FIFA Street Hands-On Preview -- Reboot (of sorts) on the PitchBy Miguel Concepcion - Posted Nov 23, 2011
The FIFA Street series may not be the first title that comes to mind when you think about properties in need of a reboot, but EA does have a pretty good reason for making FIFA Street, the re-imagining of its arcade style soccer series. Instead of relying on the often cartoony and sensational gameplay that the EA Street brand has been known for, the developer/publisher has looked to the inherent stylistic appeal of the sport, while also highlighting the kinds of tricks that many real-life players are able to execute. In other words, there are enough sensational aspects of real-life soccer to begin with that there's really no reason for over exaggeration, even as a Street title.
This melding of street play and capturing authentic soccer moves and strategies appears to be less a balancing act and more of a happy marriage, but in a way not approached in past EA Street games. This time the foundation is being laid by the core FIFA gameplay team, a first-time effort for this fourth FIFA Street installment. It’s not about running and jumping off walls, but more about realistic style and flare where getting a ball between an opponent’s legs counts for something.
Despite this attention to authenticity, don’t expect to get far by playing it like a regular FIFA game; you might find the experience to be stiff. The most valuable thing I learned in my 45-minute play session was to learn the trick moves as soon as possible, if not only to increase your repertoire in taking down defenses. Basic moves, like the Heel Chop and the Rainbow Flick, are easy to learn but there are also a number of special moves that will benefit you greatly, like the Stand On Ball Rouette and Knee Skill. When I was comfortable enough with those skills, I tried out some of the advanced juggle moves, like the eye-catching Touzani Around The World and Elastico.
Learning as many moves as possible is also the crux of character and profile development throughout FIFA Street. The reward for performing well and winning is a currency called Entertainment Points, and is usable across all the game modes whether it’s in the Career or the World Tour. It’s the way to unlock other skills as well as locations (over 35 environments). Speaking of locations, FIFA Street’s selection of different arena types go a long way in offering variety for soccer playground fans.
From grassy playgrounds to indoor gymnasiums, these locales come with different field and goal sizes so you can imagine the subtle changes needed in strategy. It speaks to the inherent appeal of street soccer where there’s no one answer on how a field should be set up, whether it’s you and three buddies playing a quick match or a more heated 6-on-6 game. Expect some environments with no walls or no goalies plus really tiny nets.
Beyond the typical first-to-five and timed matches, FIFA Street has a promising playlist of alternative modes, once again inspired by real-life types of play from different parts of the world. The ability to take a ball between an opponent’s legs--known as panna or nutmeg--is actually the basis of one of the modes. The idea is to pull off this maneuver of humiliation while scoring a goal during the same play. One other mode that I’ll be eager to play again is Last Man Standing, a set-up where anytime a team scores a goal, they lose a player; the game is obviously over when one team is out of players.
Equally intriguing is the feature-filled multiplayer component of FIFA Street, which offers not only the traditional versus and co-op online play, but also the asymmetrical multiplayer inspired by Need For Speed’s Autolog and ways to track your friends similar to EA’s FIFA Footballl Club. There’s also value to exploring the game’s character creation feature as it ties to the multiplayer. That’s because you can draft your friends’ players to your roster and use those characters regardless if your friends are online or not. Of course, your friends might be developing those same team members on their own systems, so if it turns out that they’ve improved those characters over time, you can always download those new and improved versions as well.
If any EA Street title were to ground itself in reality while still going beyond the strict rule set of organized professional sports, I can’t think of a better platform than soccer to experiment with this direction. If it delivers in the end, you can expect a play session of numerous spectacular but believable moves and tricks, the type of moves you often only see in highlight reels. FIFA Street is due out on multiple platforms in March 2012.