It's often said imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But what to make of rebooted franchises? It has been approximately 4 years since Fifa Street 3 graced our Xboxes and gave us a ridiculous element of soccer that catered to a flashy generation. With a little pizzazz, a bit of capoeira, and a lot of caution to the wind, the Fifa Street franchise was headed for great things, bringing life to a sport that lacked an over the top representation much like NBA Jam did for basketball.
Then the music stopped, so to speak. Fifa Street was silenced. For the next 4 years, EAs main soccer focus appeared to be the FIFA franchise, turning that from an average series of yearly games to a fabulous one. Then, in an interesting turn of events, EA announced the revival of the Street Franchise, however, rather than calling this one Street 4, its a rebirth altogether. Street is back in a new way, carrying forward only the essence of the previous franchises. The game focuses more on the fast paced, flashy style of Street football than Arcade football, though it should still be considered largely an arcade-style title. The biggest difference is that the FIFA team was brought in to work on a lot of elements of this game, which you will see almost right away.
Right out of the box, youre hit withlimited game modes. EA chose to adopt the Keep it Simple rule here, and hook you up with an exhibition mode with a few different gameplay modes and a World Tour (Practice modes are available as well.) The game also includes Futsal (organized indoor football) and a mixture of 3 to 6-a-side football. Nearly all (if not all) of the teams from FIFA 12 are available, and all of the rosters have been updated to a certain point as well. In addition to teams from all of your favorite leagues, street players from around the world have been imported, giving you an unprecedented number of players to choose from worldwide.
Exhibition modes are what they are, but this game really shines in World Tour Mode. This mode will give you dozens, if not hundreds of hours of enjoyment, with the combination of all game modes, and objectives to meet. Perhaps the coolest feature I think Ive ever seen in a sports game is the extension of the EA Football Club mode, where your friends created characters will automatically show up in the first street game, and then make their way onto your created street team. You dont even need to invite them (or play with them for that matter) as the game will source created players from your social network and bring them into your experience. Kudos to whoever dreamt up that idea.
You can start your World Tour anywhere you choose, and work to dominate the entire planet. The games are what they are Your regular mix of soccer game modes mixed throughout. Your created street team earn XP, medals and skill points while you level up to progress higher on the ladder. Once you play a region of a country, you also earn the ability to claim one of the beaten teams captains on yours. This may pose a bit of a problem if you have a lot of friends and want to level them up instead (player poaching isnt mandatory anyway) but is helpful if you want to build a better team much faster. To complete World Tour to its fullest will take a lot of time, and isnt something you can simply dedicate a day or two to.
The controls in this game are pretty well thought out. The basics are very similar to the real Fifa games, with the obvious inclusion of street tricks, of which there are so many, I lost count. You run the majority of your tricks with the right stick, and the game guides you while youre playing. Unlike the other Fifa Street games, the tricks are heavily focused on what is physically possible, not physically impossible like past games (You know, not to brag, but I could personally only ever do a jumping 1080 on a 1440 spin kick 7 feet up in the air.) Everything is what somebody has seen or done in street football before. The problem with the controls is the absolute clunky nature of it all. The controls just seem to function when they want to. The basics are always there, but it seems like the game takes on a life of its own whenever it wants to. One moment, youre playing the most fluid game of panna youll ever play. Another, you cant check, you cant score, and you cant pull off the most basic of tricks. This game is one that needs to live and die by its controls, and it quickly pushes the title to a Continued Work in Progress state.
Speaking of clunky, I seem to be plagued with awkward EA Bugs. For an ungodly amount of time I cant even be bothered to remember, I could not access FUT mode in FIFA 12. It was literally the day after I finished the review for it. EA spent nearly 2 hours with me one night attempting to diagnose the problem, and finally chalked it up as a mutation of a previous glitch. It took around 3 different patch updates, but I can play FUT again. In Street, something I found discouraging (and perhaps it was just me again. I couldnt be bothered to report it) was that I couldnt boot the game up and have my system automatically log into Live. Rather, I would have to start my console, go back to the dashboard, log into Xbox Live there, start the game up and then have it all connect. Complicating matters was when I hadnt put my online pass in, the game crashed numerous times thinking while trying to let me put my password in. I even gave up and disconnected my console from Live for a while for the sake of this review. I still have not resolved it 100%, though it now works as designed more often than not.
Since Im not much of an online gamer, however, its not a big detriment to me, but it may be to those of you who choose to play opponents over Live instead of against the CPU. I would say to tread lightly with this title as a result, but I have reason to believe Im the only one experiencing this problem because it seems like I always am. Anyway, lets take a look at the final ratings.
Graphics: 9/10. Certain aspects of the game look great. Characters move fluidly no matter what combination of ridiculous clothing they're wearing, with little no clipping issues. The backgrounds are detailed, bright and colorful. Overall, this game looks great. For me to call this a graphical masterpiece may be a bit of a stretch, but EA's graphics rarely seem to be lacking. The right part of the mesh ripples when you put the ball in the net, and everything flows well together.
Sound: 8/10. Audio for the game is good. With such a focus on the world of street soccer, EA's done a good job of capturing a few different snippets of languages and accents with what's available. I'm not a huge fan of the soundtrack. I like the subtle way the soundtrack songs are background music, and the lyrics pipe in on goals and instant replays, however, the music itself is just better than average. There are a few songs that give me that sporty vibe, but I feel like I should be watching a Volkswagen commercial other times. I will admit, however, that I'm not very club football cultured, and don't know if what I'm hearing are official team anthems. My soccer watching is relegated fully to the MLS and International stages.
Control: 6/10. Controlling the players are probably the weakest aspect of this game, and this leads to frustration more often than not. They aren't difficult to learn, however, it`s difficult to get into a rhythm with this game. Sometimes the game button caches, and other times it does not. Sometimes players just throw the ball away with a combination of different moves, and sometimes they don`t. Perhaps it`s ball and court physics, and if it is, it`s one of the most unintentional, yet intentional physics monkey wrenches in video gaming history. I`ll lean toward no, however. What frustrates me about sitting and playing this game is the fact that the controls just dial in and dial out as they wish. One minute, you can pull off some of the greatest soccer moves the world has ever seen because your perfectly responsive player will listen to your every command. Others, the player won`t do anything but dribble the ball up and down the court and flick a trick here and there. I found myself repeating the same tactics over and over again rather than trying to diversify because, to be honest, I gave up.
Gameplay: 8/10. When this game wants to be great, it is. When it wants to be the game that refuses to sell itself to you, it is. Granted, EA fixed all the glitches that seemed to riddle the demo, but there are still some very unfortunate glitches that rear their head at inopportune times. Getting the ball stuck at the wall is one of the worst things to possibly happen in this game, as I found that the ball and wall would become one sometimes. At certain difficulties, NPCs will freeze with the ball, allowing you to simply stand there as well, or check them easily. For a game that touts itself as a pickup, arcade style title, there are some very suspect things that should not exist out of the box without modifying options. Players, for example, seem to have no automatic aim, which while fine for a simulation title, is not for Fifa Street. Player collision, as previously mentioned, is fantastic, but again, a bit select. The CPU players seem to be able to float through you and do things that you cannot. This effect, which is, well, CPU cheating (forget the idea of making the game difficult. Difficulty should not be increased by CPU ability to do physically impossible things) adds another layer of frustration on the higher difficulties.
Overall, this is a fun game, yes. I will find myself playing it quite often until Euro 2012 comes out. But consider this title for what it is. EA chose not to call this the 4th installment for a reason -- This is a new attempt at repackaging an old Franchise. The first efforts often tend to be little more than foundations for which a company can build upon to make a continuously better product. THQ succeeded when they reinvented the WWE Franchise in the latter Smackdown vs. Raw engines. 2K succeeded in a huge way with the NBA franchise, so much so that it pushed poor EA out of basketball altogether for 2 years. EA will do it with Fifa Street, but it might take a couple more of these before it rounds out. Still, the vast inclusion of leagues and teams, and fun of the World Tour mode is reason enough to give this game a look. If you enjoyed previous Fifa Street games, you will definitely enjoy this one. However, if you are only into the serious soccer games, this is so night and day from the Fifas, Winning Elevens and World Cups of the world that you may not enjoy it at all.