EA Sports FIFA Street Review
Submitted on: Mar 19, 2012 by Kelvin Mak
After a long absence, FIFA Street makes its return to the consoles. Clearly EA saw the success of the FIFA franchise and decided the time was right to press the old reboot button on its more arcade-styled cousin. In fact, one of the game’s major selling points is that the gameplay is built upon the much lauded FIFA 12 engine. So does FIFA Street deliver? On the whole, yes. But some questionable decisions and other niggling flaws prevent Street from being a must own for football fans.
Going forward is where the game really shines. It feels natural to pull off tricks, and the FIFA 12 engine does well in adapting to the various wrinkles that street football brings. Games are free flowing, exciting, and many times, up and down affairs where the last goal wins. You can really spot the FIFA engine at work here — AI players move intelligently into space and passes are accurate and intuitive. In fact, one of the neater things about [I]Street [/I]is the ability to play some clever passes off the walls, which certainly adds a new element to your in-game strategizing. Shots are a bit more hit and miss, especially since the street ball nets are a lot smaller and therefore requires a slimmer margin of error. But on the whole, it's really just a matter of taking some time to find that sweet spot to place your shot. The product of all this, ultimately, is some really fancy and slick football.
Speaking of slick, as this is street football after all, skill moves play a heavy role in the game. These are done with the right analog stick and a modifier trigger. Most tricks seem reasonably well integrated into the context of the game — that is, nothing too abrupt in transitioning between the tricks and regular play — but the caveat is that I have not unlocked all of them yet. It feels intuitive to combine multiple tricks together, and the great thing is that none of them seem too over the top. In fact, it seems the developers at Street found the elusive balance as to how powerful these skill moves should be — powerful enough that they will work, but not powerful enough that they become the dreaded cheese moves.
So attacking play, to sum up, is fun. While it doesn’t have the arcade-y, flashy flair that many associated with EA’s Street series, it does have is proper team play dynamics which, in the long run, serves the game better.
On the other hand, playing defense can sometimes be an exercise in controller-throwing frustration. Most of it stems from the none-too-bright AI which, at times, will let opponent players waltz right past with a clean route on goal. It’s worse that this only seems to be affecting your AI teammates, so on harder levels, winning the game can be an uphill climb. Marking your own man isn’t as much trouble, but occasionally there are still random frustrating moments stemming from missed tackles, as the still rough around the edges Impact Engine makes a player enter into a wild lunge animation. While the few seconds that it takes him to recover may not hamper things much in the large pitches of [I]FIFA[/I], in Street it can often be the difference between a win and a loss.
Another complaint about the controls is that they can feel a little sluggish. If you miss a tackle and the ball comes loose anyway, sometimes the button you pressed still registers and the game ends up thinking you want to hoof the ball. Small issue, yes, but annoying nonetheless.
Overall, the gameplay in FIFA Street is fun, though the fun is concentrated mostly on one end of the field (court? Park?). Yes, there are some nagging issues that can use some polishing, but the fluid attacking play makes up for most of the sins on the other side of the ball, especially since street football places such a heavy emphasis on offense anyway.
As with any EA Sports game, you would expect some very polished presentation elements, and Street doesn’t disappoint. FIFA's large stable of licenses comes in handy as club teams sport their authentic names and kits. The player faces, though, could use a little polish as some of them look off from their real life counterparts. In terms of animation, the Impact Engine again fares well for the majority of the time, but there are still some hilarious collisions that crop up once in a while, reminding you that this “Engine” was only introduced half a year ago.
While there are no authentic fields, the team at EA has done a marvellous job in bombarding your senses with bright colors and loud noises. You get to play in a variety of courts, alleys, cages, gymnasiums -- some of them geographically specific, like a rooftop in Shanghai. As well, there are specific venues for futsal and panna. Overall, it’s the same sleek work that you’ve come to expect from the FIFA series.
For audio, there is, of course, no commentary as this is street football. Instead we get some pumping beats in the background, which certainly fits the atmosphere, and a lot of player chatter. The chatter may seem novel at first, but they get repetitive quickly and eventually just become part of the white noise.
FIFA Street comes with a few variations of street football, each with different rules. There is the “traditional” kind, with boards and therefore no out of bounds; there is Futsal, where football is played in a court with boundaries and fouls; Panna Rules, where you gain extra points by pulling trick moves; and Last Man Standing, where you lose a player with every goal you score and the first team to lose all its players wins. So there are quite a few things to play with initially, and you will spend a fair share of your time having a go at each of the modes. The surprise here is Last Man Standing, which is exhilarating to play, especially against a friend — though he/she will have to play against you in person, as the mode isn’t available online.
In the long run, your attention will most likely be focused on World Tour, where you start out as a regional club of scrubs with minimal skills, work your way out of the region and into the country, then into the world, all the while amassing skill points to boost your team and acquiring new players. The mode will keep you occupied, but at the end of the day it is still a fairly linear mode. Once you’ve beaten it all and unlocked the goodies, there’s very little reason to return and play it again -- unlike, say, Manager Mode in FIFA 12 where you can take control of different teams each time and acquire different players. Is it a totally fair comparison? Maybe not a hundred percent, but keep in mind that like FIFA 12, Street is also a full-priced release.
EA Sports normally sets the bar when it comes to the online experience, so it’s surprising to find FIFA Street’s online mode to be a bit bare bones. First of all, you can only play the two main styles of game online (5/6-a-side and Futsal), with Panna Rules and Last Man Standing left out, which is a big letdown. Even more disappointing is that the discontented murmurs you’ve heard are true: no, you cannot use real clubs online. You are restricted to using your in-game street club, which, at the beginning, consists of only a few fictional scrubs. Yes, you can eventually acquire some real life players for your team when you advance far enough in World Tour mode, but for those who play online exclusively, you will be forced to play with nobodies. And while you can use your created pro to play on the same team with other virtual players, there are no official affiliation like FIFA 12’s pro clubs.
So where does all that leave us?
FIFA Street is, without doubt, a very fun game, that much is true. The games’ drawbacks, however, prevent it from being a must own title. The defensive AI and somewhat sluggish controller response will make defending frustrating, the lack of real clubs online may be a large issue for some, and the nature of street football just doesn’t give the game too great of a replay value. Ultimately, FIFA Street plays an entertaining brand of football, and if you're willing to overlook its flaws, remains a good, though not great, purchase.
Learning Curve – If you’ve played FIFA or other footy games, FIFA Street will be a walk in the park to learn.
Graphics – Bright and spiffy, and the animations smooth and sleek.
Audio – With no commentary, the audio doesn’t really enhance or hinder anything much. Nice soundtrack, though.
Control – Surprisingly, the trick moves are fairly easy to learn and effective to use, even for your humble reviewer who doesn’t have the most nimble of hands.
Value – This is the hard one. Perhaps more suited to be priced at the $40-50 mark, instead FIFA Street is a full priced release. It’s not the worst value you will get for a game, but you’re definitely not going to spend as much time with it than FIFA 12, either.