Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Sports
Release Date: January 13, 2004
It was bound to happen, almost unstoppable and very predictable. Sports games for the less-serious sports fan is nothing new, in fact it's a formula that has succeeded time and time again with cult-classic NFL Blitz, which is by far the most successful of this 90's spawned genre, undoubtedly it was only going to be a matter of time before 'king of the hill' publisher, Electronic Arts took their turn in the developers chair regarding this highly successful subculture of the serious sports genre.
EA Sports did just that in 2001 when they released their arcade style NBA Street which slammed, shattered and burned its way into homes all over North America and beyond with its fast paced addictive game play. NBA Street was most likely the most played sports game of recent history, while most sports games were being revamped each and every year NBA Street fans were still playing their hearts out for nearly 2 full years until EA unleashed the Sequel NBA Street 2 onto the hungry and eager masses. With the high success of the NBA Street series it was only a matter of time for the introduction of NFL Street, and it's a pleasant introduction to say the least.
NFL Street is seven-on seven-no-holds-barred-in-your-face Street football at its very best, while this isn't the first time this concept has been introduced into the console community, it is still a great start in what I hope will develop into a long running series.
All the restraints and 'specific position' limitations found in more realistic games like The Madden Series are stripped away, leaving the player with full control of who plays where and does what, which can lead to some very entertaining encounters such as putting a 120 lb quarter back out front as a wide receiver just to watch him try and to avoid the inedible, getting crunched like a box of chocolates dropped from the top of the Sears Tower. You will even be surprised at how well some of the most 'uncanny' picks can lead to play possibilities you would never have thought possible. The result of such open playability will attract gaming fans that never thought they would pick up a NFL game in their life and transforming them into button smashing hi-fiving NFL Street addicts.
The best part of the game play is the innovate point scoring system, gone are the days where you know how many points you will score if you are successful in fighting your way down the field for a touch down. Do yourself a favor right now and forget everything you know about traditional scoring in the game known as Football; failure to do so will result in your world being shattered like a glass house in South Central.
The more you show off the more points you earn when you make your touchdown. So just running down the street like a mute running backer is just not going to cut it baby, not in this show-off-encouraged extravaganza.
There are a variety of game modes to be played at your button smashing leisure. Like you can play a "Quick Game" which allows you to choose your favorite team and fly instantly into nail-biting-face-hitting-concrete action. The "Pick Up" game allows you to customize your 7 man death squad down to the last T. The most popular mode is the "NFL Challenge" mode which is the equivalent to the standard "Season Mode" of other sports game, yet being a lot less technical and a lot more fun.
In the "NFL Challenge" Mode, you will start with a crew of slacker, low caliber players that you will improve as you progress throughout the game by earning and distributing development points. You can also earn new plays; unlock other players, and more. Development points are the bread and butter in creating an unstoppable force, and an 'unstoppable force' is exactly what you're going to need as you challenge and take on the big dogs of the NFL in the ladder mode. In Ladder Mode you put your team to the test as they get it on with various NFL Teams in the streets, beating them allows you to move on up the ladder and pick your next match. This is by far a very entertaining aspect of the game and it fits in perfectly with the arcade style gameplay.
The control scheme is the best that it can be on the Gamecube, who as everyone knows by now has the worst designed controller in Video Game History. You are given a decent amount of moves to dish out at your finger tips, like the must have Turbo button, no arcade style sports game would do good without it, as well as a style button which allows you to show off as you take the ball down field and earn a grip of points. Then there is Tackle, Dive, and Catch… I think you're getting the picture. You are able to throw behind your back or even dribble the ball (Watch out Harlem Globetrotters you might just lose your job) down the street concurrently with getting smashed into walls and hurdling over victims in the street. The gameplay itself will amuse the arcade gamer for hours on end thus proving the development team behind NFL Street did its job well.
Artificial Intelligence is above average which means the typical strategies in games such as this do not work. You are forced to find new and improved ways of handling your business. While at first it becomes frustrating to be thrown around so quickly into walls and anything else in open sight, you quickly start to appreciate the bumped up AI which keeps the game interesting. Let's face it, if the AI was any lower everyone would get bored and leave "NFL Challenge" all alone.
Graphically NFL Street looks sweeeeeeeeet! The textures and detailed environments are excellent, mouth watering eye candy to say the least, every brick, slab of concrete, and street objects are superb, leaving little room for improvement in level design. Games are played in all environments from run down football fields, gravel, concrete, you name it. In fact most games can be played in Day or Night which adds a real treat to the game play. One of the neat things is that the Developers of NFL Street took a real spot location and worked it into the game, what could this be? The official "EA Field" of course, located right in Redwood City, CA.
Character Models, like most arcade style games, are exaggerated and cartoony which may not be a whole lot realistic, but hey if we wanted 'realistic' we would be playing Madden, now wouldn't we be? Character Animations are slick, smooth and flow together nicely without any speed bumps or frame rate issues, which in return allows for some of the funniest show boating character animations I have seen in quite some time.
Audio is surprisingly fed to us in full Dolby 5.1 which allows for some excellent ground shattering moments. Not only will you feel the blows as your players get tossed around like rag dolls, you will live these moments in full surround sound glory.
The musical soundtrack is dominated by Rap while the occasional rock track is thrown in as some kind of balance, it just doesn't come off feeling so balanced. Unfortunately for gamers that are not fans of Hip Hop you are not given an option to turn the music off. So you will have to grin and bear it or turn down the volume of your TV.
Sound effects are excellent and provide all the "Bang" "thud" and "oompf" you would expect from the excellent sound department at Electronic Arts. Audio effects take advantage of the surround sound encoding which truly immerses you into the gaming experience. Voice acting is also top notch giving real character to the in game characters.
NFL Street is the best arcade football game I have played since the original Blitz. This being the first game in the series only means one thing, and that is it's only going to get better from here on out. The great game play, good graphics and amazing sound make NFL Street a must have purchase for arcade style lovers. If you have an Xbox or PS2 you'd be better off sticking with either of those platforms due to the awkward controller, however if you're a Gamecube loyalist or do not own other systems then you owe it to yourself to pick this one up as it is one of the very few gems hitting Gamecube this year.
Score : 8.0/10
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