IGN Review of NFL Street 3
Two years ago, EA Sports Big took some liberties with the standard football experience by taking NFL players out of stadiums and putting them back onto the streets and vacant lots where they learned the game. The NFL Street series was about style as much as it was about substance, and showing up your opponents as you took the ball to the house was a key part of the game. But while the console version of the previous games often stretched the extreme football genre, the translation over to the PSP side of the ball wasn't as effective. The same could be said of the recent release of NFL Street 3, which demands that players Respect the Street, but still comes up a bit short in the gameplay department.
Take it to the Sandlot
The previous NFL Street titles focused on using stylish moves to show up your opponent on the football field. Whether you were performing no look passes with your QB or went high stepping into the end zone, every successful showboat move you pulled off added to your Gamebreaker meter. Once full, players could trigger this feature which would run a canned cinematic and give you either an automatic six points or a crushing defensive stop. However, in Street 3, Gamebreakers take place in real time, putting the success of the move squarely in your hands.
Offensive players have the most versatility with these Gamebreakers, because just about any one of their standard moves are significantly boosted. Pulling off a typical spin, stiff arm, jump or juke results in a flashier version of that action, along with a shockwave emanating from that player that knocks nearby athletes flat on their backs. Quarterbacks also find that their passes get turbocharged. These streak towards their target with such force that it knocks the receiver an additional five yards or so down the field. While defenders have fewer moves, they're just as effective. When you're on the other side of the ball, you can perform a homing interception that lets you immediately pull down any pass in the air. Similarly, you can perform a homing tackle on an offensive player, which will often force them to put the ball on the ground.
You're not guaranteed to be successful if you decide to pull off any one of these Gamebreakers, though, which is new to the series. For example, opposing defenders can time their tackles to hit you shortly after your offensive move has dissipated, and ball carriers can actually be far enough down the field that your homing tackle will miss its intended target. What's more, it's now possible to dynamically cancel out the other team's Gamebreaker if you pull off your move at the right time. The added risk or reward to using these actions during a game or racing to collect up to three of them for your team forces you to improve your strategy for these moves during each match up.
Redesigning Gamebreakers isn't the only change that's been made to Street 3. The previous game introduced the ability to get vertical by jumping off walls to avoid tackles or make incredible catches. This time around, players will be able to perform aerial moves to further extend their hangtime, helping throw off defenders and adding to their gained yardage count. It's not explained in the in-game tutorials, but it's something to know about, especially since it's shown off in the intro video of the game: once a player has jumped onto a wall and performs a secondary jump off the wall, there's a small window of time to hit the analog nub in any one of the four cardinal directions, which will perform a flip or spin in mid-air. This move is usually good for at least another five or six yards, and can sometimes be the difference between breaking a run wide open and turning the ball over on downs.
There are two issues with the new aerials, however. First of all, it's extremely tricky to pull off, particularly since you're also using the analog nub to move at the same time. In fact, you probably won't intentionally pull the trick off the first time you manage to make it happen; if your thumb happens to slip off the nub, you may accidentally stumble into the animation instead. What's more, since there isn't a second analog stick, it's a bit harder to control how you're pulling off the trick and what direction you're moving in at the same time. Secondly, if you've played NFL Street 2, it may feel like you're not really gaining anything new with these aerial moves, and depending on the stats of the players you select, you might not be able to take advantage of them anyway.
Another adjustment with vertical moves is the option to leap off the various boxes, barrels and obstacles scattered around every field that you play on. Not only can you use these objects as supplementary blockers or tacklers during a play, but you can use them as both a springboard for the aforementioned aerials as well as for collecting the various icons that are suspended above the gridiron. This is different than the standard hotspots that were included in Street 2; instead, players can collect items like footballs that can be used as game balls. You can also pick up game modifiers that can potentially change the course of the game. Some of these are immediate, like receiving free Gamebreakers, while others are conditional, such as your next touchdown counting for 12 points instead of six. Finally, you can receive credits that you can redeem for gear such as shoes, gloves and other outfits for your players. Now, gear doesn't give you any attribute bonuses, so apart from making your own fashion choices, you may not have a lot of use for these credits.
You'll be able to take advantage of all of these changes in Street 3's newly included game types. While pickup games (now known as exhibition games) and 5 of the Street Events, like Crush the Carrier and Open Field Showdown make a return to Street 3, they're joined by brand new game types. Bank matches are games where style points on either side of the ball are stored into a central place until one team scores, at which time they receive all the points. The goal is to get enough points to end that match. Defensive Scoring places an emphasis on trying to stop the offense, and every successful stop gives you points. On the other side of the ball, Yards For Points gives you points for each yard that you gain, although rushing yards actually give you twice as many points as passing plays.
For players that like working under pressure, you can try Time Attack, where you have a minute to drive down the field and score a touchdown. Any left over seconds on the clock are added as bonus points to your score. Finally, Playbook Elimination gives both teams the same set of offensive plays. Any negative result, such as a fumble, loss of yards or incomplete pass eliminates that play from a team's playbook, and the side that loses all of their formations forfeits the match. Now, while the inclusion of these new game modes extends the replayability of the title, there's one problem with the placement of some of the overlays, particularly with Bank and Time Attack matches. While it's a bit better than the PS2 version of the game, their respective icons are placed at the center of the screen, which can obscure game action, especially with long passes down the field.
Respect the Street
The Career mode, known as Respect the Street, is somewhat different in NFL Street 3. No longer are you being mentored by someone or focusing on a personally created character. Instead, you and your crew of scrubs are trying to earn the right to take on the best of the league in street ball. But you won't be able to simply walk onto the fields of NFL players and simply throw down a challenge; you have to prove that you have the right to play them by being respected by other teams around the country. This can only be done by taking on and defeating other squads. You can further increase your respect by spotting teams a certain amount of points, giving yourself a handicap to overcome before the game starts. This can be risky, because if you lose, your respect level will drop significantly.
As your respect climbs, you gain a number of benefits. For one, you gain new formations in your playbook for game situations. Another plus is that you'll be able to recruit players to your squad, and you'll be able to enter a number of drills that can provide you with development points to boost the stats of your crew. Boosting the stats of your crew is especially important, because at first, your squad sucks. Not only do they not have the hops to take advantage of the new twists to the gameplay, but they aren't particularly effective on either side of the ball. In a way, this can be rather discouraging during the first quarter of the mode, as you struggle against much better opponents until you gain the points you need to slowly build your team into a powerhouse on the field.
While it's nice to see some changes to Street's gameplay and career modes, it is a little disappointing to see a cutback on some of the features with the game, like creating characters instead of modifying pre-existing ones. In fact, where Street 2 on the PSP had some new Wi-Fi modes to play with, NFL Street 3 actually cuts back, only providing you with pickup games, single player games and street modes. The lobby system isn't nearly as deep because of the limitation to Ad Hoc play only, so you may get bored with the online game. What's more, there are a couple of problems that can arise within any match. For instance, you'll inevitably run into plays around the walls of an arena where you'll find players either hung up on invisible corners or objects, which impede their forward progress. Similarly, players will phase through the walls that frame the playing field on some passes or tackles.
Another thing that can be somewhat annoying is the sheer amount of cheap laterals that the computer will engage in when they're blatantly down on the ground. I understand that Street isn't holding to the standard rules of the NFL, but it can be particularly frustrating to watch your defenders stuff a play in the backfield, only to have the ball spurt around the other team's players and wind up inevitably turning into a positive play. Switching to players that are closest to the ball carrier on defense is rather difficult as well, particularly during these active lateral plays, as the game will try to assume which player you want to control. More times than not, it's not someone that can actually make a tackle on the ball carrier. Finally, while NFL teams appear to have more players than previous games, there are some teams with outdated rosters.
The visuals are also somewhat of a letdown, considering the screen itself. Character models not only exhibit pop-in around the huddle, but are also a bit harder to discern during play. In fact, with the exception of certain hair styles on some players, you might not be able to pick out just who you're playing as. There's also a lot that's missing, simply because of the translation from the PS2 to the PSP. No longer do you have cutscenes after good or bad plays during the game. Instead, you've only got them at the end of a match, when you see the victors walking off the field congratulating each other as the losers console themselves. Gamebreakers don't look that sharp either; in fact, the palette for the move seems to be a bit muted, so you'll sometimes not be aware that a gamebreaker has been triggered. The over the top feel that is the trademark of the series has returned in full effect within the game, and you'll be able to pick up a lot of the flashy style moves that your players pull off. It's a little bit harder to see at times because instead of zooming out, the camera is extremely tight on the line of scrimmage. This can make it hard to see what's happening downfield until the camera immediately moves to it, and can make viewing the collectible icons and other items virtually impossible during a game.
Apart from the visual issues, the long load times, which were a problem with the previous Street title on the PSP, make a return. While they're slightly better than NFL Street 2, it's still somewhat confusing to figure out what takes so long to load. Don't expect to hear anything except the soundtrack and some grunting within the PSP version of the game, either. Much of the vocalization and smack talking has been completely stripped from the game, leaving only the occasional grunt and sound effect from tackles. That's fine, since the soundtrack is okay -- much harder edged than the previously infused hip hop soundtracks of the series, featuring Lamb of God, Rob Zombie, Megadeth and Hatebreed.
©2006-11-20, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved