Soccer? I don’t even know her! (Yuk. Yuk. Yuk.)
Even if you’ve been on a high-fiber diet lately, you’re probably still not as regular as an EA Sports series. With so many different sports and iterations coming at semi-predictable yearly intervals, there are bound to be quite a few stinkers. And the end result of eating lots of bran muffins is a hell of a lot more satisfying.
Following in the time-honored tradition of taking a solid series and spinning it off and off and off, until it no longer resembles the original, the FIFA Street series takes EA’s long-standing soccer series to the playgrounds and rooftops of the world. And much like the other “Street” sport spin-offs by EA, FIFA Street 3 pares down the sport to its barest essentials. But unlike the NBA or NFL Street series, it is ill-suited to the size and scope of the playground.
In effect, FIFA Street 3 tries to make soccer more like basketball. Think NBA Street using your feet, and you’ll get the idea. You have five players on each team - like in basketball. The court is small - like in basketball. You spin, juke, and lob - like in basketball. But if you wanted to play a game like basketball, you should probably just play basketball.
Translating basketball to a street-size game works; it’s just a matter of shifting the tone a bit. All you have to do to make basketball seem more street-like is add some street-style moves and put the game in an urban environment, but it'll still feel like basketball. However, changing the rules and setting of soccer this much means losing much of what defines the sport.
As in the other Street games, there isn’t much strategy involved in the gameplay. But that’s okay, since the Street series games are what you play while you’re waiting for a real sports title to come along, anyway. Strategic play is for the other sports series; the Street games are the simplified button mashers of the sports game world.
As before, you build up your “gamebreaker” meter by doing special moves while you try to shoot goals. Once your gamebreaker meter fills up, you use it to make scoring goals easier. That’s it. No elaborate field strategies. No player management. No career mode. No tournament play. No subtle passing or shooting strategies. Just kick the ball into the goal and try to build up your gamebreaker meter in the process.
Simplicity isn’t always a bad thing, though, and it can be loads of fun playing a quick pick-up game of soccer. But FIFA Soccer 3 just isn’t enough like soccer to make it all that satisfying. It’s like reaching for a handful of peanuts and getting a mouthful of sugar cubes. It isn’t necessarily bad; it’s just not what you were hoping for.
Once on the court, player movement is responsive and smooth, but there’s still some awkwardness in the tackling that was present in earlier titles in the series. Both the weak tackle and the strong tackle feel equally over-committed, so the offensive team generally has the advantage. As a result, most of your games will seem to have much higher scores than any soccer match has a right to be. This is just one more sign that this game is trying too hard to turn soccer into basketball.
To build your gamebreaker meter, you’ll need to perform tricks. These are either juggling tricks or dragging tricks. Since gamebreakers give you such a large advantage, you’ll rarely be carrying the ball in any way other than by trick movements. And since it’s much easier for the defenders to steal a ball on the ground than in the air, you’ll be doing a lot more juggling than dragging.
Needless to say, this can make the game very predictable and repetitive. Also, because the defenders are at such a disadvantage with the clunky tackle mechanic, there’s not much reason to ever pass the ball. Most of your games will consist of your goalkeeper passing the ball to your star scorer, juggling the ball down to the defender’s goal, and shooting. The only variation comes when the gamebreaker meter fills and you get a temporary stats boost.
But FIFA Street 3 has its charms. Sprinting near a wall sends your player climbing up the wall. Doing tricks and passes off of walls turns your player into an impressive acrobat. When you go into gamebreaker mode, objects will start moving in time to the heavy bass rhythms of the background music. However, all of this magic wears off very quickly once you realize just how easy and pointless it is to pull those moves off. Bicycle kicks on goal and diving headers are de rigueur in the world of FIFA Street, so the same moves that would give you serious bragging rights in a normal FIFA game are utterly meaningless in FIFA Street 3
The single-player game has no career mode to worry about. In its place, you compete in a series of challenges that ask you to meet certain scoring requirements. For example, in some games you can only score if you shoot a goal directly from a volley of some kind. In some others, you can only score using gamebreakers. Most of the requirements, though, are a bit less creative: score five goals to win, or score the most goals in five minutes. Each challenge consists of a series of games against different teams, and as you beat challenges, more challenges open up. Simple, predictable, straightforward.
But as everyone knows, a sports title lives and dies by its multiplayer offerings. While there isn’t anything particularly deep or impressive about FIFA Street 3’s multiplayer modes, all the basics are present. So long as you can forgive the soccer-as-basketball play style, you’ll find enough features to hold your interest. There are two modes of multiplayer play: Head to Head mode, where you select from a handful of preset teams; and Playground Picks, where you can custom-build your own teams from a pool of players. In the online modes, you can further customize the play conditions and set your own terms for victory.
If you’re a soccer fan (a.k.a., a real football fan), you’ll be pretty disgusted by what this game does to the players, to the teams, and to the sport. Outside of the US, soccer is the standard “street” game, so it’s inexcusable that a game that purports to bring soccer back to the streets would be so far off the ball. This series would benefit greatly from a re-imagining. Send the developers to the streets of Paris or Mexico City or Johannesburg; then have them come back and make a real FIFA Street game. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of more frenetic “American” sports and soccer has always seemed to you like a game for pansies, you might enjoy checking this game out to see what soccer might be like if it were more like basketball.