FIFA Street 2 Review (Xbox)
I'm going to come clean now; I prefer that my sports games have a little twist of simulation blended into them. Across the board, regardless of the sport, I've found it's the realism that increases my time spent with a sports title. Electronic Arts' FIFA Street series couldn't be further away from what I look for in a sports title. It's quite possible that some don't even consider it a sports title, but that doesn't mean that the over-the-top, tricked out gameplay can't result in some button-mashing arcade fun. Does it? Let's take a look.
At times, FIFA Street 2 can be easy on the eyes. The player models look superb, and a variety of animations provide some fluid movement of the players around the pitch. Unfortunately, the further you delve into the visuals, there's more bad than good. The pitches, despite being placed in urban settings, are rather bland, and boring to look at. Furthermore, the interaction with your surroundings is minimal, and detracts from the overall atmosphere. The game does support Dolby Digital, and features a soundtrack broken down into 3 stations. Each station comes with its own annoying DJ that you'll be ready to mute within 15 minutes.
Player control issues and poor collision detection plagued last year's version of FIFA Street. EA tried to right the ship for this year's version. No longer will you see the ball flying through the body of a player, and considering the number of different tricks a player can pull off, I was surprised not to see any herky-jerky animations. However, the amount of time it takes some of the animations to execute often leaves you wondering who really has control of the player; you or the AI, especially on defense. If the offense manages to string together a series of three tricks, you'll often lose control of your defender for up to five seconds. Also, time and time again, you'll find that the goalkeepers will make miraculous saves only to let the easiest of the scoring chances slip by. Frustrating, to say the least.
EA's first iteration of FIFA Street was widely criticized for its lackluster gameplay. With this year's release, some great strides were made in trying to increase the number of tricks a player can pull off. The implementation of the Trick Stick, which is mapped to the right analog stick, allows for some creative maneuvers that help slice your way through the opposing defense. These tricks are described as Beat Moves. Flicking the right analog stick up will throw the ball over your opponent's head, while down will put it through the defender's legs. Moving the right analog stick left or right will perform an evasive maneuver to dance around the defender.
Simple enough? Sure it is, but that's not all you can do with the Trick Stick. There are three levels of Beat moves. The Left and Right Triggers act as Trick Shifts, and when used in conjunction with the Trick Stick, the more powerful your Beat becomes. Each player has their own signature move which can be executed with a Right Trigger and Y button combination. Like it's other EA Street brethren, FIFA Street 2 places the focus of the gameplay around the amount of points and Gamebreakers you can accumulate with your trickery rather than the actual sport of soccer. You'll constantly have to remind yourself that this isn't a soccer game.
One thing FIFA Street 2 doesn't suffer from is a lack of game modes. The Rule the Street mode is FIFA Street 2's version of a career mode. You start out by creating your player using an extensive Create-A-Player, similar to the one found in the Tiger Woods PGA Tour series. From there, you immediately take to the streets to compete with some international superstars, which the game features 320 of, to see if you can hang. Unfortunately, not all of the challenges your team will face are based on which team scores the most goals. Some require you to total the most skill points, score the first goal, or win by only scoring with Gamebreakers.
The purpose of the Rule the Street mode is to build up your character and team, with hopes that your team will be invited to the Underground Tournament. If your created player has the potential, he may just be invited to play in the International League with the country of his choice. Along the way, while building up your character, you'll also have to focus on keeping all of the personalities on your team satisfied. Some will refuse to get along, but a lack of pitch time could result in players being unhappy, resulting in them leaving your squad. However, that might not be the last you see of them. Players that leave your squad may eventually come back to haunt you, with their new squad, in the Rival Challenge mode. The more you play FIFA Street, the more rewards you'll earn. You can upgrade your player's skills with the Skill Bills you earn. The best way to earn Skill Bills is by participating in Kick Abouts, which are basically just pick-up games. You can also take a look at your Trick Book to see all of the moves you've unlocked. The trickery and options seem endless, but they still fail to keep the gameplay from becoming stale.
While I've discussed the different offline modes FIFA Street 2 offers, the one game mode it is severely lacking is online play via Xbox Live. I'm not sure how many times it needs to be said, but in this day and age, it is unacceptable for a title of FIFA Street 2's nature to not feature online capability. Playing against a friend off-line can be fun, but the convenience of picking up the game at any given time and playing a live opponent is sorely missed.
FIFA Street 2 is a definite improvement over the first installment, the gameplay and graphics have stepped it up a notch. However, as with all of the games I've played in the EA Street series, you'll eventually start to realize that this is a game based on the amount of trickery you can pull off, rather than the real sport of soccer, which results in a stale and monotonous gaming experience. Casual fans of the sport might find some longevity with FIFA Street 2, while soccer purists should consider it nothing more than a rental.