Let’s get this out of the way, because it doesn’t make a lot of sense: FIFA Street isn’t really a football game. It is, but it isn’t. Confused? Well those of you who haven’t seen a FIFA Street game before (and if you haven’t been gaming for long then you probably won’t have) don’t be fooled into thinking this is just football in the road with jumpers for goalposts and scores up the 20s. FIFA Street takes a huge sidestep away from traditional FIFA games and focusses more on tricks, skills and fancy flicks in order to reach the top. So have we got a perfectly executed back-heeled nutmeg, or will FIFA Street’s reboot trip over the ball and end up with dog poo on its elbow?
What becomes apparent very quickly is that you’ll spend a lot of time wiggling the right analogue stick around the place, sometimes with intentional skill, sometimes out of nothing but hope that you’ll pull off an amazing defender-baffling trick. There are a few ways to learn what’s going on, but it’s perfectly possible (and more fun) to just jump into the games and play around to find out what’s what, so that’s exactly what I did. After the usual controller set up (essential after too many years playing Pro Evo) and importing my FIFA12 Be a Pro character into my newly set up Street team I got cracking on the World Tour mode.
As you’d expect, the World Tour is the main game mode on offer. Spanning several countries and a huge range of playing areas you’ll start in smaller tournaments, building up the players in your team while unlocking various extras in terms of kits, colours and other such gear. The harder you set the difficulty for the upcoming match or tournament, the better the reward on offer. The level of customisation that this presents is fantastic, and when you take your team online the likelihood of looking the same as another time is practically non-existent. The World Tour mode will give you a chance to play pretty much every other style of game that you’ll be able to enjoy elsewhere. Aside from the 3-a-side, 5-a-side and other something-a-side games that involve scoring more than the other team there are some truly unique and enjoyable options. Panna matches are all about skill, for example. Each time you perform a panna (or nutmeg, depending on your point of view), pass a defender with a track or do some fancy air-based trick to bypass the defence you’ll be awarded points. To bank these points you’ll need to put the ball in the net, which will also drain any points the other team have earned since the last goal. These 2-on-2 games turn into increasingly tense affairs, as each pair of players racks up points and tries desperately to prevent the other team from scoring.
You’ll also play matches where scoring eliminates an opposing player until there’s nobody left, as well as slightly more normal matches without the walled boundaries around the pitch. Each style of gameplay gives you something different to think about, and different skills to learn, but it’s the skills themselves that are the emphasis with each goal turning into a mini-competition of just how great they look. Opponent just flicked it between your legs and backheeled it into the bottom corner? Then fight back with a short juggle, knock it over their head and volley it into the top corner. The number of available tricks is bewildering, and as you press through the World Tour mode you’ll unlock them little by little, which not only gives you plenty to work towards but also eases you into the complex techniques at a rate much more suitable for the human brain.
That said, those of you who find fighting games frustrating as a result of learning copious amounts of special moves might get a similar feeling of dread here. Some of the more fancy tricks are every bit as difficult to pull off as they look, but the results are spectacular. Facing up against some of the world’s top players with your own created guy is a great feeling, especially when you perform one of the game’s toughest moves to get past the likes of Messi and Ronaldo then tuck the winning goal past the keeper. The emphasis on tricks means that even those who can’t get enough of FIFA12 might not really gel with FIFA Street, but by the same token this uses the same physicals engine, the same player models and the same slick passing and movement so you know what to expect in terms of gameplay.
If you start to feel things are turning stale then the answer, as it so often is, lies with the multiplayer options. Any game mode can be carried out either offline or online and the added uncertainty of how other human players will approach a match makes it a much more dynamic experience. The AI on offer is good, don’t get me wrong, but as with all games playing against real people, with real brains, and making real mistakes is always a more fun way to play. Unless you’re rubbish and don’t like losing, obviously. Whether you choose to play against someone on the same sofa, or another player 2000 miles away you’re much more likely to feel the excitement and tension than when you play against the AI opponents.
Generally your enjoyment of FIFA Street will depend on your expectations. If you want more gaming along the lines of your average FIFA game then you’ll be in for a shock. You’ll be playing in car parks, not 80,000 seater stadiums. You won’t get sent off for being aggressive in the tackle, and offside is a word that is gladly ignored by everyone involved. But if you approach this as it’s intended – a skill and timing based sports title – then you’re much more likely to get engrossed and enjoy everything this has to offer. It’s tough to get out of the “normal” FIFA habits, but once you do it’s surprisingly satisfying.
Reviewed on PS3