Review: FIFA Street (PS2, XB, GC)

FIFA Street
Platform: PS2, X-Box, GC
Developer: EA Big
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Sports

I consider myself a bit of a connoisseur of sports that nobody cares about. I set my sleeping schedule every two years for the Olympic sports that no one regularly cares about. Professional table tennis is unbelievably cool. I live for curling, you know, the thing with the brooms on ice. If it sounds stupid then I should probably go for it. With that in mind, I happily picked up FIFA Street. Was it a complete piece of crap or was it actually fun?


Story

First off, a little back story on the whole history of the game. Soccer in the United States (football everywhere else, including this review) is pretty much ignored if you don’t play it or you don’t have a twelve year old playing it. The Federation Internationale de Football Association is the world governing body of football. EA is the big corporation that owns the exclusive rights to the FIFA league. EA Big makes extreme games and the “Street” series. Seeing a chance for profit, EA tells EA Big to take football back to where it began, the street.

The street is cruel though. So cruel that EA is unable to communicate anything about street football without shocking Americans! EA has done gamers a favor by not exposing the brutality of street life and letting us rest easy. All that is left in the game’s story mode is that you want to rule the street and by playing several games, you eventually do. The players you acquire have nothing distinguishing about them or none of their brutal achievements listed. Unless you follow the FIFA league, you won’t be able to gather any difference from who is a victim of the street and who is a victimizer. Thank you EA for your protection from a story that I, like many gamers, would be unable to handle.

Story: 3 out of 10


Graphics

To say that FIFA Street is an ugly game would be unfair. There are some really nice looking stages that really add to the ambience of the game. The look of most of the stages is also exceptionally creative. Each stage has a very specific feel. Holland is dreary and industrial. Rome has a very antiquated feel to it. Mexico City looks dusty and washed out with the occasional people passing by. If FIFA Street has one thing down, it’s atmosphere. Unlocking a new stage quickly becomes the best part of the game as each stage is a different experience.


Sadly, all of the graphical creativity seems to be put into the stages rather then the players. Players in FIFA Street can’t begin to hold a candle to their sim counterparts. The look of each player is pretty basic. Facial expression and emotion are practically non-existent. Animations are pretty limited for player movement too.

The ball animations are also pretty weak. It pretty much stuck to a player’s feet whenever they aren’t doing a trick or passing the ball in the air. For a game that’s supposed to be about style, it doesn’t make any sense that a player can only move the ball by dribbling it down the court.

Graphics: 5 out of 10


Sound

Hands down, the best part of FIFA Street is the sound. The music does just as much as the stages in establishing a mood for the game. The soundtrack is upbeat and makes the menus more fun. The soundtrack is also incredibly eclectic. Reggae, trance, and Spanish hip hop are just a few of the genres that add to the worldwide feel of the game. This is the most effective use of music in an EA game since the original NBA Street.

The commentary isn’t bad. I started the game and cringed as two of the first three comments made on the commentary were repeats, but there is actually a decent mix of comments. Like NBA Street V3, the in-game commentary does not do enough to recognize a blowout. After three goals, the commentary stops acknowledging that you’re in the middle of a rout. Overall though, the commentary never really becomes all that grating.

That’s really the only problem with FIFA Street’s sound; there just isn’t enough of it. You’ll hear the in game music repeating itself at latest by the third match. Same goes for the commentary. Hopefully for the inevitable sequel, EA will make the soundtrack as much of a priority as it was here.

Soundtrack: 8 out of 10


Control and Gameplay

Do you like controls? I sure do. This game has controls! Are they any good? The street is too extreme for consistently good controls! What’s wrong with them? Well first off, your teammates have some of the absolute stupidest AIs ever to grace sports games. On several occasions, your computer-controlled teammates will run past a loose ball only to play coverage on a guy that doesn’t have the ball. Did you just slide tackle an opponent sending him flying and leaving the ball loose? Well that’s awesome because there is no way your opponents will be able to get the ball because your teammates have them covered.
What else is wrong with your teammates? Well, they will always fall for any trick your opponent does in front of them. That brings me to the next problem, tricks are far too easy to use and far too difficult to defend against. Quite a few of the tricks cause your player to fake out and run in a completely opposite direction of the ball. These can be defended against, but in the end, it’s just easier to slide tackle wildly against an opponent dribbling down the court. Also, there’s very little variety to tricks and no way to earn trick points on defense other then intercepting a pass.

Gamebreakers comes back and boy, does it seem silly here. First off, what makes a game breaker in FIFA Street? The big difference between how a normal kick looks and how a gamebreaker looks is that when using a gamebreaker, a cloud of billowy smoke follows the ball to indicate that you really kicked it hard, really hard. Remember in NBA Street how a gamebreaker would subtract a point from your opponent’s score and add two points to yours? A gamebreaker in FIFA Street may score a goal and that’s it. No special features beyond that. Considering how ridiculously easy it is to score in FIFA Street, it’s frustrating that the gamebreakers didn’t accomplish anything more.


Let me clarify one thing here. The controls won’t ever make you toss the controller down in furious rage. They aren’t bad, they’re just very unpolished. Passing is annoying as the tricks because often times, you will try to pass then shoot but the game takes the input as pass, pass, shoot, so I’ve got a player trying to head the ball in from half court. Its frustrating stuff like that which makes my head have veins pulsing and throbbing. Again, nothing is wrong with the core of the engine, but there are more then a few things to nitpick about.

Control and Gameplay: 4 out of 10



Replay Value

There are some things to do here. To actually become Lord of the Street, it’ll take you a good three days or so playing a moderate amount. In addition, that doesn’t include if you take the time to 100% the game, which includes unlocking a decent number of the official FIFA players for a dream team mode. In that mode you assemble your favorite players from a pool of everyone you’ve unlocked and take them against another pool of players that you’ve also unlocked. Also there are some very minor unlockables for character creation, including different shirts, pants, and sunglasses.

The game isn’t bursting with content though. Completing the game’s story mode doesn’t give you anything other then a sense of pride in beating the game. Furthermore, there isn’t any real benefit to 100%ing the story mode. The game can last for quite a while if you feel compelled to play it, but it seems that there isn’t a heck of a lot of reason to go back and plat it.

Replay Value: 7 out of 10


Balance

FIFA Street has no real learning curve and no real increasing difficulty. Within three to four matches, you should be able to blow out your opponents, if evenly matched, relatively easily on the default difficulty. The controls aren’t complicated and can be mastered within a few matches. Scoring can be accomplished with ease and building up a gamebreaker bar can be done in two shots on goal if you have mastered the trick system.

Having said that, it is worth noting that a change in difficulty in the options will make the game drastically more challenging, especially on the hardest level. FIFA Street can be a challenge if you want it to be.

There are a few flaws in this model though. The game, no matter how high a rating the players you’re playing are, you will still be able to dominate on the first two difficulty settings. While there is some major difference between a player with a rating of 19 and one with a rating of 79, FIFA Street really fails to demonstrate any talent gaps until you turn up the difficulty. When the difficulty is turned up, the converse is true. Every game becomes challenging regardless of player ratings. The problem with FIFA Street is that besides changing the difficulty in the options, the game can potentially never get any harder. There is some balance in this game, and it is nice to see that there is a sliding scale of difficulty to keep things interesting, but ultimately, it is disappointing that there is no real increasing difficulty built into the game.

Balance: 5 out of 10


Originality

It’s a shame that this game is coming out so late in the extreme sports trend. A few years ago, FIFA Street could have been revolutionary. It would have been a game different from every other soccer game on the market. It takes the very traditional sport of soccer and infuses it with some arcade elements. The Virtua Striker series did that, but it had always sucked, and other soccer games were more arcadey then the average soccer sim, but they were often too caroonish to achieve the level of popularity that NBA Street or Blitz did.

Now though, there have been five other Street games released before FIFA Street, all of which were better executed. It incorporates elements of the other Street games poorly. Gamebreakers feel forced and the game feels weak, especially when compared to NBA Street Vol 3. This could have been something special. Instead, it seems like a shameless attempt to cash in on the FIFA license by EA. While it is the first attempt to make a FIFA game with an arcade feel, it appears to be a game that just takes elements from other better games and forces it to try and work.

Originality: 3 out of 10


Addictiveness

FIFA Street is a game that taken in small doses can be fun. Multiplayer is a bit lackluster quite frankly, but the single player experience can be a blast, especially if you enjoy screwing with the computer. There is a certain amount of glee that can be taken in trying to run over a team with a high score. Also, using the trick system to fake out the computer will bring a smile to your face especially if you can pull off something off of the wall.


The game gets old quick though. The lack of variety in the game, coupled with the fact that unless you’re a FIFA fan you won’t know anyone except David Beckham, you know, the guy that married one of the Spice Girls. It’s a shame too. With some more variety in moves, ways to score, and defensive, this game could have become a nice little party game. Instead, at most, it’s just a renter.

Addictiveness: 5 out of 10


Appeal Factor

It’s tough to judge who this game will end up appealing to in the United States. Outside of the US though, this game will probably be big. It is the first FIFA game with arcade style game play, which definitely adds to the appeal factor of it. Additionally, the game has a very whole world feel to it. The lack of any sort of statistics or bio cards for the official players makes it near impossible for anyone interested in learning about the FIFA players. So what it boils down to is who is this game going to be marketed to and will they have knowledge of FIFA players? I think that EA put this game out more for the world market then the US market and it shows in several areas.

So on the one hand, it has a mass appeal to the world market for the reasons mentioned above. On the other hand, without any sort of knowledge of FIFA players or the FIFA league, FIFA Street could have just as well made up a stable of new players to include into this game.

Appeal Factor: 7 out of 10


Miscellaneous

Despite the score that FIFA Street is going to end up getting, I’d like to say that I really don’t think that it is that bad of a game. It just is very incomplete. FIFA Street lacks all of the polish that the other Street games have, and it shows. EA Big has made a decent core of a game, but unfortunately, there isn’t anything really beyond this core that makes it stand out. I’ve set it once before and I’ll probably say it again. FIFA Street has all of the elements to be a good or even a superb game. Regrettably, it never ever rises above feeling like a shameless cash in.

Miscellaneous: 4 out of 10


The Scores

Story: 3 out of 10
Graphics; 5 out of 10
Soundtrack: 8 out of 10
Control and Gameplay: 4 out of 10
Replay Value: 7 out of 10
Balance: 5 out of 10
Originality: 3 out of 10
Addictiveness: 5 out of 10
Appeal Factor: 7 out of 10
Miscellaneous: 4 out of 10

Overall Score: 52 out of 50
FINAL SCORE: 5.0 (AVERAGE)