There is no doubt in my mind that EA has worked hard to create new innovations in sports games in the last four years, whether it's creating exciting new feature sets or perfecting the use of the analog stick in football or boxing. Just a few short years ago, EA's fiercely competitive and ambitious nature resulted in the gleaning of NBA Street
, the natural grandchild of NBA Jam
, and took the mantle of arcade-style hoops king as a result. FIFA Street
, however, is not NBA Street
. I knew NBA Street
, he was a great game and my personal friend, and you, FIFA Street
, you're no NBA Street
More precisely, FIFA Street is the Frankenstein of soccer games. Its makers grafted on the progression structure and tricks of NBA Street, strapped on a mish-mash of mo-cap animations, unlockables, and perhaps some of the worst music and voice work ever known to humankind, and then one late wintry night, when the rain poured down hard and lighting struck, the creators of this thing flipped the super electrode switch and watched the force of un-Godly nature madly course through its invention.
Up it came, sizzling with all if its various limbs and bolts sticking out at odd angles, and FIFA Street stood and looked around. It groaned this horrible, unfathomable raspy voice, chanting in polyrhythmic world-beat tunes, and just started chatting. Oh God! The chatting! The endless chattering of raspy English barrel house-ska nonsense! And it moved around a bit, kicking a soccer ball off fences, and EA thought, "By God, our new creation, it's ALIVE!!!!"
After several nights of playing FIFA Street, I realized my first impressions of FIFA Street are the same as my final ones, only now that I've played 15 hours of it I'm somewhat bitter. EA's new BIG Street game is one that's so far removed from the actual game of soccer it's pathetic. If you watch soccer or have ever played Winning Eleven 8 and then go directly to FIFA Street, you'll wonder what the hell you're supposed to do. The game doesn't work like a proper soccer game in any sense of the word. Sure, it's designed as an indoor soccer game, a three-on-three, fast-circuit, fast-action street game, from the streets of Brazil or whatever, and in a sense, that could be cool. But the final conclusion here is that it plays like a badly grafted NBA Street game on a soccer pitch.
You're not meant to play it like soccer. You're meant to play it like NBA Street. That is to say, you're supposed to trick the hell out of your meter, work to fill up your Gamebreaker, and pull off fantastic, super athletic moves. But no matter what level you analyze it on, the game breaks down badly. It's just not that much fun. It's not well crafted, well thought out, or well imagined. It's just a damn shame.
First, the Gamebreaker itself. In NBA Street the idea behind the 'Breaker is to build up and launch it to shift the balance of power from your opponent to yourself. It's a neat arcade tool in your quiver of tricks. It subtracts points from your opponent and adds them to your total. In FIFA Street, however, no points are subtracted from your opponent. And none are given to you, except for the point you earn if you've actually scored a goal. Your shot seems to be more powerful and it looks as if you can aim your shot, as it the feature slows time down. But, on a fundamental Street level, the Gamebreaker isn't actually a Gamebreaker at all. It's pretty worthless -- certainly less useful than the rather sketchy Gamebreaker in NFL Street.
Second, the game barely feels like soccer. It's more of an excuse to pull off tricks and freely and brutally slide-tackle your opponent. Admittedly, there is a certain sense of freedom and initial excitement when you pull off that first wall-pass and then convert it to a score. Or when you learn to tap pass the ball into the air, juggling it from player to player until you've found the opening in the defense, and bam! You bicycle kick the ball in. Admittedly, the first couple times you do that, it feels really good. The drag is that once you've done it a few times, the feeling doesn't get better. They're tricks, shallow arcade tricks that quickly diffuse in novelty and excitement. Quite quickly you'll come to realize the game is based entirely in these tricks, and the more you use them the better you get, systematically eliminating the need to know how to play soccer, learn its strategies, skills, depth, or nature. I noticed how EA didn't even use the word "soccer" in its title. Quite fitting, indeed.
The Rule the Street (Career mode) offers a substantial and long single-player campaign. The progression scheme is formulated almost exactly on NBA Street, and it's similar to Def Jam: Fight for NY. You'll earn skill bills and reputation points. Skill bills are exchangeable for either character building points for your player or teammates. Rep points, earned by beating teams ranked higher than yourself, qualify you for Cups worth mucho dinero. You also earn money to pay for the chance to buy players from other teams. First, you pay a designated amount of cash. Second, you play that team, and if you win, you add that player to your squad. Lose, and you lose the cash, and you'll have to do it again. Overall the cash system works fine, but it feels like it's just been thrown over into this game without any substantial modifications, stylizations, or without any real thought to making this game special or distinct.
This is another area in which the game feels like it's been churned out quickly and thrown into the market, as if it were created from a game factory and hurled at retailers to sell for full price, despite the obvious flaws and sub-par quality. It's terribly unpolished and clearly rushed. Sure, you earn new clothes to dress your player in -- shoes, hats, glasses, what have you, but it all feels so useless because the street soccer isn't any good. If the soccer were good, these normally neat but fluffy features would highlight the natural goodness of the game. But because it's a poor game on so many levels, with lousy controls and feckless execution, these features feel like bad fluff. Factory-made fluff.
The list of complaints goes on. The game is poorly balanced. Try sending a high pass to a striker and eye his ability to bicycle kick a pass from anywhere on the field, not matter where he's facing, and he'll kick it toward the goal. He could be facing north and the goal is west, and bam! That ball goes west. There are bugs. I have frequently shot the ball through the opposing goalie. I know this because I watched closely in the replays (10 times just to check) how the ball shifted through the stomach of the opposing goalie. Or try this famous FIFA move that's been possible in nearly every single FIFA game to date. Dribble the ball from one side of the field to the other. Slowly created a zigzag pattern in a slow trot, so the defender is able to catch up. When you reach the opposing goalie area, move parallel to the goalie, back and forth, so the defender is just a hair behind you. Then shoot. Bingo. GOOOOAAALLLLL!!!! Eighty-five percent of the time this obvious, dull, and terrible play works like a champ. Eighty-five percent sounds like a money play to me.
If the gameplay doesn't hook you, or perhaps just quietly disappoints (though, honestly, there is nothing quiet about this game), the technical and graphic side won't impress either. The motion capture work and animations are a mixture of both beautiful and horribly interpolated animations. On the one hand, the motion capture work is actually quite pretty. If you're just sitting back in the defensive area and pulling off tricks without a defender around, the mo-cap looks smooth and fluid. But pull off these same moves quickly with a defender around, and watch the mo-cap work get in the way of the gameplay. The poorly edited clips and jerky animations jolt your player from one sequence to the next. The players run in funny and awkward ways. It's ugly.
Overall, the visuals are decent, but not nearly as highly touted as, say, Madden NFL 2005. The characters all offer decent human forms, their faces are well textured and mostly realistic, and you gotta love that soccer mullet hair option. The ball physics are a little wacky, purposely, I believe, to give you that arcade sensation of doing things no humans are naturally capable of. Overall, the graphics don't play a huge part in this game. The fields are all small and caged in. There are no fans in the areas, and there are just the eight guys on the field. The replays are limited, far less robust than, say, Madden or Live.
If the gameplay wasn't enough to make you feel sick to your stomach, the music and announcing will clarify beyond any doubt, the wretchedness of FIFA Street. The music is a mixture of rap-world music and it stinks. No matter what song you pick, it's obnoxious, mediocre, and forgetful. You will not want these songs resting in your head. Luckily, they're so bad, no catchy themes or sections will have a chance of doing it. After that, the announcer is absolutely horrible. He might be famous (or perhaps not), but MC Harvey of So Solid Crew infamy puts a touch of insanity into his raspy, overtly obnoxious delivery. (Just listen to this.) Within five minutes of hearing his rap-happy stream-of-consciousness spouting, you'll be forced to click options and forever douse his tragic contribution to the game.
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