FIFA Street has been a very bumpy road over the years. It started out as kind of a cruddy add-on product to round out the “Street” brand of games back when the “X games” were popular. NBA Street was a big hit – but people were actually playing basketball on the playground and in streets. Soccer has taken a bit of time to get so popular in the USA that kids from all economic classes are playing it, even in the streets. So we still are lagging behind a bit. But we caught on and I see more kids playing soccer at the park now than I ever saw playing basketball. EA seems to have taken just as long to catch on with FIFA Street. The last iteration was more of a cartoon/anime type of game. It was fun for about 10 minutes but quickly went to the discount bin at most stores.
FIFA Street is the game that changes everything. This is the first time the FIFA Soccer team is actually making the game – with all the resources and player data they need to create an awesome mix of arcade and realistic street soccer with all the big names. But it’s not just street soccer. It’s a lot of different kinds of soccer… from 5-a-side indoor played on basketball courts, to 6v6 with boards, to the official FIFA Futsal court soccer that is so popular everywhere else in the world.
Never heard of Futsal? That’s too bad because the USA has a pretty good record. The U.S. Futsal team finished third in 1989 and second in 1992 at the FIFA Futsal World Cup… and that’s competing with a team of virtually unknown players against national teams filled with lifelong Futsal players from all over the world. Check out www.FIFA.com for more information (the USA’s qualifying tournament is the first week of July and the World Cup is this November). It might not be your flavor of choice, but I played soccer (and Futsal) from my childhood up to just a few years ago. I have tons of games on tape including USA’s Futsal World Cup games, so having Futsal finally be included in a video game is a big deal to me. It’s fast and requires a lot of 1 on 1 skill with the ball.
I’ve reviewed previous versions of FIFA Street and compared to its siblings, FIFA Street had no place to go but up. Granted, the focus of FIFA Street has always been fancy footwork in the smaller confines. My fear was this would feel like a slightly more robust version of the arena practice area in FIFA 12. But thankfully, the team at EA Sports used every ounce of technology they had from years of improvements on their amazing FIFA franchise to make this the best FIFA Street yet., and for the first time, FIFA Street was created by the same FIFA development team at EA Canada, utilizing the FIFA gameplay engine including the impact engine and precision dribbling. To say this is a ‘reboot’ is an understatement.
When the opening menu comes up there is an urbanized grunge graffiti look. You get to pick from a list of Hit the Streets, World Tour, Xbox Live, My Squad and Practice Arena. That seems a little light on the options but there is a bit more under the hood. Hit the Streets allows you to pick from 4 different styles of street soccer and gives you the option to make your own. 5-a-side is simply five players per team, two 3 minute halves. The pitch is about the size of a basketball court but with walls on the boundaries. There are goalies but most of the goals stand out from the wall (they are not built flush to the wall). There are 9 venues to pick from including Underpass2 (100 fans, large field, UK cage net out-wall), Goals Centre daytime (500 fans, large field, UK cage net out wall), Goals Centre nighttime (same), The Dome (1,000 fans, extra-large field, UK cage net out wall), Indoor Court (50 fans, large field, UK cage net out wall), Justin Chan Memorial (100 fans, Large field, UK cage net out wall), Adidas Z5 (50 fans, large field, UK Cage small net out wall), plus two unlockable fields of London dusk (500 fans, extra-large field, UK Cage large net out wall), and London daytime (same).
Panna Rules is a 2 on 2 kind of an “in your face” game where you get rewarded not only for scoring a goal but also for doing tricks to get around opponents. There are no goalies but since the goal is small usually one guy hangs back just to protect family interests. Each “Panna” is worth 3 points, each air beat is worth 2 points, and each beat is worth 1 point. The points go in your bank until you score a goal. If the other team scores first, you lose your banked points. This can be a lot of fun if someone gets up on you by a few goals… all you have to do is burn him a couple times in the field then put one in the net and suddenly you are winning the game. Panna Rules has 7 venues: Aberdeen Cage (50 fans, medium field, small goal out-wall), Basketball Court (50 fans, medium field, small goal out-wall), Empty Parking Lot (50 fans, small field, small goal out-wall), Loading Bay (50 fans, small field, small goal out-wall), Shanghai Rooftop (50 fans, medium field, small goal out-wall), and the two unlockable venues of Buenos Aires (50 fans, small field, small goal out-wall), and Skate Park (50 fans, small field, small goal out-wall).
Futsal is the official FIFA sanctioned version of indoor soccer played with 5-a-side in arenas. There are no walls, but out of bounds is rewarded with a kick-in instead of a throw-in and it’s played with a weighted ball so promotes more skilled ball control. There are goalies and the goal is normal height but not as wide. It’s basically played on a basketball court so it is certainly the easiest game to play on playgrounds throughout the world. There are 7 venues including: Futsal Centre (1,000 fans, large field, futsal net out-wall), The Hangar (1,000 fans, large field, Futsal net out-wall), and unlockable venues of Placa de Catalunya (500 fans, large field, Futsal net out-wall), Tokyo Futsal Stadium (10,000 fans, large field, Futsal net out-wall), Rio Stadium daytime (5,000 fans, large field, Futsal net out-wall), Rio Stadium nighttime (5,000 fans, large field, Futsal net out-wall), and Berlin Stadium (500 fans, large field, Futsal net out-wall).
Last Man Standing can be a lot of fun for parties. In this game if you score a goal, you lose a man. So the game is trying to be the first team to lose all their players. It is played with 3 or 4 players and no goalies. There are only 3 venues for Land Man Standing, including: Basketball Court (50 fans, medium field, small goal out-wall), Shanghai Rooftop (50 fans, medium field, small goal out-wall), and Aberdeen Cage (50 fans, medium field, small goal out-wall). You can also make up to 4 types of custom matches. Options include match type (timed match, first to X goals, Freestyle match (first to score the set amount of style points wins), Panna Rules, and Last Man Standing. Each has various options for Style Points, Extra Time, Golden Goal, Number of Players, Goalie, Ball Type, and Fouls.
World Tour mode basically takes you on a tour of the game where you play all the different modes in different cities with a bunch of unlockable content. Most of the unlockable content is different uniform/kits. There are bronze, silver, and gold level unlockables and you can’t move on to other parts of the world until you have won the tournament championship final from the previous continent.
Xbox Live is only unlockable through an Online Pass. You get the code free if you buy the game new, but if you borrow it or buy it used you have to buy the pass for 800 Microsoft Points. EA does include a free 2-day pass which says something. There really isn’t much to do online other than play normal ranked matches and in a 10 game ‘season’. If you earn enough points in the season mode your team gets promoted up to a higher division. This is an area where they could have done a lot more.
The available teams in FIFA Street are good, but not anywhere near as many as FIFA 12. Instead you get to choose from: USA (MLS 18 teams – not including the new Montreal Impact), England’s Barclays Premiere League (20 teams), France’s Ligue 1 (20 teams), German Bundesliga (18 teams), Italian Serie A (20 teams), Spain’s Liga BBVA (20 teams), and 20 international teams (Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Ivory Coast, England, France, Germany, Italy, Korea Republic, Mexico, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, USA, and Uruguay). There are also 12 special teams which are all unlockables (African all-stars, Asia all-stars, Euro all-stars, North American all-stars, South American all-stars, Street Ballers, Street Kings, Street Stars, Street Stylers, Street Swirl, Street Wizards, and a Classic Team). There are also 20 slots for user created and downloaded teams.
The game manual is included in the game – and this is 20 pages long. There are over 35 different tricks you can do, though many are unlocked as you gain skill points. You can also save your video highlights online to view later. There are 34 Achievements available for a total of 1,000 gamescore points. EA throws you a bone with some easy ones like “upload a saved video” and “score a goal with a Panna”, but others give new meaning to longevity. Winning all 9 online cups will get you 100 achievement points but you might miss your entire summer doing it.
Most of the environments have samples of what EA Canada must assume are “street” sounds. There is an abundance of car noise and police sirens which get pretty annoying after a while. Not every urban environment is in ‘da hood’. Thankfully there are Futsal arenas and gyms with crowds. The music is the usual FIFA worldwide mix of tunes, and as usual it’s cool at first but I soon turned the music off. There are no announcers in FIFA Street. That takes some getting used to for any FIFA Soccer fan. I had gotten used to hearing the quality of Martin Tyler with Alan Smith and Clive Tyldesley with Andy Townsend. Again, the audio assets are in EA’s hands from FIFA 12 – they just didn’t use them. All we get are the on field comments from players – which isn’t bad, but they are often not relevant to the play. I found guys yelling for a pass when I was on a breakaway.
With all that is good about FIFA Street, there is still a long list of things they could do to improve on the game. Anyone who watches Fox Soccer Channel or ESPN3 can see all kinds of popular niche soccer. EA made a noble effort with this version of FIFA Street, but if you are going to make the effort, go all out! FIFA Street doesn’t include beach soccer (which also has an official FIFA world cup tournament). Granted the physics of the ball and players in a sandbox would require quite a bit of new data to look realistic.
What about the USA version of indoor soccer? The Major Indoor Soccer League was huge for years. They were putting 20,000 fans filling arenas in the 1980’s. They are now less than a shadow of their former selves as the red headed stepchild of the USL, but they are still around. EA has the data to do MISL soccer – it’s just Astroturf in a hockey rink. Look up “freestyle football” on YouTube and you will get a sight to see. While you are watching the freestyle videos you will probably notice there are a lot of women… who once again get dissed by EA. Even EA’s advertising for FIFA includes USA women’s national team player Hope Solo, but none of these games include female player’s in-game. Soccer has the highest female participation rate of any sport. It’s time to get with the program EA.
Overall, FIFA Street is a huge step up from previous years. The use of EA’s FIFA engine and player data puts FIFA Street on a whole new level, but there are still volumes of features that could be added. The lack of user created tournaments and female players are real drawbacks. FIFA has the official Futsal World Cup coming later this year and FIFA Street completely ignores it. FIFA Street doesn’t have anywhere near the depth of FIFA 12, but it does have the fun gameplay and various game modes to make this a fun game for any soccer fan.