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PSP Review - 'NFL Street 2 Unleashed'

by David Wanaselja on June 30, 2005 @ 12:19 a.m. PDT

NFL players are free from their real-world constraints to dominate the streets one stylin' move and one field at a time. Raise your game to the limits with up-the-wall passes, off-the-wall catches, and highlight-reel wall jukes that are sure to solidify your place as football's greatest urban legend.

Genre: Sports
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Canada
Release Date: March 24, 2005

Buy 'NFL STREET 2 UNLEASHED': PSP

There's no doubt that most people are chomping at the bit to get their hands on Madden 2006 for the Sony PSP, and I'd venture to say that a lot of people are desperately looking forward to that one title. Of course, it'll still be a little while before we see the game, and there's already a football game made by EA available on the PSP. Whether or not it's enough to tide you over until Madden is released is subject to dispute. That game is NFL Street 2 Unleashed, a part of the EA BIG lineup of sports games.

EA's Street series of games is presented as an over-the-top, hyped up version of its normal sports franchise games. Insane moves, extra points, building up a meter and unleashing the fury of an unrealistically fast, powerful, and just plain good athlete are all a part of what the series is about. In that aspect, NFL Street does not disappoint. It's basically a shrunken version of what we've already seen in the console versions of the game. The main mode of the game is "Own the City," where you create a player and recruit teammates to play a bunch of different games. There are also a ton of other modes, such as the popular NFL Challenge and Gauntlet modes. The majority of games you play will have you competing to see who can get to 24 points first. This aspect works out well for the handheld crowd, as it doesn't take a particularly long time to play a game.

Unfortunately, the sworn and hated enemy of portable gaming, the load time, makes a large appearance here. There are numerous load times peppered throughout the whole experience, making the whole presentation drag its feet and feel bogged down in what should be a smooth, simple transition from menu to menu. Instead, things are hampered by the load times, making it take what seems like an eternity to get started. Again, I will say that I hope EA can get its act together for its next game release and reduce or eliminate these horrible load times altogether. Most other games I've played haven't been nearly as laggy as the EA titles, and I suspect it's just laziness and the desire to make a quick buck on their initial software run for the PSP.

EA Trax make a return in NFL Street 2 Unleashed, causing ire or desire, depending on which way your tastes run. The sound in the game is pretty well done, realistically depicting how seven guys on the field would sound while they bash into each other and play a fast-paced football game. The EA Trax can be turned off, thankfully, and the menu option tells you that battery life will be extended if you do so. Why they just don't come up with something else instead and save battery life on purpose confuses me. Why make people turn off the music to save the battery? Why not come up with some other way to stream the music, instead of directly from the disc?

EA did its best to recreate the graphical treat of the console versions for its handheld version of the game. The framerate is consistently good, and the animations are all well done, but textures leave much to be desired. Things look a bit too muddy, but watching the game in action is a pleasure. The models are a bit angular and blocky as well, but you'll get used to it after a while. The artistry on the load screens is really beautiful as well, which is nice, since you'll be spending a large amount of time staring at them. Graphically, this game isn't perfect, but it is pretty good looking.

So how does the game play? That's probably the main question and most important facet of the game. NFL Street has you playing as a team of seven players instead of the traditional 11 that would normally be on the field. This works out well, as things don't get really crowded. There are a bunch of plays to choose from, but you'll likely be using the run plays most of the time. Hand it off to a brilliant running back, and you'll be off to the races without any problems. You can pull off tricks and various other style moves to increase your Gamebreaker meter, which will allow you to pull off even more insane feats of football.

As you'll play through the Own the City mode, you'll have to compete against various random street teams before you can graduate to playing the big boys. You'll earn points to improve your player's stats and buy different items to outfit him in any way that you like. After a while, your main man will be buffed up enough to take on any role you assign him, even if his main position is quarterback or wide receiver. It's pretty satisfying to see your player progress as you play, and to learn the game as you go along and start pulling off all of the great and exciting style moves. Unfortunately, the game does get pretty easy as you progress, and as you learn the ups and downs of NFL Street 2 Unleashed, you'll find yourself winning in this mode with relative ease.

NFL Challenge mode consists of taking a ragtag group of players and playing against the real NFL teams. You have a total of 150 in-game days to complete this mode, and there are different challenges for you to take on as you do so. You might have to win by a certain number of points, or only run a certain type of play, or pull off any number of other different kinds of feats. It's quite challenging and will take a very long time to complete this mode. It's really quite tedious overall, and playing each of these challenges until you win the game can take a while, which might be discouraging to players who can't get it done the first or second time.

There are also a few different types of mini-games you can play, most of which are some fun little time wasters, but there are also some odd inclusions, like a dance contest. Some of the mini-games can be played against a friend using the Wi-Fi multiplayer features of the PSP, but most likely, you'll be playing the main game against your friends if you're playing multiplayer. It's the same as the single player game, except it's played against someone who's probably a lot smarter and better than the artificial intelligence. It can be really fun to compete with a friend, even if the game does have quite a bit of lag when playing multiplayer.

EA tried its hardest to give gamers a perfect recreation of the NFL Street franchise for play on the go. For the most part, they've succeeded, but unfortunately, the load times have the added effect of killing a lot of the joy that can be gained from playing this game. Note to EA: The PSP is a portable system. People are more likely to be picking up this system to play for a few minutes at a time, and then putting it down. They don't want to be spending most of their time staring at a line filling at the bottom of the screen. If you can get past the load times or are desperate for some pigskin action on the PSP, you'll find a lot to love in NFL Street 2 Unleashed. If you've played the console versions to death and are looking for a new experience, you won't find it here. NFL Street 2 Unleashed can only be recommended for the patient football enthusiast.

Score: 6.9/10

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