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Lionel Messi surveys the situation and decides to act. From a standing position protecting the ball from Sergio Ramos, he starts to juggle it; first with his feet, then knees. Seconds later, he spins while kneeing the ball over Ramos’ head, catching the World Cup-winning defender leaning a quarter-step in the wrong direction. In a flash, Leo is past him. With 10 meters between himself and the goaltender, he sidesteps right then deftly kicks in the opposite direction. The goalie never has a chance, and another beautiful score is in the books.
Moments like this are commonplace in the newly-rebooted FIFA Street; the only question is whether you’ll be the scorer or the victim. Featuring a bevy of dazzling trick options, you’ll be performing moves you could only dream about in a “proper” football title within minutes. The real challenge, however, is a level deeper. Street packs a wallop of tricks that -- if you can avoid being overwhelmed and simply take the time to learn -- will have you and your buddies cheering.
Buddies are the key, really. FIFA Street is meant to be played by a room full of like-minded soccer fans, preferably veterans of EA’s mainstream FIFA franchise. It’s at its best when several people play with or against each other in the same space, where the feedback is instant and reactions are shared. While the development team did an admirable job creating a serviceable single-player career mode, Street is infinitely more fun when in-your-face tricks and game-winning goals are immediately followed by friendly elbows to your ribs.
Street is definitely not “FIFA with tricks.” While there are several modes with varying number of players, only one type (futsal) even resembles “proper” football. Matches take place in locales across the world, most on small, enclosed pitches with accordingly reduced squads of 2,3, 4, or 5 aside. The action is fast with no fouls (except in futsal), thanks to the removal of the sort of heavy sliding tackles you see in the traditional games. It causes an uncomfortable “zombie shuffle” effect for many players in motion, who only seen to run at full speed when they’re far from the action.
While Street uses FIFA 12’s Impact Engine for its physicality, it’s not always to great effect. Player collisions abound, and goaltenders and attackers in particular get tangled up and often wind up on the ground. Playing defense can definitely get frustrating, as your player will often stick out his foot in a desperate attempt to gain possession. It’s a clumsier affair than it ought to be, in that regard.
Awkward animations aside, the new Street looks great; the facial models are borrowed from FIFA 12, which means a big aesthetic departure from FIFA Street 3’s funhouse caricatures. When the best players in the world are spinning, hopping, and bicycle-kicking, the movements are fluid. We have to admit we don’t love the audio, though, as the combination of annoying soundtrack and blow-by-blow catcalls from the crowd leave much to be desired. While we understand Street doesn’t make sense to have traditional announcers, we would’ve appreciated a less grating approach.
Game types include simple timed matches where the most goals win, Panna contests that give you credit for banking trick points by beating your opponent and cashing them in with goals, a “last man standing” that challenges you to score with every player until none are left, freestyle battles that reward multitude of tricks, and the more-traditional futsal. Our favorite is Panna, which not only demands a lot of flair but also blends strategic decisions into the mix. No lead is ever truly safe, and deciding when to go for the goal or build up your linked moves depends on how far ahead or behind you are. The catch is that after a few rounds with each mode, that’s kind of it, and you’ve seen what it has to offer.
Street’s career mode is surprisingly fun, varied, and deep. The goal is to take your squad to the top of the world rankings by participating in local challenges and tournaments, then advance to higher-stakes matches. Your team can be made up of all sorts of players, including imports of your buddies’ online avatars (a nice touch) and footballers you steal from defeated foes along the way. Over time, each of them can be leveled up in a number of areas, such as shooting, defending, dribbling, and so on. The career tournaments can even be played against real-world players online, an interesting twist that gives you extra custom unlockables for your team. Ultimately you can create a superteam, but it’ll take some time, so be warned.
An added bonus of crafting a team in the career mode is that it can exist outside of it, too. For example, your squad can take part in 10-game online seasons and can earn promotions to higher divisions, or be relegated lower if things don’t go so well. All our online games ran smoothly, too, which can never be taken for granted at launch. Be on notice that online players are seriously good, pulling off tricks we didn’t know existed and setting up scoring plays with relative ease. You’ll need to bring your ‘A’ game to have a chance at victory.
Our group of football buddies were happy with the newly added club teams and international squads available in Street, but there is a decidedly smaller number than in FIFA 12, which means you’ll get the big European leagues (and MLS), but no Mexican, Brazilian, or Argentine leagues, nor the wide scope of international teams around the world. Each squad comes with its standard kit as well as a special “street” uniform, which may or may not appeal to you. It’s all a matter of taste, and we have to admit we didn’t exactly love them.
FIFA Street serves as a terrific appetizer and dessert when served with a standard FIFA 12 meal, with its bite-sized chunks and freewheeling vibe juxtaposed nicely against its simulation cousin’s oh-so-serious mentality. Despite its lengthy career mode and deep trick mechanics, though, it’s hard to see Street being a significantly long-term affair or appealing to many outside the existing FIFA demographic, even as big as that is. The other modes just aren’t quite diverse or deep enough for it to have the legs and longevity you’d see in its bigger brother. It’s fast, fun, and challenging, and if you’ve got a room full of buddies, it might be the most raucous way to kick back and have a good time outside of watching a game at the pub.
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