NFL Street 2 review

Defy gravity! Laugh in the face of physics! But NGC says you'd better know your American football playbook...

There's no time to worry about rules when you've got half a ton of defensive lineman lumbering towards you, intent on crushing the last breath from your body just to stop you carrying a pointy ball over a painted line.

So NFL Street is the American football game that tears up the majority of the rulebook and gives you a licence to run like hell. Or hit them before they hit you.

Vastly simplified as this take on the sport may be, there's no disguising the fact that American football is a slow, slow spectacle.

NFL Street does a good job of reducing the amount of time spent contemplating tactics, while stretching the on-field action beyond the customary five-second bursts of explosive violence.

But there's little here that could make us recommend the game to anyone who isn't already a dedicated fan of gridiron sims.

More than anything, it's the reliance on a playbook that puts the best parts of the game out of reach to an audience that wasn't brought up on the finer tactical points of the real thing. The Tutorial mode enables anyone to just pick up the controller and start scoring touchdowns, making big hits or even running up walls.

But try explaining the merits of deep zonal coverage versus man-to-man defence, or how to read the opposition's line, or when to blitz, or what all those little playbook arrows actually mean...

If you already know that stuff, then fine. If not, NFL Street 2 won't leave you much the wiser. Our suggestion to EA is this: drop the playbook entirely, or at least have some means of letting the computer take care of it all in the background, like in a FIFA game.

On defence, all you really need to know is whether your men are going to rough up the opposition or hang back and wait for the pass. When you're attacking, pass or run are the only choices you should have to make.

Anyway, if you do know about American football, or are prepared to learn the hard way, this second instalment is a significant improvement over last year's version.

The biggest change is the ability to use the walls around the playing area - it's possible to run up and along them, like in Prince of Persia, to gain a height advantage when throwing or catching the ball. If you're running out wide, with an impassable scrum of players ahead of you, use the wall to soar over the top.

Running on sponsors' posters earns extra credit for your Gamebreaker meter, which is where the game really loses all connection with reality.

Gamebreakers can be powered up in two stages, depending on how flamboyantly you play, and the level two moves are hilarious and unstoppable.

And because they're so difficult to earn in the first place, no opponent is going to feel too cheated by having to sit back and watch your men rip his team apart under computer control.

NFL Street packs each match with the kind of thrilling stuff you'd be lucky to see just once or twice in a whole season of the real thing. Multiple laterals, trick plays, blind passes, effortless showboating...

There are even some bonus challenges that seem to be based on training exercises, which are most welcome additions to last year's relatively straightforward game.

You can play four-versus-four with points awarded for interceptions, jostle to catch random balls hurled up the field by three quarterbacks, or chase the ball-carrier in an effort to give your created player a taste for blood.

Fronted by MTV's Xzibit and featuring a slick, cinematic story mode, it's a quality package. If it were proper football rather than the American version, it would probably fly off the shelves in this country. All the more reason to look forward to FIFA Street...

NFL Street 2 is out for Gamecube, PS2 and Xbox now

More Info

PlatformXbox, PS2, GameCube