If there’s one thing more common than reboots it’s how these reboots are named. More specifically, it’s trendy to title reboots without numerical values indicating consecutive franchise entries, and also without convoluted subtitles. You know what I mean: nothing like FIFA Street 14 or FIFA Street: Ball Awakening. No, it’s much easier when rebooting a franchise to pick a nice, clean easy to understand title. And thus we have FIFA Street.
So yes, it’s a reboot of sorts, though based on a franchise not quite as old as one might think. The last FIFA Street, FIFA Street 3, was released back in 2008. Met with ho-hum sales, especially given the usual popularity of the FIFA brand name, EA went back to the drawing board in hopes of giving the franchise a breath of fresh air. Four years they’ve come up with FIFA Street, and though it shares the franchise’ adherence to street football (hence the name), it also comes with a host of new additions and changes.
First and foremost, FIFA Street is a bit more serious business than the past games. Impressively, EA has taken production values to a level that matches the mainline FIFA titles. Menus are sleek and easy to navigate, real world players appear in filmed world tour intro videos, and the soundtrack is a tight mix of R&B, hip hop, urban dance and more, each element thematically consistent with the street football theme. Abandoning the cartoon style of previous FIFA Street titles, FIFA Street‘s characters and locations are crafted with a realistic art direction, accurately modelling famous players from a host of official worldwide street football teams. Meticulous attention to detail has also been given to the animations, which again sport realistic, accurate motions for all player movement, and especially especially for crafty footwork when performing ball tricks.
And that is the key to what makes FIFA Street different from other football games: ball tricks. Unlike regular, boring football, FIFA Street emphasises clever foot play and mastery of the ball in a more contained environment over the broader, traditional football most have come to love. The actual mechanics are built around a fairly impressive learning curve, where early tricks can be performed with a simple tap of L2 and a flick of the right control stick, while more demanding (and certainly impressive) tricks require more precise analogue motions and play setup. Even those fairly new to the series, like myself, will be able to quickly adapt to basic ball trick fundamentals, building off these fundamentals as the game progresses to perform more demanding tricks.
There’s incentive to master these tricks too, for two good reasons. Firstly, tricks are woven into the core mechanics in a way that makes them a necessity. They’re for baiting and deceiving the opposition, and luring opponents into a false sense of security, where perceived unpredictable footwork can make the difference between a clumsy pass (or complete failure) and clean, tactical teamwork across the field of play. I was pleased to see that implementing tricks into play against AI actually makes a difference, with increased difficulty levels varying the required application of ball skill.
The second reason is less about the underlying mechanics, and instead actual game modes. FIFA Street does a great job of offering a wide variety of play. Some modes operate around basic street football mechanics, and here the use of ball skill doesn’t really go any further than what I mentioned above. However, other game modes put far greater emphasis on using ball tricks to earn points, and in addition to this, ‘skill points’ earned from ball tricks go towards levelling up characters. These modes and features do a better job than the former in separating FIFA Street from the usual FIFA games, and though the advanced ball skill is a step up over previous games, in standard modes there’s a lingering feeling that FIFA Street is just a slightly tweaked and remixed FIFA 12.
As one would expect from a sports game, the varied modes are selectable for individual play right from the main menu. But the real meat of FIFA Street is in the world tour mode. This is where you begin your rise from a nobody street footballer to global fame, and it starts with simply creating a team, naming them, crafting an emblem and setting them off on their merry way. The whole experience is handled in a interesting way. Once you create your team you’re asked to select a starting country (mostly European) and from there your sporting quest begins. Early matches within your nation of choice are fairly low key street tournaments, slowly but surely escalating to a national final. Beating this, you’re then given a wider scale of matches to play from multiple nations. Beat these, and again you’re given even greater selection, and more access to the world map of street football tournaments.
The goal (no pun intended) is to grow attached to your team, and it works surprisingly well. Experience points earned from tournaments go towards levelling up players, as do various unlocked goodies from completing tournmanets at different difficulty tiers. Though your team starts fairly low key and inexperienced, as player experience increases they not only perform better, but come into their own, revealing individual pros and cons of their style of play. Some players are faster and great for moving the ball quickly across the field, some are like brick walls and make for better defence, and some have a wider disposal of skills to perform with the ball. There’s a good sense of individuality to members of your entire team, developing even further as you begin to customise each player’s skills, tricks and performance levels with acquired experience points, which encourages a genuine sense of player investment weirdly similar to a role playing game.
I was happy to see that world tour doesn’t resort to just standard street football rule sets. Instead of repeating the same game type over and over, world tour integrates all of the game modes into the whole experience. One minute you’re playing five-on-five, or the stricter variation futsal, then the next moment a variation of panna rules.FIFA Street also integrates various social connectivity features into world tour. If connected online, regions of the world map are filled with custom made teams from other connected players. The idea is neat, but to be honest I never really noticed it. I suspect this was because, at the time of play, no-one on my friends list had a copy of the game, and thus I was unable to share and interact with specific teams I might recognise, via the cross content styled play system the mode supports.
FIFA Street seems to tick all the right boxes, especially given it’s directive as a reboot. Looking back over at previous FIFA Street games, there’s a feeling of disconnection from the mainline FIFA games, as if the franchise aimed to be little more than an experimental offshoot, or stopgap between the yearly iterations ofFIFA. With this FIFA Street, it’s as if EA found the motivation to bring the series to a similar standard the overall FIFA brand is known for. You can see it everywhere in the game: the intricacies of ball mechanics, the roster of global teams, the depth and customisation of world tour, and especially in the more serious, realistic presentation.
It’s hard to say whether this iteration of FIFA Street does enough to really appeal to football fans unfamiliar with the street football theme. Is there a hook that cannot be found in FIFA 12? Yes, but it requires the game be played, not watched. Hands-on experience is essential for FIFA Street to be understood. The shift from wide field team play to personalised one-on-one dribbling can be felt in every game, and I suspect many FIFA fans a little vague on their street football will appreciate the change in pace. In fact, they may find elements in FIFA Street‘s mechanics that they hope to see in FIFA 13.
But for all the others who are very familiar with street football, and has been awaiting the return of EA’s street football franchise, FIFA Street is very unlikely to disappoint. It may have taken awhile, but for once this is a reboot done right.
Solid play mechanics | Quality presentation | Involved world tour mode
Too reminiscent of regular FIFA? | Lukewarm social connectivity