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Game review: FIFA Street

FIFA 12 is a magnificent game, but one thing that can’t be said about it is that it captures those small-scale battles: the night-time kickabout on a floodlit court, the astroturf burns, the jumpers used as goalposts.

FIFA Street is a step in that direction, taking the bones of the FIFA 12 engine and controls, stripping away the large-scale stage, and diluting the action down to the bare necessities. Street is a celebration of small-scale soccer, or Futsal, and it’s as far removed from the grand stage of FIFA that you would ever want to get. The game is different and strategy has to change – often games are played out on pitches with walls, the goal mouth tends to be smaller, and the rewards are as much for showmanship as they are for winning.

The game comes with a language all of its own; if you are not a savvy street footballer then pannas, beats and even the name Futsal may well be new to you, but rest assured the learning curve isn’t all that long. The game is set, as the name implies, in the street; however, the street is a wider term for some of the more exotic locations such as basketball courts and rooftops. There is some imagination at work here, and the courts look and feel great.

Presentation-wise, the game delivers enough to get by. While trying to be fresh and funky the initial impression is positive, but after getting to know the game a little some menu options seem oddly placed and they are just not responsive enough. This makes navigation unnecessarily laborious; add to that the slight lag as every menu choice seems to sync back to the EA servers, and the obsessive opinion that anybody remotely interested in this form of soccer has a passion for hip hop, and it begins to grate a little.

In-game, the graphics are pretty good, with player animations, likenesses and the environments stacking up well. What does not fit is the ‘realistic’ group huddles after a game; unlike a regular soccer game the FIFA mannequins begin acting like stiff extras in a soap opera about themselves. There is a whole theme around the career mode that tries to create a narrative that shouldn’t be there, and while it starts off okay it never really goes anywhere.

There are a few game modes on offer: a standard free play, where you can enjoy unlocked stadiums and practice your skills, a mix of Xbox Live offerings, and the World Tour. World Tour is effectively a career mode which also takes your FIFA Pro onboard and imports them perfectly. The mode, as its name suggests, will see your team fight their way up from lowly kickabout nobodies to champions at the top of their game. It’s a fun mode and does offer variety match-to-match, as various regions lay down challenges by match type. Playing a Panna-scoring game or Last Man Standing for the first couple of matches can be quite bewildering at first, but the game types soon become second nature as you move through the continents, and each player will no doubt have their own favorites.

Overall, FIFA Street leaves me with a good impression and I have certainly fallen victim to the ‘one more go’ syndrome as I have tried to clear a competition with my vastly underskilled team. However, what the game gives, it also takes away. The controls which were so sublime in FIFA 12 now feel a little unresponsive at times, there is no lunging, leg-breaking tackle, and the auto select next player never gives me the player I want. Too often I find myself willing the not selected player to run at the ball, while my hands are directing the rest of the team in the opposite direction. You could put it down to tunnel vision perhaps. The AI teams also seem to be enhanced with psychic abilities, stealing possession almost magically and suddenly turning on an unbeatable run when it matters most. Once again, the array of combos and tricks never seem to stay in my mind and I find myself trying to win games in the most old fashioned ways; this slows down any character progression as the lack of tricks equals a lack of style and experience points.

The sound is another area that I find lacking – while the music choice may not be for me, the ambient sounds during matches seem somewhat hollow. The voice chatter between players does sound like a typical group of non league players, even down to the limited and grating vocabulary.

FIFA Street does offer the satisfaction of a quick play kick-around with the option of a longer-term campaign, and as such it deserves a place for soccer gamers that want to mess around refining their signature moves. However, if you enjoy the beautiful game for its own very different reasons – plus of course the sublime controls – then I’d stick to the main franchise.

Graphics: 8.0

Sound: 6.0

Gameplay: 7.0

Lasting Appeal: 6.0

Overall: 7.0

Played on Xbox 360.  Note: this review was originally mistakenly credited to Damian Seeto.