The FIFA Street series has long been the annoying little brother to the main FIFA franchise, going through various changes of image and style, yet without asserting a consistent presence on the market.
The model has previously gone for style over substance, with flare moves and tricks being favoured over the simple notion of scoring in the opposition’s goal – the caricatured incumbents and camera kineticism of the series’ last entry perhaps the pinnacle of this misdirection.
This time around, EA has stripped away such contrivances, wisely putting its resources into building a game that utilises the brilliant FIFA 12 engine, albeit with a few tweaks. The resulting game surges ahead of previous entries, even somehow contriving to leap-frogging PSOne 'classic' Chris Kamara’s Street Soccer – who would have ever though it possible?
Until EA's FIFA games started to get their act together and overcome the stranglehold of Pro Evolution Soccer, one of their best entries into the football game genre was FIFA 98: Road to the World Cup. The football world was a very different place back then: Spain were still perennial underachievers at tournaments, David Beckham still had curtains and EA only released one football game a year.
I mention this as FIFA 98: RTWC included a simple five-aside indoor mode, with the same control dynamic as the main game. This made for a highly entertaining distraction, but it was only ever just that. FIFA Street was similar in premise, and not far off becoming an aside itself, but this latest reboot makes its existence as a separate franchise worthwhile – providing variety, fun and a decent sense of progression.
Its gameplay options are impressive with five-a-side (with and without walls), two-on-two and last man standing modes available, as well as the provision of a custom mode to customise your ideal rules. Each style plays uniquely, utilising different attributes. Panna rules (two-on-two), for example, allows players to build up a separate skill meter, which is added to the score once someone nets a goal.
Though this can be cruel when you’re leading 10-1 on goals, only for your opponent to win 11-10 on points due to their extra trickery, it shows EA hasn't turned its back on the essential nature of FIFA Street. Indeed the number of tricks, each performed via the right stick, are vast.
Bite-sized versions of the dominant football nations and teams are all available to select though a strength and weakness of FIFA Street, that the gulf between defenders and forwards is negligible remains.
Though diluting realism, EA’s decision should at least alleviate the domination of teams such as Real and Barcelona online – a long standing bugbear of the FIFA 12 online veteran. Career mode is strong, with create a player available, as well as the recruitment of a bespoke team.
With stars hand-picked by the player, the idea is to progress from local regional competitions to ultimately become world dominating champions. The tour mode is great for thrusting you into different styles of play on various pitches, each incorporating new tactical challenges and freeing up yet more skills.
Upon winning matches – and the accompanying prestige – your teams gets awards such as new kit and skill points, though one small gripe is there is no auto-levelling feature, so leading to lengthy bouts of statistic checking.
To be fair to EA, many tour modes of other games feature the same sort of weakness, but in FIFA Street, the laborious stat boxes are a stark contrast to the speed and fluency of the actual game and therefore quite a distraction – as it that music which is practically screaming ‘I’m cool, young and urban’ at you.
There comes a time when little brother has to grow up and step out of his older brother’s shadow. FIFA Street has toned down the showing off to create a more rounded experience, so becoming a great accompaniment to FIFA 12 and offering a swift, arcadey variation of the beautiful game.
Format: PS3 (tested), Xbox 360