Developer: EA Big
Release Date: February 22, 2005
Thanks to the huge success of EA's Street series of games, they decided that a new street game was called for, FIFA Street, which means street soccer for us Yanks.
FIFA Street is not your ordinary 11-on-11 soccer game; it's 4-on-4 and is played on a much smaller field that looks more like a small arena. The rules are simple: there are none. No yellow cards, red cards, offsides or cheap slides. If you want, you can even make this game seem more like American football and tackle the living daylights out of your friend or opponent. FIFA Street seems more like one of those random pick-up games you have at school or in your neighborhood: you have two goal posts, and the objective is to outscore your opponent, with an addition of a gamebreaker and some extra tricks.
The concept of an arcade soccer game isn't exactly new. Midway had previously released an arcade soccer title, Red Card, although it didn't do too well. If EA's FIFA Street makes a splash, this might prompt Midway to try to regain its sports game crown, although it may take a few years, since EA, with its entire Street franchise, has quite a head start.
If you are expecting FIFA or any sort of realistic soccer game, you are definitely looking in the wrong place, because FIFA Street is an arcade sports game. This means that the physics are a little more fake, the ball doesn't get affected too much by the environment, and dribbling isn't as realistic as you would feel and see in Winning Eleven or FIFA series. This title does have something that may be missing in the simulation titles, and that is a quick game option.
The field for play isn't an insanely large field where it may take a good minute or so to run from one side to the next. It's about the size of a basketball court or even smaller, which allows for a nice little quick game with a good amount of back and forth action if the teams are on par with each other. This also means that making a midfield shot is much easier than in the realistic sims, and to accommodate that, the developers had to make the goals a lot smaller. To me, these goals resemble the cones that are put up during a school game, but in a video game, cones just don't cut it so they've included miniature versions of the goal posts usually seen on the soccer field, sized just so to fit into these arenas. These fields in FIFA Street are completely enclosed by some sort of barrier, such as fences or walls, which you can use to your advantage. Using the wall to burn an opponent has never felt so good before.
Unfortunately, the graphics were found to be a bit lacking. After playing NBA Street V3, I was expecting so much more, but it seems like FIFA Street uses a similar graphics engine as NBA Street vol. 2 or even NFL Street. The character models seem kind of dull, and you can't really see the facial expressions all that often. The main point of play, however, is all in the Rule the Street mode.
As with NBA Street V3, EA Big has implemented a season mode in FIFA Street where you progress through a certain number of days to upgrade your team and become a FIFA Street champion, with the objective of winning the 10 tournaments. There are several options once you have started and created your team and player. You will start out on the world map, where you can go to Headquarters to upgrade your squad, check the trophies you have acquired, and change options. Within the world map, you will also see places you can play, including Europe, Africa, and North and South America. As expected, some areas require a specific amount of tournament wins to unlock them. At each location, you will have another set of choices: a "chance to kick," which allows you to gain skills and Rep to upgrade your character, "upgrade your squad," where you play against another player one-on-one to see if you can defeat him and add him into your squad, and lastly, "Rule the Street," which are the tournaments you need to win to unlock those new arenas.
The main objective of FIFA Street is to outscore your opponent and be the first team to reach five points. It seems easy, but I seem to have a harder time scoring goals in this game than I do in actual soccer games. The game does include a very nice shooting system, where it shows exactly where you will shoot the ball into the goal, but it just doesn't provide as much gratification as I feel when scoring in FIFA or Winning Eleven. I don't know if it's because of the more compact field, size of the goal, the different physics in the game, or maybe that the trick moves are rather easy to execute with a simple flick of the right analog stick and L1, but it just doesn't hype me up as other sports games.
One thing that is missing from those others is the wide variety of tricks. While the tricks in FIFA Street aren't anything crazily elaborate, there is a good amount which you won't usually see in a regular match. While the moves are realistic, the trick system isn't as nice as NBA Street V3's system, where you can earn yourself a gamebreaker if you have enough points. In this title, gamebreakers are just instant goals, without any special effects or moves being required. Being faked out in soccer isn't all that likely, especially not to the extent that EA Big has depicted with this title. When you are on the receiving end of such embarrassment, you can't help getting frustrated and wondering why you couldn’t have done the same thing.
The reaction time for your character is incredibly sluggish. Changing characters takes time, and when you do a trick that puts the ball between the opponent's legs, you must make sure you are going in the right direction and quick enough to react to the move you've just executed, or you'll witness a quick turnover. The same thing applies when passing to one of your other characters. The characters aren't as responsive as you see in other games, and they tend to stand around not reacting to the ball until you've taken control of that character, which really limits the use of pass-and-go techniques or any such moves which. An option to manually configure the responsiveness of the controller buttons would have been nice, because when I hit the controller button, it takes a good second or two before it registers, hindering me from scoring that open shot or even stalling me that second to get to the ball. It's worse when the goalie gets the ball, which he manages to kick away to the other team without any intervention, thanks to the lag in response time. In racing, a second is everything, and the same principle applies here. That second takes away my chance of that crucial goal or all my efforts in slide-tackling the opponent. Tripping the opponent up and not getting the ball has to be the most embarrassing aspect of this game. All that work, and what do I get but a pocket full of dirt …
Overall, this game had so much potential, but it didn't live up to my expectations. It is certainly a good start, but it's nowhere near the level at which NBA Street was when it was first introduced into the market. The sound is as good as you can get for this type of game. These tracks aren't your normal hip hop, R&B, alternative tracks you hear, but they're actually very different and fit the game amazingly well. You can classify some as Reggae but a majority of them are genres I can't even put a name to. Even the announcer makes the game quite enjoyable, though when a replay comes up, the skip button gets hit rather quickly.
FIFA Street is definitely an interesting starting point for EA Big, but until I see a few refinements into the system, it will not be nearly as big and popular as the NBA Street series. Even with wide assortment of teams, the game probably would have worked better with club teams, but the selection is not bad. The game is a hit or miss, since some can enjoy this arcade system while others like me will be attached to the realistic sims and can't really enjoy this as much as we do other soccer games. Give it a spin, and even if you don't like it, you can experience a soundtrack not usually heard in EA titles.
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