FIFA Street: Review

FIFA games have never been my cup of tea. I realise that that is a poor way to start a review of a game in the series, but it’s the cold, hard truth. This isn’t down to a technical reason, the games tend to run smoothly and the latest editions, most notably FIFA 12, look breathtaking from a visual standpoint, almost like the stuff the movie companies are making.

No, my reason for disliking them is, quite simply, because I’m atrocious at them. Honestly, you might as well ask a sloth to run the one minute mile; you’d get a better result.

However, the original FIFA Street from way back when was a different beast. Its gross simplicity, arcade feel and reassurance to football noobs such as myself made it a favourite game of mine, back when I was dilly-dallying around on the original Xbox.

It catered for morons; it eased you in and basically did everything for you. That was fine by me, I knew I was rubbish and I wanted all the help I could get.

Sadly though, I became disenchanted with the series after the second and third entries, the latter of which was simply dreadful, and the notion of kickin’ it old school quickly faded into memory.

But, the series is back. Rebooted (pun intended) and I was hugely excited to get back on to the streets to deal some serious pannas.

Now, that word – “panna” – is one that you’ll hear time and time again in the new FIFA Street. It is the cornerstone of the skill system which has seen a huge overhaul since FIFA 12. A new system has been implemented; simply titled “street ball control”.  It’s a surprisingly elegant and simple system and allows you to pull off some serious moves with ease.

Essentially, when you have the ball click the left trigger (Xbox 360 version) and the character will stand with the ball. You can roll it around using the toggle sticks, enticing your opponent to come in and try and take it. When they are in striking distance, release the left trigger and press the right one and you’ll panna the opponent, leaving them stunned, and continue on your way to their goal.

Watching all of the players engage in this deceiving warfare is one hell of a spectacle. Balls can be passed, chipped and curled around players with the simplest flick of a stick and it gives each game great pace and fluidity – you could almost call it beautiful.

There are over forty tricks that you can perform, some of which require the right shoulder pad to pull off and that is a startling array. Though because I’m useless at remembering combos I tend to just flick the sticks all over the place in the hope of doing something and it works… most of the time.

Irritatingly, your created character starts his life with no tricks in his arsenal. Ranking up in the World Tour mode will give you a chance to purchase them with the game’s currency – skill points – and after a while he’ll turn into an aficionado of the panna.

This World Tour mode sees you creating a team and taking on the world, trying to be no. #1. You take on all manner of other players in an collection of game types, some more welcome than others.

The new ‘Last Man Standing’ mode is quite odd. You start with five players and every time you score your team loses a man. No, you are reading that right. And the first team to lose all their players is the winner, at least that’s what I grasped from it. That does seem quite bizarre to me, but at the same time it’s quite clever and forces you to pour more effort into getting a win out of the game. It’s a nice addition and along with the other different game modes, keeps things fresh and prevents too much repetition.

I have noticed though that some modes have rules and a referee. What? That isn’t FIFA Street. The whole idea of a street game is that you live outside of the rules, yet here I am giving away a free kick because I accidentally barged into a player. This really tainted the whole experience for me. I was expecting to be getting down and dirty in some alleyway, not in a gymnasium with a crowd and a referee. I’ll say it again; this isn’t FIFA Street, this is the kind of football that my fifty year old dad plays with his fifty year old mates.

Sadly, from here on it’s a downwards spiral. The chief amongst my issues is the fact that, unlike the original game, you spend most of your time playing against false players – ones created by the development team. I was expecting to be going toe-to-toe with the world’s best, not with “Karate Man” or “FAT MONG” and no, I’m not making those names up…  here’s the proof.

It’s so frustrating. The first game saw you gathering a rag tag group of real players and progressing through the game recruiting better real players as your reputation increased. That does happen to an extent here, but not as much as I’d like.

And to add insult to injury; the simplicity and the arcade feel from the old game have vanished. What we have with the new game is FIFA 12 in a new dress. Pretty much the same mechanics are at play so passing suddenly becomes a chore; you need to aim now which is something I’m so used to NOT doing. Many a time have I grunted in frustration as my player simply booted the ball to an unmanned part of the pitch when attempting to pass to someone just to his left.

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You’ll also find that you spend most of your time chasing the ball; tackling does virtually nothing except penalising you in the refereed matches. Admittedly, the “B” tackle will dislodge the ball from the enemy’s grasp eventually but the “X” tackle is pretty much useless. You’ll spend your entire time running, spamming a tackle button, only to find that the player will shrug it off and 90% of the time your character will fall over and writhe around for a while – just like real football I suppose.

This makes matches very tedious which, in a game built around playing football, is not a good thing.

I could go on about the negatives but I’ll stop; no-one wants to read a rant and the game does have some good qualities too. I’ve already mentioned the beautiful ball control system and the huge array of tricks but I should also mention that these moves are wrapped up in a seriously beautiful game. It’s bright, vibrant and colourful; the venues look amazing, as do the character models and the animation system is pretty much top of the class.

An odd, yet welcome alteration is the lack of any sort of commentary, aside from the wailings of onlookers during the game. At first this is strange, I bet you’re used to the witty stylings of Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend, but not having to put up with the irritable G-Unit drones of MC Harvey (the commentator in the first game) is nice. Yes, it was funny and over the top but it was also ridiculous and just plain stupid – the lack of this shows this game’s maturity and it only benefits from that.

Furthermore, customisation is hugely varied and unlocking clothing items throughout the World Tour is actually an incentive to keep playing, though not as much as creating a squad and watching them blossom. I get an odd feeling from starting at grass roots and building up to something better; watching my squad get more skilled gives me this feeling and it’s strangely satisfying and you can’t argue when the effort your pour into a game gives you satisfaction – that’s what effort is all about in the end and it gives the game some life. You want to spend time playing so that the your squad can get better and that will give the game some serious longevity.

FIFA Street is a tough game to sum up. Whilst it vomits in the face of the original game’s legacy, it adds new features which bring a level of variation as yet unseen in a football game.

Still, to me it feels like FIFA 12 with slightly more skill moves and, at the end of the day, that is exactly what it is. Sure, you’ll play in car parks and even on roof tops; but this is only the outer shell – what’s going on on the pitch is the same FIFA game you get every year – except there’s someone called FAT MONG playing.

Overall Score

Graphics 9
Gameplay 8
Sound 6

Summary: FIFA Street really does seem to be FIFA 12 after a bit of surgery. It’s a great laugh and beating your mates with an epic trick never fails to make you smile. But it feels like a game that you play every year, and doesn’t seem special. The new level of maturity has its positive effects but it does dampen the spirit of the series a little.

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