Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Sports
Release Date: November 14, 2006
After the success of the NBA Street series, it wasn't surprising when EA attempted to catch that same lightning in a bottle with NFL Street, which strips out all of the intricate Madden plays and simplifies things down to the basics. The third iteration, NFL Street 3, adds the ability to perform aerial moves and have better control over Gamebreakers, which means a whole lot of fun for current fans and newcomers to the series.
NFL Street 3 plays very much like the previous editions, and the game has evolved to the point where it's at its most playable and enjoyable. In the single-player mode of "Respect the Street," you must build a team of nobodies to compete against teams across the country. Teams are comprised of an NFL superstar and his buddies, with a smattering of EA-created squads to keep things interesting. To advance, you must beat the teams in a variety of matches, which is a welcome innovation. Instead of playing the regular street game, you are given the option to play other modes here, which really helps to break up the monotony. The new modes – Elimination, Bank, and Time Attack – are all welcome additions and help to make the game more enjoyable.
Time Attack adds a time limit to the game itself, as well as your amount of time with the ball. You must score as quickly and as much as possible while stopping the defense … all before the clock runs out. Although it is much more traditional, it can reach a frantic pace at times. In Bank, players try to score Gamebreaker points as usual, but all of the points go into the Bank. When a team scores a touchdown, all of the "banked" points are given to that team, with one team winning after a set amount of points is reached. Elimination is the most enjoyable and interesting of the new modes, and it really heats things up. Both teams are given the same exact plays on offense and must do their best to perform them. Each time they gain yards, they receive points, but most importantly they do not get their play eliminated. When your team gets a play stuffed, you lose that play, so as you whittle down the playbook, your predictability will also go up, thereby making it even more difficult. Elimination is probably the most enjoyable new feature in NFL Street 3 because it really increases the intensity of competitive play.
Gameplay in NFL Street 3 is largely the same seven-on-seven action of previous years, with a few exceptions. In this edition, the Gamebreaker isn't a canned cut scene – it's an action over which you have complete control. When you are on defense, you can make a jaw-rattling hit that will cause a fumble or grab an interception. On offense, you have a bit more choice, with the option to stiff-arm, juke, or pass in a way that is unstoppable. This really feels like the first time the Gamebreaker actually takes skill to achieve, as opposed to being a button-pressing affair. The only problem here lies in the lack of opportunities for the use of Gamebreakers and the somewhat in-your-face theatrics of the past, but it is a worthwhile trade-off for any fan.
The two biggest additions to NFL Street 3 comes in the way of power-ups spread throughout the levels and the ability to perform aerial moves. Power-ups are nice additions to help add a touch of spice to the gameplay. Throughout levels, you will find various floating icons which you can reach by performing aerial moves, and these icons yield instant Gamebreakers and new footballs for in-game use. Scattered throughout fields are barrels and similar items, which can be used to lift over opponents. It works fairly well, and the ability to use these crates or barrels to block opponents is fun, but it just is not as impressive as NFL Street 2's implementation of wall running. That wall running is now more fleshed out and highly entertaining. The whole system was beefed up and works far better than in the last version.
It should be said that if you have not played previous NFL Street titles, you will feel sorely out of place in the first few single-player skirmishes. Your players are horribly unsuited to play against the first teams, and the learning curve is quite high for newcomes. In its continual separation from both NBA Street and the Madden franchise, certain issues arise. Sometimes similarities, like in play calling, are not bad ideas, as familiarity continually brings back fans of Madden every year.
The game engine has not aged particularly well, and while the graphics are not horrible, they are definitely far from great. At a time when we're seeing a fresh crop of next-gen games shine and the last few big titles for the previous generation stand fairly well on their own (i.e., Final Fantasy XII), NFL Street 3 is somewhat of a disappointment. We are looking at what is likely the final Street game released for last-gen systems, and it just does not hold up. Players – even big-name ones – are mostly unrecognizable. There are a lot of options when it comes to your player's attire, but it's mostly retreads of past years (much like the rest of the game). There are not too many different levels, and you tend to find yourself playing on most of them repetitively. The backgrounds do look great at times, with truly life-like representations of various cities and locales, but it's so difficult to see them because of a camera that does not focus on anything beyond the characters.
As expected in a Street game, players and their trash-talking bravado are still as prominent as ever. After plays, they will talk back and forth, but it eventually grows tiresome and unnecessary. At this point, EA may as well have left out the trash-talking and focused more on delivering a slightly better gameplay experience. The music is the smorgasbord of variety that we've come to expect from EA; fluctuating between rap and rock, the music is incredibly standard, and with the exception of a few decent songs, it becomes monotonous fairly fast.
NFL Street 3 features just about everything you have come to expect from the Street franchise. There's nothing groundbreaking here, and it provides more of the same, with few improvements, and therein lies the rub: NFL Street 3 plays it far too safe. The new features work and the new modes are entertaining, but as a whole, it is sometimes too close to the previous edition.
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