Consider it no huge surprise, then, that EA decided to Street up its FIFA franchise, and the mash-up met with surprisingly decent results for a first-time effort -- one that's certainly better than the NFL pairing, but not quite as good as even the first NBA go-round. FIFA Street is fast, easy to control, and a blast to play for short stretches, but extended play doesn't quite hold up, and a couple of odd omissions make the game feel like too much of a me-too effort to be considered a must-have.
If you didn't even know FS was coming, that's not surprising. EA gave the game little to no real publicity leading up to the launch, including only a simple pre-rendered trailer on the latest Street games and little else. I'm not sure if they weren't quite as proud of this effort, or if there just wasn't a huge budget for it to begin with, but regardless, it's an above average game of ultra-quick footy with a simple set of controls.
Matches are played in a variety of locales, all of them tight, urban venues that encourage heavy ball movement and strategic strikes on the opposing goal. Imported from the more recent Street entries is the Trick Stick, which is arguably best implemented here. Pressing up on the right analog stick will flip the ball up over an opponents head, pressing it down will pull a nutmeg and send it between their legs, and left or right will juke that direction. Holding L1 will modify the trick (as well as allow you to lock onto and strafe around an defender or shield the ball if your back is towards them), opening up a new set of more complex tricks, and holding both L1 + R1 will allow even more advanced moves.
Like its Street compatriots, FIFA Street lets you randomly perform a trick for when you're backfield with a press of the triangle button. Tricks, complex passes (it's possible to keep the ball in the air indefinitely with tweaked passes) and combos of moves leading up to shots can be built up into a Gamebreaker, an almost-but-not-quite unstoppable move that dramatically increases your chances of scoring. Things like taunting (any d-pad direction or L1+d-pad), or using the wall for passes can all boost the meter faster, but combos build things fastest.
Also like the latest arcade offerings in EA's stable, career (called Rule the Street here too) matches aren't just normal play-to-such-and-such matches. Some are points-driven, some are score-based, and so on. It's a nice way to mix things up, and it adds a bit of variety to the games, but it's not enough to detract from the fact that you'll play a lot of feel-alike games as you take on players from all over the world in pick-up games and tournaments in each location. As is the norm with the Street games, winning matches nets you points to bulk up your create-a-character, add new teammates or customize gear.
FIFA Street's biggest problem is just that it's not really sustainable like the other games are over a couple hour play sessions, which is a shame because in short bursts the game is a total blast, but the lack of online mode means once you tire of playing against the computer and realize there's nobody else around to play you because you kept screaming at the TV... or, um, something. Well, you're SOL for some non-computer contact.
This is the latest EA BIG game to sport something I can only call the EA Look, where saturated colored lighting and gritty yet detailed texture work combine to give their games a distinct feel. The models are nicely detailed, the animations superlative and the effects work fitting for the action, but you'll swear you've seen some of these characters in other games. That's not a bad thing, it's just that the game feels oddly familiar for an entirely new product. The framerate is solid, the menu designs fairly flashy and everything has a nice, cohesive feel to it.
That feel is undoubtedly international, which is only fitting for a sport like soccer, but the music and tone of the game has a completely different bent, due almost exclusively to the soundtrack, which is the first one in a while that didn't have me scrambling for the options as soon as I saw EA Trax pop up. FIFA Street eschews the bling and screams (well, for the most part) of the previous games for sounds from Timo Maas, Roni Size, Dizzy Rascal, Ozomatli and Peshay, giving things a vaguely South American feel mixed in with heavy doses of drum 'n' bass, some house and even a little jazz fusion.
If for some reason you turn things down (and there aren't a whole lot of tracks, so eventually it's going to happen), the ambient effects and audio bits attached to nearly everything happening on screen are clean and offer nice separation if you have a modest surround sound setup. The sound of the ball caroming off different surfaces and the slides and pops from the normal dribbling is also quite pleasing.
The missing online mode is a little odd, and the gameplay feels a little thin after the easy game dynamics suck you in, but this is certainly a better first-time effort than, say, the NFL Street tries. It'll be interesting to see how things shape up with a sequel (if the game does well enough to warrant one), but this is a definite buy for soccer fans. Just don't feel ripped off if you paid full price.