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Fifa Street 2

(Electronic Arts; US: Jul 2007)

Irrelevant Improvements

In early 2005, EA gave us FIFA Street, an alternative to the football sims we’ve been seeing for the past few years—such as Konami’s Pro Evolution series and EA’s FIFA. Like NBA Street and NFL Street before it, FIFA Street focused on tricks and flashy play and rewarded gamers for lengthy trick combos with speed- and strength-increasing Gamebreakers. And for the first two days, we enjoyed watching awesome stunts in four-a-side schoolyard kick-abouts while an annoying DJ shouted lines like “No mannas with them pannas” over some background drum’n'bass.


But the essence of football was lost. Dribbling was unimportant, accurate passing was unimportant, intelligent defense was—you guessed it—unimportant. In fact, the only skill needed was to press a trick button when an opponent was in front of you, thus faking him out and leaving you with a chance to run straight for the goal until another opponent left his man to stop you… after which you could just pass the ball to your open man and take your sweet time shooting.


The original FIFA Street was the most mindlessly repetitive game in recent memory, and we disappointed gamers expected EA to make a whole host of improvements if they wanted us to come back for FIFA Street 2. So they hyped it up, threw some commercials on the TV, and had us believing that they’d learned from their mistakes. Sadly, we’ve been tricked again.


So about the game: you are a footballer on a four-man team and must lead them to victory over all other teams “on the street.” In Friendly mode, your team plays kick-abouts against others, gathering experience points to improve your players’ statistics. In Rule the Street, your team participates in league competition where you must win not only by scoring goals but sometimes by attaining a certain amount of trick points or Gamebreaker goals.


And there is the new game mode: Skills Challenge. This mode lets gamers use one player to practice their juggling abilities (another new addition). Players can now juggle the ball on their feet, knees and head in order to start and link combinations, which is important because players will shoot the ball harder as combinations become longer. The juggling part of Street 2 is actually what separates the game from its predecessor, and also what makes it more entertaining to watch. A greater variety of tricks can be performed, combinations can be more complex, and thus the game is less repetitive.


The music is much improved, the pitches are more varied and have greater influence over the gameplay, and that annoying DJ has been replaced. And rather impressively—through the merging of diverse music, commentators from various backgrounds, and football pitches in different countries—EA really has succeeded in making FIFA Street 2 feel like the international game it recreates.


Now for the ugly stuff. Instead of the repetitive and over-simplified button combinations we needed to perform tricks in the original FIFA Street, now we have to deal with some of the most irritatingly complex combinations ever seen. For example: first press and hold the L button, and then press Y to activate a feet juggle. While still holding L, press up on the right analogue stick to switch to knee juggling. Then, while still holding L, press and hold R, and then perform a half-circle on the right analogue stick. (See what I mean?) If you manage to get through all that successfully, particularly the part when you deal with the hyper-sensitive right analogue stick, then you will have the thrill of watching one trick that lasts for one second. And if you don’t perform all of it successfully, then you’ll lose the ball as your opponent mauls your legs.


Which brings me to my next complaint: the entire defensive component is a joke! While on defense, you won’t be thinking about “foot” or “ball” but how best to knock over your opponents. Going after the ball is a waste of time, and the lack of a referee means the best thing to do is take out your opponents completely. This takes away even more from the football feel of the game, really. However, if your opponent is half-decent, then you’ll spend most of your time trapped in one spot while he performs continuous tricks around you that prevent you from regaining your balance. Seriously, at times you may be stuck in one position for about ten seconds, and you won’t be able to do anything about it. It’s damn frustrating and reduces the fun factor of this game to a big fat zero, especially when the computer scores easily from half-court after performing a massive trick combo that put you on your backside ten times.


More than anything else, frustration overwhelms every time the game is inserted into the system because EA didn’t redeem themselves or the FIFA Street series. Some of the initial levels are near-impossible to get through and some of the later ones are incredibly easy, leaving one to wonder whether EA ever actually tested the game. Couple that with the illegible on-screen fonts, small reticles and strange pitch patterns, and all of a sudden we realize that EA has stolen our money once again


Gamebreakers, emphasis on combos, skimpy game manuals which explain nothing, and sequels which don’t improve on the obvious flaws—sounds like Madden or FIFA or any of EA’s games, really. This formula is getting seriously old and the more it’s recycled, the more it seems that EA is just churning out these largely similar titles without much regard for quality. Or gamers.


Sure, improvements in graphics, sound and music are welcome, but they become irrelevant if a game is just one big frustrating mess.

Rating:

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