The FIFA series has always had a reputation for being a stylish representation of the beautiful game but in recent years the transition to a serious football simulation has seen some of the glitz and glamour take something of a backseat. The amazing tricks are still there but the increased physical nature of the game has made the series almost unrecognisable compared to some of the titles EA Sports put out only a few years ago. With FIFA’s stock as high as it has ever been it seems the perfect time to revisit the FIFA Street series.
The series has been something of a lacklustre affair but underneath poor execution a decent idea has always been lurking in the shadows. Clearly EA Sports have felt the same as they’ve taken the choice, after a break of a few years, to completely reboot the franchise rather than add the number four at the end of the title. The objective remains much the same, to create a glitzy and amazing experience, but things are being taken much more seriously this time around. Giant heads and over the top tricks are all long gone and things are grounded in reality.
Underpinning the whole thing is the latest version of the FIFA engine. This means you get the tactical defending and the impact engine but there are a couple of notable changes. The biggest is the street control option which allows you to bait the opposition player in front of you and shield the ball. Holding the shoulder button plants your player’s standing foot and lets you move the ball between your feet before either breaking into a trick or pushing the ball through the legs of the man in front. While it sounds similar to other close control methods employed by FIFA Street’s bigger brother it is one of the best features of the game and allows you to cleverly control the pace of the game.
The street control turns out to be one of your most basic tools for getting past the opposition but the rest of the time the right stick is used to flick the ball and pirouette around the pitch. There are a massive amount of tricks to learn, to the point that the game requires almost Street Fighter-esque levels of memory to remember all the moves. It can be a steep learning curve and the game only introduces things through a series of basic videos. The simple tricks are easy enough to pull off but the more complicated ones require all sorts of button presses and nudges of the right stick to pull off. To learn all of them takes a serious amount of investment in time but it is well worth it as when they come off they look amazing, even to those who are watching.
Despite the steep learning curve to pick up all the tricks anyone can have a degree of success by simply moving the ball around with quick passes and a bit of patience. However that misses the point of FIFA Street and there is a huge amount of enjoyment to be had from ripping your opponents apart. Indeed it can be easy to have so much fun tearing them to shreds that you forget to stick the ball into the back of the net. The longer you spend with the game and get to grips with the complex trick system the more you get out of FIFA Street.
On the pitch things hang together very nicely and there are plenty of game modes to keep things interesting. There are basic five-a-side games which take place in a variety of indoor and outdoor locations. Here you can use the walls to find players and set up some stunning goals. There is also a Futsal mode which sees the walls disappear meaning you have to be careful with passes and shots. Elsewhere there is a last man standing mode which sees you lose a player whenever you score a goal. The first team to see all their players leave the pitch wins the game. There is also a freestyle mode which sees you gather points by pulling off tricks and beating players. The first to a set number of points wins the game but the points you gather from neat footwork drain away unless you stick the ball in the back of the net. Finally there is also a panna mode which sees you gather points for pushing the ball between the opposition’s legs or flicking it over their head. Scoring a goal banks the points and wipes out any the other team haven’t banked. The panna mode is probably one of the best outside of the regular five-a-side mode as it creates a nice balance between risky football and defending.
The meat of the single player experience takes place in a World Tour mode which takes in all the different game modes. You start by creating a player (or importing your pro player from FIFA) and setting your starting region. You play a few local games and eventually enter your team into regional and national competitions before you make it to the world stage. Starting out you get only a basic set of skills for your fledgling team. However each and every trick you successfully pull off and each player you beat in the career mode gives you points which can be used to unlock new skills, stats and tricks. You can put the points towards tricks or you can beef up the stats of your players in a number of areas such as shooting, passing and speed.
The career mode can lead to something of a grind but opening up the tricks over time for your team means you don’t get too overwhelmed by the options available. However if you have learned a lot of the moves elsewhere in the game then having them locked off can be somewhat frustrating. The only really annoying thing about the career mode is the levelling up. At any one time several of your players can have points to spend but it can be rather tiresome going through each of your squad and levelling them up. An automatic system would have been very welcome here and taken out some of the leg work. There are rewards for playing on a higher difficulty which lets you unlock new venues and stuff for your players to wear. Overall the World Tour mode is an enjoyable experience and even on medium gives a decent challenge - especially in some of the later stages of the tournaments.
Aside from a few issues with grinding there are a couple of other niggles, although admittedly not serious ones. Some of the dialogue from the players can get rather repetitive after a while and the player impact engine still produces some strange results. Occasionally goalkeepers can go for a wander as well but none of this seriously dents the game.
FIFA Street is a far cry from previous releases in the series but admittedly the fast paced nature and focus on tricks may not be to everyone’s taste. If you want slow build up and intricate passes then you are probably best looking elsewhere. However if you want a different footballing experience and want something with bags of flair then don’t overlook FIFA Street. It is a massive improvement on earlier efforts and there is a very authentic street football experience to be had. While other games in the series have been a shallow offering the latest addition packs a weighty career mode and plenty of tricks to learn, indeed apart from a few niggles with levelling up players and a small amount of grinding the World Tour is arguably one of the better career modes in any sports game to date. Despite the somewhat steep learning curve needed to remember the intricate button presses for the more complex tricks there is a lot of immediate fun to be had here and it sits as a welcome companion to the main FIFA.
EA Sports take FIFA back to the street.