an EA game, so let me continue the tradition:
I understand, EA, why you license certain tracks, and its fine with me. However, license a whole lot more, or do the easy thing - give Xbox users the capability of using custom soundtracks! Please?
I assure you, I'm not going to run out and buy the latest Roni Size and Stamina MC record - and forcing me to listen to them 1,000 times isn't going to make me. It just won't - so please stop trying.
On the bright side, the cacophonic music may as well be an ear massage - because when you hear the announcer, MC Harvey…
Suffice it to say that I've heard plenty of bad announcing in sports video games - Big Tigger in last year's "Fight Night" immediately springs to mind - but when the announcer starts spouting lines during play like "FIFA Street, uh, uh, FIFA Street, oh, oh", you've created a whole new paradigm.
The sounds of the game itself are just fine, however - which is great, because I can all but guarantee you that you'll be listening to those - and only those - soon enough.
Here, you'll see the expected array of game options from a front-line EA title. "Game On" provides an instant game on demand. Pick two teams and go at it. A "Friendly" match is a little more in depth; you can select four players from the team's roster and set your own rules. This is going to be instantly familiar to anyone who's played "NBA Street v3". You can create a player; build a "Star Team" to use in a "Friendly", or take on the game's "career" mode, "Rule the Street". There's more than enough here for an arcade-oriented sports game.
The idea is to improve your created character (by using "Skill Bills") and add to his reputation as a world-class player. If you have the points, you can spend them to challenge other teams for their best players in "Upgrade Squad" matches. Win - and you'll add them to your roster. Lose - and you're out mucho dinero. You'll earn your "Skill Bills" and reputation by playing in "Kick About" matches - which are essentially standard "friendly" games - and in "Rule the Street", where you'll play in a local tournament. Success will open new venues and clubs for you to challenge.
If this sounds a lot like "NBA Street v3", it should - while they're dressed up in slightly different fashion, the game's "career" modes are extraordinarily similar in concept.
It's fun enough, but it does become repetitive, and the whole exercise has a bit of a "been there, done that" feel to it - akin to riding your third different roller coaster at Disneyland.
Here's "FIFA Street's" Achilles heel.
This is not a bad game - but it's a simple game that bears no resemblance to the sport of soccer except in passing. Essentially, it plays more like basketball. You'll pass the ball up the field, trying to flick the "Trick Stick" (yes, "NBA Street v3" again!) as many times as possible in an effort to score as many times as possible. Rinse, wash, repeat.
It's simply a back-and-forth game that has its moments, but wears thin far too quickly. You can pass along the ground, through the air, or off the wall, and passing is probably the most fun part of the game - odd as that may sound. One-timer passes can be pulled off with ease, and shooting is simple enough. Lamentably, defensive strategy is essentially nonexistent. You'll be pulling the turbo to get back as soon as possible and try to slide tackle the dribbling player before he fires it into your net. Unfortunately, the slide tackle is your only consistent weapon - and it's really, really consistent. Play at midfield often degenerates into a mini-game: "who can slide tackle whom the most" - and you'll see bodies flying all about, leading to lots of open space. This only makes the up-and-down, basketball-styled play even more obvious.
More problems become evident the more you play. Player switching on defense is sometimes problematic, and you'll often end up controlling the wrong player. This issue is exacerbated by the sheer (and seemingly) random idiocy of the keepers. Sometimes, you'll see them stop rocketed shots that were near-certain goals, and the next time down, they'll stand idly by as a header from midfield gracefully sails inches from their noggin and into the center of the goal. Add the aforementioned clipping and collision detection issues into to the mix, and you'll find that the games seem almost randomly determined - as if pure chance decided critical goals - and that's the worst possible thing that can happen in a sports game.
If players don't feel that they're in control, and that wins and losses are not necessarily due to their performance (either good or bad), then those players tend to lose interest in the game.
Unfortunately, this will likely the final fate that befalls "FIFA Street".
Zip. Nada. Zilch. Online play would have really helped this title, as it's much more fun to play this game against another human being. Alas, this is not an option in "FIFA Street".
Despite what I've said here, I believe that there's actually a good game to be found somewhere in "FIFA Street", but it may take another iteration or two to find it.
The game is fun in small doses, and as a multiplayer game, two people can actually have a great time with it.
I'm not sure "FIFA Street" has an identity. I often wondered exactly who this game was made for. At the moment, it simply feels like a rushed "NBA Street" knockoff - one that doesn't translate to "the beautiful game" that it claims to draw it's inspiration from.
The audience for an arcade-styled soccer game is there - but they're undoubtedly expecting something very different than what they'll find in "FIFA Street".