I remember playing FIFA Street 2 on Xbox, and what feels like a very long time ago. Not being overly keen on sports games in general (especially football), it did peak my interest for the fact that it attempted to try something entirely different from the norm, yet maintained a semblance of familiarity to make it accessible. Although a highly frustrating game if I recall correctly, I think in general I had a good time playing the game and scored it a solid 8/10. Well this was almost two years ago and times have changed since then. Not only do we have new hardware, but gamers have a greater appreciation now of what is good and what falls flat and ultimately fails.
In true sequel fashion, Electronic Arts has brought the series into this generation with the appropriately, and totally original titled FIFA Street 3. Two years is a long time for a sports game (considering we usually get yearly updates). So have EA brought the FIFA Street series up to date to cater for the needs of today’s market, or have they simply rehashed the old and hoped for the best?
For those of you who have never played a FIFA Street game, then let me enlighten you to its delights. The basic premise of the game is Five-a-Side football, so that means ditching the huge stadiums, taking away the majority of the players and enclosing the ground within solid walls. Other than the shrinking of the pitch, the enclosed arena means players can bounce the ball off the walls to aid in passing and scoring goals. Now I think for most football gamers, the mechanic of 5-a-Side football probably doesn’t translate too well to video games, especially when compared to the more conventional FIFA games, so what FIFA Street does to add a little style and panache to proceedings is offer gamers a completely over the top method of controlling the players. Movement is generally the same, but the main focus here is the method of dribbling the ball, passing and shooting. In FIFA Street games, players can perform a wide variety of showboating moves, which you’ll rarely see performed in a proper game, and is more reserved for those self indulgent artsy football TV adverts. So this means, performing flips off the walls, somersaults and all manner of over the top moves are acceptable and easy to pull off during a game.
The right thumbstick allows you to perform flashy dribbling moves for example pressing up might allow you to tap the ball through an opposing players legs which momentarily leaves them dazed and confused. The Y button allows for volley type moves which are great for tapping the ball over opponents heads and setting yourself up for a nice volley shot at goal. Passing the ball is easy enough as you are able to flick the ball into the air using the X button or glide the ball along the ground using A. The controls are very simple to pick up and play with and it shouldn’t take gamers used to conventional football games too long to get to grips with the control mechanics.
Another feature of the FIFA Street games is the Gamebreaker, which basically is a like a team power up which allows you to perform even more flamboyant moves for a limited time. The Gamebreaker bar fills up when you perform tricks near the goal and then successful get an uninterrupted shot at goal. If you fail to get the shot (if you lose possession of the ball) then your bar begins to deplete. Getting the shot at goal means you’ll keep the level you have gained regardless. Once the Gamebreaker bar is filled, pressing RB at any time will activated it and give all your players a skill boost. This means you’ll be able to score, dribble and tackle far more easily than normal. In tight matches, the Gamebreaker can make the difference between a loss and a win.
FIFA Street 3 offers several modes of play including practice, Head to Head which is versus human opponents using various game settings such as Gamebreaker goals only or volleys only. Challenges which pits you against various AI teams of varying difficulty and of course the competitive play for Online. You’ve got various national teams to choose from such as England, Brazil, France Italy etc and a roster of players from each country that undertake various positions on the field as you would expect. The selection isn’t as varied as a conventional FIFA game, but there’s certainly enough to suit the intimate nature of the game. What is more, you are able to choose custom teams which are a mixture of players the suit a particular skill style, such as Defenders. This mixes things up a little and certainly adds some much needed variety to proceedings.
On a negative side, I found FIFA Street 3 to be just as frustrating as its predecessor. Whilst the controls are easy enough to nail quite quickly, there are plenty of head scratching and controller throwing moments to be had. It’s obvious that versus the AI there’s a lot of cheating going on, and when the computer has possession of the ball, there are times when you’ll never be able to get the ball if the AI doesn’t want you to. You can even pit the best team against the worst such as Brazil versus New Zealand and find that when it wants to, the AI as New Zealand will run rings around the supposedly superior Brazil. The AI team mates are also a little suspect at times especially if you leave the computer to automatically select the teammate for you. Luckily you can do this manually, which I found to be far more effective.
FIFA Street 3 looks pretty sharp and has some neat looking environments, however there are too few with Samba, Beach, Riverside, Mediterranean, Shipyard, Oil Rig and Rooftop to choose from. That’s really not very many for variety’s sake. Each of the locales are themed differently as the name implies and you’ll find that most are colourful but totally barren places lacking any kind of spectator atmosphere. This is a shame as it makes the matches feel rather dull.
The players are perhaps the star of the show in terms of design as each player has been recreated as caricatures of themselves, which means features have been exaggerated. This translates to players such as Wayne Rooney looking like a buff chimp and Rio Ferdinand looking like a matchstick man. It’s certainly a very light hearted take on the international superstars and makes for compelling viewing.
Without any of the ambiance of a full stadium, FIFA Street 3 has a somewhat dull vibe to it. You’ll hear comments from the players and the sound of the football being kicked and bounced off the walls, yet you’ll hear little else. What the game does to compensate is offer a heady soundtrack to add some flavor to mix. If you like the soundtracks on offer, then you’ll gain an additional benefit from the game, however if you find the music disagreeing with your tastes, then turning off is going to make the audio in general feel totally lifeless. There is a distinct mixture of tunes available and I found that I enjoyed some tunes on offer; luckily you can use custom soundtracks to create your own mood should the need arise.
FIFA Street 3 offers a pretty basic package for single players and once you’ve managed to beat some cheating AI in the challenge mode you’ll pretty much have the single player experience licked. You can play one off matches by choosing any team, but this isn’t going to provide much entertainment after a while. The real longevity lies in the versus play with friends huddled around a TV on a sofa or via the Live network.
FIFA Street 3 is a fun game in small doses simply because it is lacking in true depth. For single players there really isn’t too much to sink your teeth into and if you are a completionist then you’ll ultimately find that you’ll finish the game quite quickly. For me, FIFA Street 3 is perhaps a more accessible game than its predecessor but at the same time has too many flaws to make it strike out to the wider audience. Many gamers not used to the style will no doubt be left scratching their heads at the poor AI and lack of atmosphere. A lack of options, modes, players and of course environments, suggest that FIFA Street 3 is really only going to appeal to the fans of the series. If you are not a fan, then I suggest you stay clear, because if you love football, then there’s so much more on offer in other games that will provide the experience you are looking for. If you are after something a little different from the norm and perhaps lower your expectations, then FIFA Street 3 can offer some moments of fun if playing with like-minded friends.