The problem: The FIFA Street series was never really that great in the first place. The solution: Build a reboot using the divine FIFA 12 engine, and utilise many of the same development staff. The danger: End up creating a threadbare faux expansion pack. The actual result: An entertaining, substantial and (most importantly) distinctive proposition that (bizarrely) manages to simultaneously feel precisely like FIFA and absolutely nothing like it at all. It’s every bit as polished as its big brother, and almost entirely bereft of the lengthy loading times that have unfortunately become synonymous with it. It wisely makes impromptu gameplay flair as important as scoring goals, and it’s flair that is disarmingly easy to execute.
The whole package centres around the game’s superior World Tour mode, and it’s one of the best campaigns that an EA Sports unit have ever developed. You start in your own hometown and work your way towards a spot in the world championship final, and it’s a fast-paced, uncluttered experience that features only one substantial piece of off-pitch duty; the process of individually levelling up each member of your squad. Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded after each event depending on which difficulty you’re playing through on, but (brilliantly) if you’re a bit of a gambler you can go for gold against a ranked opponent online, rather than the often devilish on-board AI. You’re never forced to progress up to playing on hard either: the medals are essentially meaningless, and the tied-in unlocks are purely cosmetic.
5-a-side matches are basically FIFA Street’s default play setting, and the competition is stiff. Panna Rules places even more emphasis on tricks and finesse, and Futsal is a bit more like a traditional game of football, with fouls and un-walled boundaries featured. Best of all is Last Man Standing, in which you lose a teammate every time you score a goal. It’s capable of providing you with some utterly thrilling moments during the campaign, so it’s a colossal shame that it isn’t also available to play online. In addition, there is the odd technical hitch. Even when it’s physically impossible, occasionally all of your players will act as if the ball has gone out of play when it lands on the goal line; a hangover from FIFA 12, clearly. World Tour also doesn’t offer the same degree of replayability that FIFA 12’s single player bits and bobs do, but if you’re looking for significant flaws, thats your lot.
The general of tone of FIFA Street isn’t daft exactly, but it certainly isn’t as serious or fish-eyed as traditional FIFA, and tends to evoke the larky atmosphere of a Saturday afternoon kick about. It’s bright, colourful and the upbeat soundtrack is a fitting replacement for some dry audio commentary, and as a result, there’s a good chance that it’ll appeal to gamers who don’t own or play traditional FIFA, even more so than those for whom football (and football games) are like some form of mind-bending legal high. It looks inviting, the learning curve is moderate and the stylish presentation is a great many miles away from the clinical, spreadsheet-like interface that’s so beloved by its big bro. Fun, big time.
FIFA Street is available now on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.
Watch the “Free Your Game” trailer for FIFA Street below: