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FIFA Street

Score: 88%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Canada
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4; 2 - 8 (Online)
Genre: Sports (Soccer)/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Visually, FIFA Street doesn't go quite as big as I expected it to go, but then again, I'm a longtime fan of the old "EA Sports BIG" franchises. This game is a reboot of the series; though it's technically the fourth in the franchise, there's no number at the end. This game lies somewhere between the hardcore simulation of FIFA Soccer and the insane footwork in FIFA Street 3. This game is indeed more grounded in the rules of the real world, but it doesn't mean that it doesn't look great. Flair is still key and tricking is important. Lots of the tricks look incredibly difficult to pull off, but the animation work is very convincing. Every panna looks like a legitimate ego boost for the attacker and an utterly humiliating experience for the defender. And of course, you can play on a grand assortment of specialized street pitches.

I can't really fault FIFA Street's sound design. The soundtrack is classic EA Trax fare. All the hip-hop, dubstep, and other assorted party music might get on your nerves in a different setting, but it's actually a perfect fit for street soccer. I personally like the pitch chatter that goes on as you juggle, nutmeg, and trick your way to each win (or stumble, trip, and pratfall your way to each loss). The trash-talking that results from each panna is good enough motivation to either get better at defending or press the offensive even harder.


Gameplay:

FIFA Street reboots EA's street soccer franchise, jettisoning the fantastical in favor of a more grounded look at street soccer. If you're a fan of FIFA and all of its features, you can apply most of that treatment to this street-based alternative and still know what you're expecting. Of course, that's assuming you know what's what in street football. But in the end, you could approach FIFA Street thinking "smaller scale, faster pace, more tricky" and not come away terribly surprised by it.

Admittedly, there isn't as much content in FIFA Street as there is in the always-stuffed core sim game. But if you've played a FIFA game and ignored all the hardcore dressings, you won't mind at all. World Tour Mode offers more or less exactly what you'd expect, complete with a decidedly more friendly and personal setup (friendly matches are set up via text messages, and so on). Once you start World Tour, you can create, customize, and manage your team in the My Squad menu. It's a well-designed system, but if all you really want to do is get to the action, most of the extra stuff is only optional. But there are a ton of unlockables for players who really dig in.

Number of general gameplay modes aside, event types are wonderfully varied. You've got your standard 5-A-Side rules (standard soccer), but other events put unique spins on the game. Panna rules require you to perform successful pannas, air beats, and regular beats. Each of these maneuvers nets you a set number of points, but the points are banked until you actually score a goal. If you bank a ton of points only to have your opponent score a goal first, you lose your bank. Futsal is 5-A-Side played on a street pitch without walls. Last Man Standing forces you to drop a player each time you score a goal. Finally, you can create a Custom Match and/or take your game online with Street Seasons.


Difficulty:

Surprisingly, I found FIFA Street to be less accessible than its simulation counterpart. There's a great deal to master in this game, and most of it does not come easy. If you want to become a wizard with street ball control, you'll have to practice with it under different scenarios. The proper time to trick past opponents is very difficult to pinpoint, and your window of opportunity is different for each trick. Long story short, you will likely fail several times before mastering even a single trick type. Once you get it, though, muscle memory will take care of the rest.

The advantage here goes to gamers who are comfortable with precision-based analog stick controls. A comprehensive tutorial would have served better than the collection of videos on the disc, but at least there's a practice arena to hone your skills in.


Game Mechanics:

FIFA Street retains most of FIFA Soccer's decidedly unbroken control scheme, but the some of the mechanics reserved for long-range play are culled out for two very important reasons. One: the pitches in FIFA Street are far smaller. Two: to make room for the new trick system, which fits into the scheme very comfortably.

To begin with, most of your tricking is handled with the Right Analog Stick. Flicks and half circles result in an invariably impressive display of hands-free ball manipulation. You can also take your tricking into the air by flicking the ball up (RB). A successful air beat is every bit as satisfying as a successful nutmeg. However, different situations call for different tricks; stepovers aren't nearly as risky as ginga spins, for example.

Street Ball Control is another mechanic you'll have to master if you want to get used to beating your opponents. By holding the Left Trigger, your player stops in his tracks and focuses solely on handling the ball. Manipulating the Left Analog Stick moves the ball in the direction the stick is being pushed; once you're confident enough to make a move, a tap of the Right Trigger will have your player attempt a panna. Be careful, though, if the defender closes his legs, you'll be the one who's humiliated.

FIFA Street isn't exactly the most newbie-friendly game of virtual soccer on the market. However, it ably fills a niche that has been begging for representation for quite a while. If you like FIFA and are looking for something a bit different in your soccer game, you can't go wrong with FIFA Street.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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