Product Type: Electronic Arts Xbox 360 games
Newest Review: ... the essence is the same - small-sided football that places less emphasis on pace and power, and more on individual skill. Previous vers... more
Take to the Street
FIFA Street (Xbox 360)
Member Name: Puggers
FIFA Street (Xbox 360)
Advantages: Looks great, feels great, enormous depth and variety of gameplay for a title like this.
Disadvantages: Quibbles so minor they barely exist.
It certainly works for FIFA Street. Shaking off the clunky camera, on-rails gameplay and apish opposition AI of the first three instalments of the series, this is a game that embraces everything that was positive, innovative and downright good fun about the Street franchise - and at the same time branches off in its own distinctive direction.
The FIFA Street series started out as a close sibling to EA's other Street games - just as their basketball simulation was given a rough-and-ready makeover and moved from the bright lights of the court to a variety of less salubrious urban locations, this is a pared-down version of the existing FIFA games.
There are a number of variations on the theme here - standard five- or six-a-side or futsal sitting alongside more offbeat twists on the game, such as the freestyling and panna modes which reward flair and tricks over goal-scoring, or the manically entertaining Last Man Standing challenge, in which every goal scored loses you a player from your team - the first team to lose all their players wins. Throughout these spins on the genre, though, the essence is the same - small-sided football that places less emphasis on pace and power, and more on individual skill.
Previous versions of the game have struggled to deliver a gameplay experience that lives up to the concept, but this reboot manages to replicate the intuitive playability of the full game and transpose it to this new setting wonderfully. In fact, the control system works even better in such close-quarters - you always feel like you have full control of your player, and as such it's enormously rewarding when you manage to throw together a series of stopovers, feints and flicks to bamboozle your opponent into submission.
Where earlier instalments failed was in separating the game too much from reality - it was all too cartoony, too silly. The graphics have been dramatically changed here, given a real-world feel that makes everything so much more involving. The mechanics of the game, too, are altered - whilst players frequently dance past each other with graceful skill, they can also be sent crashing viscerally into the wall, or see their attempted bunny-hop end with an unceremonious face-plant. Wisely, EA don't overplay this side of the game - it's not easy to foul your opponents, but the way that it happens when it does shows they've got their physics engine right.
Control-wise, the game is also right on-song. A vast repertoire of moves exists - gained and augmented via an RPG-like levelling-up system - and all of these are accessible by means of well-timed use of the controller's analogue sticks and buttons. It feels more like a beat-em-up than a sports game at times, stringing together a combo of moves - but it works, and feels wonderfully fluid when it unfolds on-screen. There's also a nice learning curve here - you can produce good-looking, skilful football from the off, but it takes a lot of play to really master even a modest selection of the moves.
So the game's certainly fun, and benefits from a sharp visual sense that runs from the menus to the globe-trotting pitches and their backdrops, which include Astroturf courts under flyovers, a floating surface in Venice (where dangerously bouncing balls can be skied into the canal), a tight pitch with views over Rio's favela rooftops and smart indoor stadia in Germany and Japan. The sparse commentary in the local lingo is a nice touch, too.
More than that, though, there's great depth to this game. While the real strength of this kind of title is in its multiplayer platform (pitting user-created teams against each other), the single-player campaign in FIFA Street is impressive in its scope and fun-factor. Part of this is the steadily ramped-up challenge of the World Tour mode, in which your motley crew progress from the glitzy surrounds of Guildford (in my game - you choose the region of the country your team hails from) to the national tournament in London, before taking on Europe and the world. Alongside this, the extent to which you can customise your team makes for an immersive experience - each player can be edited in terms of physique, skills and apparel, with a wealth of different tops, shorts and boots unlockable. The game manages to balance intuitive pick-up-and-play appeal with a deep, rewarding level of detail that rewards the devotion of some serious hours to the game.
If there are flaws to FIFA Street, they haven't made themselves felt yet - only the most minor quibbles exist, such as a lack of stats - while data like shots, goals, possession etc. are recorded and displayed immediately after a match, this then seems to disappear, meaning you can only guess at the relative performances of the players on your roster. Given the way in which you build and cultivate a team, a stats page for each player would add welcome background. But this really is a minor point.
All in all, this is a great demonstration of how a reboot should work - just as Christopher Nolan did with Batman Begins, the series has been stripped back to its core ingredients and most essential aspects, and developed from there. The result is an engrossing, great-looking and enormously enjoyable game that lives up to the reputation of its bigger brother perfectly.
Summary: Das Reboot.