The somewhat mythologized sub-genre called street soccer -- as presented by FIFA Street -- is hedonistic and excessive, with a strong tilt toward showboating and theatrics. It’s puzzling, then, that EA Sports decided to use Lionel Messi for the game’s cover art.
Messi is efficient and graceful; Street is abrasive and flamboyant. His natural talent was nurtured by, and continues to flourish at, FC Barcelona, which is one of the most group-oriented teams in the world. There’s no room for cocky individualism in the Nou Camp.
Messi is kind of quiet and goofy. If EA Canada wanted someone to fit into Street’s dubsteppy chav aesthetic, Wayne Rooney would have been ideal. For a cover athlete with the sheer audacity to pull off the stunts Street allows -- but without the marketing chops -- look no further than Mario Balotelli.
Leo Messi’s presence imparts a certain malaise, and it’s not long before you start to wonder if the same marketing dudes who designed the cover also called for FIFA Street’s vapid RPG elements and stunted social networking features.
FIFA Street (Xbox 360 [reviewed], PlayStation 3)
Everything in FIFA Street -- from the granular acts of dribbling and juggling past opponents to the overarching systems that govern in-game tournaments and team-building -- feels loose and disconnected.
There are two different dribbling systems, but they never seem to interact. The right analog stick governs a large number of pre-animated flicks, step-overs, roulettes, and turns designed to be performed within the run of play. Another discrete system for dribbling while standing still ostensibly attaches your avatar's foot to the ball with an invisible string, but there seems to be no overlap between the two.
Despite the ease with which players can make something cool happen on screen, Street is surprisingly hard to control for a game predicated on sophisticated dribbling, thanks to a mix of funky collision detection and overlong animations.
As previously noted, tricks in FIFA Street come with numerical values. In the career mode, these values build up as each player on your ever-expanding team successfully darts around a defender. The values are then translated into skill points, which are spent on upgrading your teammates’ attributes.
The patterns are recognizable, which means you may (falsely) be encouraged to experiment. But if you perform an action without having first unlocked it, your in-game avatar will stand there, vacantly. Instead of emulating the freewheeling samba of street soccer, Street constantly puts up arbitrary roadblocks.
On the one hand, skill points are accrued very quickly, which means you shouldn't have trouble crafting a viable team after a few hours. On the other, in a game ostensibly about fast-paced soccer, you'll be slogging through unintuitive menus after every match to do so.
FIFA Street embraces the unfortunate task of asking me to remain po-faced as my character flip-flapsand hocus pocuses his way through the graffitied back-alleys of western France, and it rarely works.
This reboot takes itself too seriously -- every texture is spit-shined and gleaming, every animation wrought with care -- without the self-awareness to sacrifice technical sophistication for ease of use. FIFA Street is enjoyable only under the best circumstances, before the engine and the sheer density of barely distinguishable, locked-out moves take over.
THE VERDICT - FIFA Street
Reviewed by Joseph Leray
|10:30 AM on 10.25.2011|
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