Cleats of rage.
EA’s Street franchise started off as the company’s response to the arcade hoops antics of Midway, and in the case of NBA Street, it was one hell of an answer. But instead of sticking with one sport, EA literally went Big and tried porting the concept over to other, less street-worthy sports, like football and soccer, both with mixed results.
One of those already got a mediocre sequel, and now, so does the other. Once you pour FIFA Street 2 on the pavement, you’ll quickly see how this collection of arcade debris fails to form anything resembling a ball.
[image1]Much of the shake from EA Big’s Street franchises has predictably been sprinkled onto FIFA Street 2. The obligatory character creation tool works as it always did, so you can still warp a player model to Hulk-ish proportions and trick him out with such off-the-wall gear as shirts, shorts, shoes, and socks.
After sifting through the minutia, you can dump him into Career mode, which has a set of not-so-challenging challenges for you to plow through until you rule the streets again. There are a couple of different match types that pop up as you play through the Career, most of which are obvious, but they are varied enough to keep things interesting,. Either score up to 10 goals first, get up to a certain amount of trick points first, or be the first to do a certain trick a couple of times.
Once again, you earn ‘skill bills’ with which to buy more gear and stat points, but eventually you can juice your entire squad’s stats as Career mode exhibits some story elements. Team members will actually squabble over playing time or just have beef with each other for some randomly generated reason. You’ll have to choose which guys to keep and which to let go, though the decision-making is very thin since whoever has the higher stats stays.
Regardless of the awkward attempt at drama, the gameplay is neither as engaging nor responsive as either of the sim soccer games. The jukes in FIFA Street 2 have an overly large area of effect and are generally too powerful. You’ll juke guys on their asses all the time, and it takes them a really long time to stand back up, during which you can easily get off another couple of uncontestable tricks. Stacking your combo multiplier is made really easy, as you can just pass the ball after the brutal jukes to keep it going. The combo points aren’t collected until you get a shot on goal, though unlike NBA Street, you’re not required to make the shot to validate the points. As long as you trick, pass, trick again and shoot aimlessly, you will acquire Gamebreakers aplenty, since their threshold is so low. There’s just not a great deal of strategy at play.
[image2]It doesn’t get much better on the other side of the pitch, either. Jukes come in two varieties – high or low -and you have a counter-trick for each that boils down to a guessing game. If you botch it, you’ll eat asphalt and get tricked on consecutively as your poor sap tries to stand back up. The best way out is to switch to another defenseman, but your teammate icons inexplicably disappear on defense. Intercepting passes is a non-issue, since your team’s A.I. reacts sluggishly; there’s simply not enough time nor intel to switch to a teammate to swipe a pass. More often than not, you’re stuck with one player, mauling anyone who touches or juggles the ball in the hopes that you’ll nail him before he passes.
But provided it isn’t a Gamebreaker, it’s not a big deal to let the opponent get a shot off since the goalie is usually exceptionally good at blocking normal shots. An aiming reticule effectively gives the illusion that your skills matter, but it sure doesn’t seem like it when the goalies stop so many shots. FIFA Street 2 almost always comes down to looping tricks to reach the Gamebreaker, which is really the only consistently effective way to score. You can alternately take control of your goalie as use him as a fourth man, but since networking passes for strikes is basically useless, doing so is just a surefire way to leave your net nice and open.
Other than the Career mode, the only other way to play is Skills Challenge, really just a glorified mini-game that lets you earn some extra cash for practicing tricky moves. You earn more skill bills faster playing real games, though, so there’s also no point in wasting time here aside from watching some nifty trick animations.
Up to three others can join for a game of multiplayer, which is probably the best way to enjoy FIFA Street 2 since it relies less on the repetitive CPU and more on how drunk your friends are. The lack of online play in any version is a bummer, though.
[image3]It comes as no surprise that the presentation is the best part. On all three platforms, the gameplay’s framerate is smooth and crisp throughout, and all of the tricks and passes look, animate, and feel believable thanks to a solid ball physics engine. The player and environmental textures look nice and gritty too, accentuated by the occasional camera zoom to amplify a trick-induced spill. Unfortunately, the lack of a basic Sideways cam is a strange, annoying omission, as the other game cameras just aren’t as handy.
Bobbito, the DJ from the NBA Street series, was the first and last successful Street commentator. Thankfully, EA ducked having some lame clone and went with megaphone-distorted gibberish worthy of a drunken block party. And like your local pueblo’s drink and dance tank, the music is largely superb.
Unfortunately, the delivery is the only real upgrade here. Games like FIFA Street 2 make it no wonder why derivative franchise factories are problematic. Shiny lights and fancy facades cannot hold a candle to a robust, well-developed engine that delivers complex, engaging gameplay, which is exactly what the game lacks. Even after a sequel, this Street still falls flat on its asphalt.