Perhaps with a zen-like mind uncluttered by the need for technically accurate gameplay and hoards of this season’s stats in footie games, the FIFA Street series appeals to me. I don’t follow football, I couldn’t tell you anything about the nuances of the offside rule or the 4-4-2 configuration but I like playing footie both virtually and out on the local playing field of a Sunday morning. With that in mind, if you can take this review as being from the perspective of a footie-disregarder such as myself, then we’ll all get along just fine.
FIFA Street 3 gives 360 owners a first taste of next-gen street footie action. Think of the game as one long Adidas commercial and you won’t be far wrong. The emphasis here is on technical skills, tricks, pure speed and game flow which is why the series is like marmite. Some love it, some hate it to bits and think that it sullies the beautiful game.
FIFA Street 3 takes 250 of the best international football players, caricatures them (Peter Crouch and Wayne Rooney’s in game avatars are brilliant!), mixes them around in specialised teams and presents you with a unique blend of arcade thrills, FIFA style gameplay and totally overblown and over-the-top trickery. Thankfully the control system has been redesigned to take advantage of EA’s new ethos – “The Right Stick Is Not Redundant” and some quite dazzling plays can be achieved. Let’s pop that gameplay under the microscope for a moment or two.
Team player types can be broken down into categories:
Playmakers don’t care about personal glory and are usually the best tactical passers in a game. They also like to take long range shots on goal.
Enforcers are all about defence. These guys are incredibly good at supporting your goalie, defending and countering your opponent’s best and fastest players.
Tricksters dazzle with technical skill and brilliance and are the most skilful players on any squad. Sometimes they get a bit too carried away with their own egotistical displays so be warned.
Finishers are the players you want when you’re taking shots on goal. They are very good at making near-impossible shots from different angles and distances.
Getting to know which players in your chosen squads are which is key to putting together a successful street team.
The control system in use in FIFA Street 3 is beautifully intuitive, allowing you to ease yourself into the simple basics, but later master some of the game’s more spectacular moves. Each player has different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to these skills but you’ll soon figure out who the stars are.
Juggling and dragging are two techniques in the game that will boost your gamebreaker bar. Think of this as an extra skills boost, and performing juggles and drags will quickly total up gamebreaker power particularly if you do perform these antics down at the opponent’s end of the field.
Once you’ve built up your bar, hit the Right Bumper and you can unleash your gamebreaker skill which will last for as long as you keep taking shots on goal, keep possession and keep up those tricks.
Gamebreaker shots on goal are virtually unstoppable and any shots taken while in gamebreaker mode will be even more spectacular than usual, so it pays to make good use of this particular feature (think “Boost Power” in Super Mario All Stars, for want of a better comparison).
Whether you’re a big fan of EA or not, they know how to turn out a technically brilliant game. Everything you see in FIFA Street 3 reeks of top class production. The menu system and game presentation may feel a little stripped down and functional if you’re used to the twiddling and fine tuning of the pukka FIFA series, but that’s why FIFA Street is so accessible.
Diving straight into “Play Now” mode from the main menu is the simplest way to get to know the game. Play a match, get a feel for how things work and when you inevitably get hammered into the dirt by your opponent, take yourself back out to practice mode and fine tune your skills against an automatic goalie.
FIFA Street 3’s bread and butter is the FIFA Street Challenge mode. In this mode, you play a series of matches each with a specific challenge in mind, anything from scoring the most goals in a set time, to carrying off the most successful headers and volleys, to scoring the most Gamebreaker-enabled goals. This for me was the most satisfying mode in the game. You start by choosing a team (from the likes of Veterans, Heavyweights and Speedsters), mixing up the selection of international players in your squad to your own taste.
Playground picks is fun. You get a lineup of key players, and take it in turns with your opponent to choose a player for your team – just like at school when the only players left at the end were the fat kids and the wheezy kids (I was in the latter category). This mode can be used on and offline to score yourself a fantasy team like no other.
Anyone who has played the Xbox Live demo of FIFA Street 3 may be forgiven for wondering where the longevity is. As much as the game has instant pick up and play appeal, most of its shelf life exists because of the online modes. Diving into a game against unknowns can be daunting but fun when you win. There’s a wealth of options and modes to choose from here, from a simple quick match to an ongoing world challenge, the results of which count towards your country’s global standing in EA’S international FIFA Street leaderboards.
You can also opt to fine tune a game to your own customised preferences, then challenge anyone to beat you on your own home turf.
FIFA Street 3 online really is challenging. As Han Solo once said, good against remotes (or the game’s AI at any of the skill levels you select) is one thing, good against the living – that’s something else and it’s definitely true here, in fact I think I managed to lose a game 5-0 in record time (around 6 minutes) as my unknown opponent just decimated my defence and kept hammering home those gamebreakers. Practice, practice and more practice is needed here my friends.
As I mentioned at the top of this review, I found a lot to enjoy in FIFA Street 3 because it fits into that nice little niche occupied by games that don’t require excessive brainpower, nor the ability to memorise overly complex button combinations. In fact you can get quite far in the game by just mindlessly button mashing if you so wish. But because the controls are so nicely balanced, it is possible to develop a certain play style that reaps rewards all the more quickly, and it’s also possible to develop a strategy involving clever use of your gamebreakers in order to pulverise the opposition.
The only drawback is for the single player. After what seems a very short time, you will have seen most of the great players, played on most of the game’s interesting venues and have mastered most of the intricacies of those clever little flicks, volleys and moves that look absolutely fantastic in a fantasy footie game such as this (if real televised footie matches looked like this I might even shrug off a lifetime’s worth of not bothering to watch any matches in order to tune in religiously like you hardcore footie fanatics do).
So then FIFA Street is the Lotus Elise to the hitherto unseen FIFA 2009’s Aston Martin, the sugar rush-fuelled appetiser before the dessert. Nevertheless, despite the seemingly shallow offerings from this brand of Boca Soca…er I mean soccer, it puts a big cheesy grin on your face, is ruthlessly addictive and although we’ve still perhaps not yet seen the definitive non-footie footie game in the FIFA Street series in my opinion, this will do for the time being.