For anyone with a competitive spirit, there are few things in life better than beating someone one-on-one. Sure, a team victory against bitter rivals is always reason to storm city streets—then again, you may find the same result if your team loses—but there’s something so much more special about a solo victory. That is, in part, the basis of EA Sports’ reboot of FIFA Street. It’s a game all about humiliating your opponents and strutting around the world like virtual rock stars. This is a team-based sports game, but it plays more like a one-on-one competition aimed at rewarding tricks, crazy goals, and making your opponents run home to their mommies for hot cocoa. But does this game have enough to keep you strutting for longer than a couple matches, or is it just a one trick pony?
The logical comparison for this game is EA Sports’ venerable FIFA football (soccer) series, but at times it plays more like a tricked-out NHL game given the small court size and how players seem to skate around the ground. It’s an odd combination of calculated style and precision passing, and a fast-paced turnover/recovery system. When you mash it all together, you get a game that serves a definite purpose—providing FIFA fans with a more stylized gameplay approach to the action—but ends up feeling a bit thin. That’s partially because games take minutes, goals are generally fast, and team management is minimal at best.
The release marks the first time the EA Sports FIFA development team (EA Canada) has created FIFA Street, and it shows in the gameplay and presentation. This looks like a scaled-down version of FIFA 12, and since it runs on the same Player Impact Engine, you’ll find players reacting relatively naturally in the gyms or on courts. But, that also means the engine turns players into ragdolls on a regular basis, and it’s not uncommon for players to trip up at the slightest touch. The animations look great, but it doesn’t always look natural. This is especially true when several players run into each other and create a dog pile of humans.
The gameplay focus is largely on individual skills. The controls are very similar to other FIFA games, with face buttons controlling pass, long passes, through passes, and shots, and R2 letting you sprint and L1 changing players on defense. If you’ve played any FIFA game, you’ll initially feel right at home. But if you think that’s enough to beat your opponents, prepare to lose. FIFA Street ‘s controls focus more on ball movement than other FIFA games. For example, you can tap R1 to flick up that ball and start to juggle, while L2 will stop the ball regardless of your player’s movements. The left analog stick still controls your player, but the right analog stick is tied to tricks and moving the ball around your body. This probably sounds pretty easy on a basic level, but there are a ton of tricks to learn, and it feels a lot different than FIFA 12. Even if you are used to performing tricks in FIFA 12, prepare for a much smoother, slower experience in FIFA Street. It’s a system that will initially seem easy enough and enjoyable, but you’ll quickly learn you need more practice when playing against someone who knows how to beat your defenders with a flick of the ball.
Playing defense is almost as fun as offense in FIFA Street, largely because it’s a game so dependent on the notion of humiliation, and there’s nothing better than humiliating someone that’s trying to humiliate you. Watch for better opponents to try to tip the ball over your head; simply take a step back with the left analog stick and you’ll gain control and can quickly spin around the humiliated challenger. It’s an enjoyable experience on a very basic level, but there are some issues with the gameplay mechanics and engine that offer a healthy dose of frustration.
There isn’t a lot of attention placed to your goalkeeper. This makes sense as the keeper is often switching between defense and attack when not on the net, but even when his primary focus is on the protecting the box, he’s slow and often unresponsive. You can order your keeper to rush the defender, which still works great, and EA carried over the auto contain defense system from FIFA 12. When the ball is in your keeper’s hands, be careful with where you throw it. On several occasions I thought I was throwing it to a teammate off in the corner, but I apparently mistimed or misplaced the pass as an opposing player simply sent a header into the back of the net.
Luckily there are several game modes to offer a little something different depending on what you enjoy. For example, there are more traditional matches like 5-a-side and 6-a-side, which serve as scaled-down versions of regular football with walls instead of out-of-bounds. Then there’s futsal, which is 5-on-5 indoor football without the walls. But the mode that best demonstrates the premise of FIFA Street—one-on-one humiliation—is Panna rules. In this mode each time you beat an opponent—meaning you find a way to get around them—you earn points. When you score, those points are added together to give you massive bonuses. This is a fun mode and one where you’ll likely find the best players showing off their skills.
All these modes take place in the general single-player experience, the World Tour. You’ll create a team, you can even import your friend’s players, and you’ll take your team to the streets, so to speak. As you can expect from a sports game, you’ll start off locally, then advance to regionally before attempting to dominate the world. You’ll gain experience points along your journey, and those points are spent to upgrade your team and player’s ability and even add new skills. This is nice addition for a sports game as you can control how your players progress. It’s not terribly deep, but there’s enough here to make some players stronger as defenders and others better as offense.
The game is best played with others, either online or locally. That’s because the A.I. is often unresponsive and just lazy. On several occasions I found my teammates standing around, behind a defender and just watching me trying to find an opening. Even when on defense your teammates act like cardboard cutouts, dazed as the offense walks the ball straight up the court. This is odd since FIFA 12, and most other sports games, have relatively responsive A.I. considering there is so much going on at once. But, it’s hard to find an excuse for poor A.I. when you are playing 5-vs-5.
There’s plenty here to keep the game social. You can capture video of your tricks and share them in game via Street Network. You’ll also find tournaments, challenges, and online seasons. You can compete in 5-a-side, 6-a-side and Futsal matches online. There are 15 divisions with 10 games a season. You’ll also find real life stars from Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Arsenal; in addition, you’ll find actual street football stars to compete with you in real-world tournaments. There are a ton of venues throughout the world, and EA did a great job of making it feel authentic to locations.
FIFA Street is a good attempt at bridging the gap between the realistic approach of traditional FIFA games, and the more over-the-top arcade style of past FIFA Street games. This is definitely a game built around fun and not around heavy management mini-games or extreme depth. If you are looking for a new football experience, FIFA Street is definitely perfect for you. While it is fun to learn new tricks, the better moves are likely too complex for casual fans to master, meaning many people aren’t going to appreciate the more subtle moments. If you can get past the poor A.I., occasionally frustrating goalkeeping, and controls that are just a bit slow, you’ll find a lot to like about FIFA Street.