FIFA Street: Skill’s just as vital off the pitch

April 5, 2012

We’ve seen a lot of series reboots lately that are largely arbitrary. Whether the story is played out, the sales numbers are lagging or it’s just a whim of some person in an office, the result is rarely something worthy of a name reset. FIFA Street, on the other hand, has a marked change from its 3 predecessors: a new developer in the main FIFA team and a control scheme to match.

It’s not immediately apparent when you start, though. The feel is traditional Street, and that’s a great thing, since it’s stylish, simple and distinctive. The main mode, Own the Street, has you creating your own team of custom players and pitting them against increasingly-tough foes and challenges. You pick a region to start in, and complete those events to progress to the national stage and so on. (From what we can tell, there’s not a substantive difference between the starting areas you choose, but it’s a nice touch.)

The events themselves are not dramatically different. Some let you earn extra points on goals when you do tricks beforehand, and some are first-to-5, untimed events, but most are 4-on-4, 5-on-5 or 6-on-6 tournaments. Each can be played in different difficulty levels, with higher choices unlocking more clothing bonuses, and there’s a bonus option for the larger tournaments: the ability to play online. You can take on human opponents for these tournaments, and the result counts as the highest “gold” difficulty. (It should, too, in our experience.) This granular matchmaking shouldn’t work, but it does, since the game’s online quick-play option matches players against those who need tournament opponents.

The progression of this mode works fine except for the difficulty curve. Because your team is full of scrubs until you can get them some points to upgrade stats, there’s the first few hours when you run into a wall over and over again until you build up enough to clear it. It takes a bit longer than you’d like to build up your team, because each stat level takes a significant chunk to buy. The progression is helped, though, by the fact that when you use your Own the Street team outside the mode, it still gains experience.

When you get into the match, you realize that this isn’t the accessible, fun game with friends that other Street games are. Even more so than the original three FIFA Street games, this installment, with its use of the FIFA engine, is incredibly reliant on finesse and skill. You’ll need friends who like soccer games to play with you. Alone, though, there’s a lot of depth there. You don’t just run down the pitch and boot it, because that won’t work. You’ll need to hold shoulder buttons to use the standing dribble, use tricks around defenders and start sprinting at just the right time.

The game’s designed to reward players who really get into it, with replay sharing, leaderboards, integration into EA’s Football Club system and ranked online seasons. There are also real teams in the game, though never before in a game have we felt so little desire to use them. Why would you, when you can use your custom team and level it up? Still, fans have the option of using famous players, and this could be more of a thing with competitive online play.

Pros: Nice polish and aesthetic, control depth, creative online implementation
Cons: Steep learning curve for a Street game, limited mode variety

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.