NFL Street 3 Review (PS2)

When you’re a sports gamer, you can’t avoid fielding the questions about "sim" versus "arcade". Competitions between game developers have been focused on that simple concept for years. Do you want “three yards and cloud of dust” or an 800 yard, nine touchdown game from your offense? Do you want your point guard hitting 40% of his shots or burying 40 three pointers? It’s a simple matter of personal preference. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. In fact, I think there are a lot of folks who, like me, want both.

NFL Street 3 hits the PS2 after an extended off-season with an “Ocho Cinco” on the cover and significant changes under the hood. What stays the same is that this title knows what it is. While other games may try, intentionally or not, to walk the fine line between sim and arcade, Street is Street. Even a sim sports gamer should be able to appreciate the arcade fun that you get with these titles.

For those not familiar with the series, NFL Street 3, like the first two releases, is pretty simple in concept. You’re playing football with players, including NFL superstars, literally in the streets and using “street style” moves that are more commonly associated with playground basketball. It’s the gridiron equivalent to an “And1” mix tape. Through flashing moves and style, you build up your “Gamebreaker” to unleash on your opponents. The first significant enhancement in NFL Street 3 actually comes in this area. In year’s past, pulling off a “Gamebreaker” resulted in a canned cut-scene type animation. This year, I was pleased to see that these moves were integrated directly into the action in real-time.

You still build your “Gamebreaker” the same way, but now, when executed, it actually plays out less like an automatic touchdown or huge defensive play; it's simply a better play. I guess the best way to describe it is as more of a game-changer than a game-breaker. If NFL terms, it’s more like a key first down than a 60 yard flea flicker for six.

The other major change in NFL Street 3 is the redesign of the Career Mode. Now dubbed “Respect the Street”, this year you’ll take a group of rag-tag ballers and navigate through a pretty wide variety of challenges against a healthy number of opponents in a pretty diverse set-up.

The different play styles can be both fun and challenging. I had a lot of fun with the Playbook Elimination mode. Basically, you start with a set numbers of plays. If you fail to produce with one, you lose it. You keep playing until someone is out of plays. It seems simple, but it is actually a lot of fun and borderline addictive.

Possessing and over-the-top style of play, I still think the game lends itself most favorably to multi-player action. If you’re not fortunate enough to be able to round up a buddy or two for close proximity gaming, I found the online action smooth and quite enjoyable. The servers ran pretty lag-free and I never had difficulty finding a game.

The graphics and audio in NFL Street 3 are no different than we’ve seen in the first two versions. They certainly aren’t bad by any stretch; however, they are clearly three years old and could use an update. I’m not the kind of gamer who thinks the graphics have to be great for a great experience, but I think this street style lends itself well to a cleaner, crisper and flashier look and feel. A future NFL Street 4 could definitely use an overhaul.

I always like to give a game credit for knowing what it is and not trying to be something different to every gamer. Obviously, NFL Street 3 is not a simulation. It doesn’t claim to be and it doesn’t try to be. It’s a fun arcade title that is worth a look, especially at the $29.99 price tag. Sure, they could have done more with the two-year development cycle since the last release, but the game is worth a look for fans of the series and rookies alike. I would love to see the franchise make the jump to the PS3 next year – just don’t wait so long this time.

NFL Street 3 Score
out of 10