FIFA Street returns with a reboot to the franchise, developers including those that work on the core FIFA games and some of its big brother’s technical grunt powering it. Is it a graceful step-over or a trick too far?
It’s important to make a distinction about FIFA Street, just in case anyone is confused. It’s not a football game. While the inclusion of real world footballing stars from real world teams in some of the biggest leagues (and the US’s MLS…), equipment manufacturers and other trappings associated with the world’s most popular sport might lead you to think you’re playing a football game, you won’t be. FIFA Street is mechanically as similar to SSX or Tony Hawks games as it is to the core FIFA franchise. FIFA Street is a tricking game that leaves the board behind and dresses up in Adidas Sambas for a scuff around the local car park.[drop]There’s very little of traditional football left within FIFA Street’s painfully urban, urbane shell. There are regular 5-a-side (or 4, or 6, etc.) matches, which probably come closest to the sport but even those are played within FIFA Street’s new, grindingly slow trick systems.
It’s those systems — perfectly good for the intricate trick control — which prohibit a proper game of football. Passing is slow and lacks fluidity simply because you’re not supposed to pass much, you’re supposed to pull off tricks to get past opponents. It’s imperative that you understand this distinction going into the game, otherwise your first few hours may end up frustrating and dispiriting.
Once you get past that initial spell of confusion between appearance and mechanics, FIFA Street achieves its goals with great aplomb. It might be a game about stick movements and timing more than it is about passing, positioning and shooting but that doesn’t make it any less of an enjoyable experience.
Those trick controls really work well, that’s the key. Using the finely honed game engine from the main FIFA line is doubtless a great boon for things like collision detection, momentum and physics. It still suffers from occasionally hilarious ragdoll moments during tackles but for the most part, it’s incredibly impressive.
Tricks are performed with the right stick and in the World Tour career mode they need to be unlocked as you level up your players. They range from simple ball drags to juggling and complicated multiple step over routines. All can be very effective in taking on the opposition and you’ll need to get proficient with a wide range of tricks before you’ll really open up the best in this game.
There is a sprint button but it is used more as a dash rather than a prolonged sprint. You’re encouraged to use it only for a step or two, to switch pace from the usual slow dribble or standing stances or to pop the ball through an opponents legs — which seems to be the game’s most valued achievement, even though it’s certainly not the most difficult way to get past.
This act of putting the ball between your opponents legs while retaining possession is called a “panna” in game, although when I was playing 5-a-side football regularly we called it a “nutmeg” and I assume it is just one of those things that has a different name in every region of the world. In the points scoring game modes, a panna is one of the highest scoring things you can do.
The degree of precision required is possible thanks to the FIFA engine but also to those slowed down movements and the game’s smart controls. Holding the left trigger will stop your player dead. Moving the left stick then moves the ball around while the right stick still performs your standing tricks. Wait for the opposing marker to open his legs, direct the left stick in his direction and tap the sprint trigger to pop off in that direction before he has a chance to close the gap. It’s extremely satisfying when pulled off seamlessly.[drop2]There are multiple game modes and each is different enough that they really add some variation to the way the game needs to be played. The straight 5-a-side matches are standard and Futsal is similar but played on a pitch without walls so there’s no wall passes and you’ll want to be more careful with errant shots. There is also Panna Rules and Last Man Standing, which might be quite alien to a lot of regular football fans.
Panna Rules awards points for each time you beat an opponent. You’ll get one point for beating them, two for beating them with the ball in the air and three points for a panna. The points accumulate in your bank until you score, at which point you win your points and any that your opponent has accrued are wiped clean. Last Man Standing pits three or four players on each team against each other with no goalies and tiny goals. Each time a team scores a goal, one of them leaves the pitch until the last man scores. First to clear their whole team off the pitch wins the game.
There is also a custom match mode which allows you to store up to four custom match types in which you can select number of players, scoring system and even how inflated the ball is so it bounces less or more. The World Tour mode mixes up these modes with freestyle point scoring competitions as you tour your region, nation and eventually the world taking on better opponents. It’s a slow but well paced career mode that allows you to learn the intricacies of the game while unlocking plenty of customisation equipment.
- World Tour mode lets you build your team.
- Trick controls are really good.
- Plenty of variation in the gameplay.
- Light on actual football, even in bog-standard 5-a-side matches.
- Movement is a little slow.
FIFA Street isn’t like the main line FIFA games, it’s barely even football at times. That’s not to say it isn’t a good game though. Even though I wasn’t expecting something so tuned for trickery and light on actual football, I found myself slowly growing to enjoy it. The systems are well explained, the controls are perfect for the pace and style of gameplay and the presentation is as great as you’d expect. One or two minor niggles aside, FIFA Street is a very enjoyable game, even though it’s not the game I expected.