Straight from the urban alleyways and metropolitan cityscapes of some of the worlds most cosmopolitan cities comes Fifa Street 2. EA Big once again thrusts its niche street vibe into the world?s most popular sport, foregoing realism in favor of assaulting the senses with its relentless pace and flashy footwork. Fifa Street 2 features no offsides, corner kicks, throw-ins, or set pieces as it wraps a hip urban aesthetic around arcade style gameplay that bares little similarity to the 11-on-11 Fifa Soccer series. Unfortunately, the initial flash quickly turns into fizzle as the game is hampered by disappointing gameplay and mediocre presentation. As a sequel, Fifa Street 2 features a number of improvements but is a bit too similar to the abysmally disappointing original to garner much praise.
To be fair, Fifa Street 2 does feature a few enhancements over the initial installment. The soundtrack is much improved this time around, with a greater variety of music genres to help create a more international feel befitting the title. You?ll even be able to customize play lists to your liking. Gamers will also be happy to hear that the annoying announcer of the first Fifa Street is gone, hopefully choked to death in one of the back alley locations featured in the sequel.
The graphics are also better this time around, albeit still nowhere near fantastic. Player likenesses in particular have received a great deal of attention in Fifa Street 2. Soccer fans will easily recognize Portuguese cover boy Christiano Ronaldo and the rugged bullish look of Englishman Wayne Rooney. Furthermore, while superstars such as Ronaldinho of Brazil are faithfully recreated and look as they should, equal attention is paid to lesser known players. Players from African nation teams like Nigeria and Cameroon, for example, are just as detailed as French sensations Thierry Henry and Claude Makelele. This is exactly what a game with a global emphasis deserves and for this EA Big is worthy of praise.
Even the create-a-player options are great this time around. In other words, user created players won?t come across looking like complete dorks. It?s not the most in-depth create-a-player mode that EA has to offer, but it?s probably their best. Everything from the hair and face to the licensed clothing and footwear options just look plain cool.
The locations, on the other hand, are a completely different affair. At first the pitches exude an alluring quality. The New York pitch looks like, well, New York City as it would appear in any street ball game and the Rio de Janeiro pitch has an absolutely stunning sense of urbanity, but overall the venues feel dead and lifeless. The Rome pitch in Fifa Street 2, for example, looks like a post-apocalyptic dystopia. Many of the other backgrounds in the game make it look as though street soccer is solely an urban phenomenon that takes place in suspiciously abandoned destitute areas. Placing street soccer matches between international superstars in such lifeless locations thus seems awkward. And while players can create their own pitches, the scenery options are limited to the same drab and unkempt fixtures that comprise the default venues. Then again, Fifa Street 2 does not strive for realism; its intentions are geared purely towards an urban, trick-laden, street sensibility, one that unfortunately comes across as shallow when gameplay enters the equation.
Gamers who have played the sensational NBA Street or NFL Street games will probably wonder what went wrong with the gameplay in the Fifa Street series. This is unquestionably the area where the game suffers the most, and for a sports game, this cripples its credibility. While you?ll actually feel like you are controlling your players this time around, you?ll quickly realize that scoring in this game is largely dependant on executing lengthy combos that will have you doing the tango with your controller over and over again.
Thus the real problem with the gameplay in Fifa Street 2 emerges. It quickly turns into a game of rhythm and luck where the sole emphasis is stringing together trick after trick in an attempt to increase the likelihood of scoring. Most attempts to knock in a fast break goal or confuse the opponent on any level of strategy will likely be foiled by the opposing goalkeeper. The ability to perform double and triple Gamebreakers is hardly an exciting new feature when you realize the tedium involved in building up the Gamebreaker meter. Furthermore, the fact that you absolutely have to string together arduously long combos simply to stand a chance against some of the more challenging opponents eventually makes playing the game feel like a chore. The awe and flamboyance of the tricks eventually turns into mundane redundancy, stripping the game of much replay value. While Fifa Street 2 curiously features an option to let gamers play standard soccer, free of tricks and juggles, the mode feels like a dull afterthought. It?s difficult to set up formations or set pieces with only three offensive players, making the addition seem extremely out of place.
On a positive note, players will be happy to know that they can play some solid defense in Fifa Street 2. Although it?s a bit of a guessing game, players can stop attackers by using the trick stick to guess whether the offensive player will trick left, right, high, or low. If the defensive player guesses correctly, they can strip the offensive player of the ball and break for the opposing goal. Players can even take direct control of the goalkeeper and bring him out for risky goal scoring opportunities. Fans familiar with famous keepers like Germany?s Jens Lehmann will know the threat he poses on set pieces in real life and there is no better way to humiliate your opponent than by scoring with your own keeper. Unfortunately, most players will probably stick to slides, tackles, and charges to take the ball from their opponents, making a game of supposed finesse feel like a brutal grudge match. While it?s understandable that street ball is played with no referee, the aggressive defensive attacks will annoy finesse players who choose to master the long combos necessary to win matches.
It should also be noted that EA Big finally does Gamecube owners the favor of leaving out the Super Mario All Star team that somehow crept its way into NBA Street Vol. 3 and SSX: On Tour. Seeing Princess Peach perform a Pick ?n Flick to Nutmeg to Roundabout triple combo before smashing a bicycle kick into the opposing goal would cause trauma to more than a few gamers. And the fact that four players can get in on the action in Fifa Street 2 simply means that you?ll have three other people whining about how lackluster the game is.
Since the core gameplay of Fifa Street 2 is so lacking, the various gameplay modes featured in the game come across as somewhat negligible. The newly added Skills Challenge mode simply has players performing analog stick movements and rotations in rhythm to create flashy combos. While seeing your favorite soccer star perform an endless array of tricks is admittedly pleasing, there is little depth and it?s hard to imagine gamers will spend much time in this mode. Meanwhile, Rule the Street mode is the standard career mode featured in EA Big?s street ball games. You get to take your cool looking user created character and compete in a number of different pick-up games with various different objectives. One match might have you holding your opponent to only a single goal while another might require you to win the game with an extended Gamebreaker combo. As you progress you?ll be able to increase the stats of your created character and steal players from opposing teams to beef up your prowess. Eventually you?ll be able to compete with the big boys in matches against international stars. The flow and progression is good in this mode, but it still has you enduring the repetitive and iffy gameplay that plagues Fifa Street 2 in the first place. As a result, the game probably won?t hold your interest long enough to justify playing out the entire career mode.
While Fifa Street 2 is an improvement over the original, it is difficult to wholeheartedly recommend. As a true soccer fan, I really wanted to like this game, but nothing is worse than trying to convince oneself that something is fun when it simply isn?t true. The slight improvements on defense and better looking character models just aren?t enough to turn this game into a winner and one can?t help but feel that more time should have been taken to develop the game. In the end, there is simply very little in Fifa Street 2 that will keep players coming back for future sessions.