Game – FIFA Street 3
Genre – Sports – Soccer
Platforms – PS3, Xbox 360, DS (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
By the time a franchise reaches its third iteration, you expect that the developers have learned from the first two. Figuring out what has and hasn’t worked in the series is key to creating a quality sequel. No one told this little bit of info to EA BIG, however, because with scaled back features, and a skeleton crew of game modes, FIFA Street 3 marks the series’ worst entry.
Much like the previous FIFA Street games, FS3 is an over-the-top street soccer game that rewards players for performing tricks and for humiliating their opponents. Classic team soccer is all but an afterthought, with far more attention paid to acrobatic bicycle kicks and headers than to half-field defenses and back door runs. The controls are relatively simple, offering a pick-up-and-play experience for almost anyone willing to give the game more than five minutes. Moving your player with the left analog, you can shoot with B, pass with A or X and perform tricks with the right analog stick. The Y button also allows you to “juggle,” kicking the ball to yourself over defenders’ heads.
The controls are instinctive and well placed in theory, but in practice can be extremely frustrating. Players carry too much momentum, meaning that it takes forever to actually turn around while dribbling the ball. There are major problems with passing, as well. About 20% of the time, passes will go nowhere near your intended target, instead flying over the side of the court, forcing a goalie throw-in. Similar problems pop up with the juggle button and even while shooting, making the whole experience of controlling your players an exasperating and wearisome event.
It’s a shame, because when it is working, performing the myriad juggle and stall tricks is a blast. In addition to kicking balls over opponents’ heads, you’re able to build up your Gamebreaker meter by deking other players, dribbling through their legs, bouncing the ball of their heads and even running up walls to avoid tackles. If the system worked all the time, it would be fantastic. Unfortunately, it doesn’t, and you’ll spend much of your time struggling with the unresponsive controls and trying to get your player facing the right way.
Luckily, your opponents’ AI is a bit on the dumb side. Instead of taking open shots, your opponents will often stand around your goal, passing the ball back and forth until you steal it from them. As you progress in the game, the opponents get somewhat smarter, but overall, there isn’t much challenge to be found in the single-player modes.
The main game mode is called Street Challenge, which pits you against a series of 5-man teams that are grouped by play style, body size or even sponsor company. As you go, you’ll unlock these teams and play them against the next challenge. These challenges fall into a few categories: games up to 5, timed games, games where only volley and headers count and games where only Gamebreaker goals count. They’re all very similar, and as a result, the Street Challenge gets repetitive very quickly. Also, the fact that they chose to use made up teams instead of national ones make the mode feel less important. A big game against Argentina or Italy feels a lot more urgent than one against “The Enforcers.”
Sadly, unlike in the first two FIFA Street games, there is no career or franchise mode. In fact, the only ways to play single player are the Street Challenge and exhibition games. Multiplayer modes don’t fare much better. You can play with up to four players on one screen or up to eight online, or start an online tournament between international teams. There’ also a mode that lets you and a friend draft your own teams, then play them against each other. Playing with friends is definitely the draw for FIFA Street 3, and the few modes available definitely offer some quick, mindless fun. There’s not enough here to keep you coming back, though
Graphically, FIFA Street 3 has a nice semi-cartoonish look to it, with nice, if exaggerated, character models. Players’ faces are caricatured, making famous players easily recognizable to soccer fans (I assume,) and character animations are smooth and nice looking. There are seven courts on which to play, and each is distinct, representing different intercontinental flavors. The environments look excellent, and even have some minor interactivity. Pass off the fence, and you’ll see the signs hanging from it rattle with the impact. It’s a nice touch that makes the game feel a little more alive.
The game’s soundtrack is an appropriate mix of world music that leans toward hip-hop, and does a good job conveying the game’s international feel. Likewise, all the game’s sound effects are right where and when they should be, with plenty of on-field chatter and outlandish, exaggerated soccer noises, especially during Gamebreakers.
With the exception of the improved graphics, FIFA Street 3 has little to recommend it, even over its previous incarnations. The omission of previously available features, like season mode and create-a-player, make this a serious step down in terms of gameplay and replay value, and what’s left isn’t quite worth the price of admission.