FIFA Street review

Lionel Messi surveys the situation and decides to act. From a standing position protecting the ball from Sergio Ramos, he starts to juggle it; first with his feet, then knees. Seconds later, he spins while kneeing the ball over Ramos’ head, catching the World Cup-winning defender leaning a quarter-step in the wrong direction. In a flash, Leo is past him. With 10 meters between himself and the goaltender, he sidesteps right then deftly kicks in the opposite direction. The goalie never has a chance, and another beautiful score is in the books.

Moments like this are commonplace in the newly-rebooted FIFA Street; the only question is whether you’ll be the scorer or the victim. Featuring a bevy of dazzling trick options, you’ll be performing moves you could only dream about in a “proper” football title within minutes. The real challenge, however, is a level deeper. Street packs a wallop of tricks that — if you can avoid being overwhelmed and simply take the time to learn — will have you and your buddies cheering.

Buddies are the key, really. FIFA Street is meant to be played by a room full of like-minded soccer fans, preferably veterans of EA’s mainstream FIFA franchise. It’s at its best when several people play with or against each other in the same space, where the feedback is instant and reactions are shared. While the development team did an admirable job creating a serviceable single-player career mode, Street is infinitely more fun when in-your-face tricks and game-winning goals are immediately followed by friendly elbows to your ribs.

Street is definitely not “FIFA with tricks.” While there are several modes with varying number of players, only one type (futsal) even resembles “proper” football. Matches take place in locales across the world, most on small, enclosed pitches with accordingly reduced squads of 2,3, 4, or 5 aside. The action is fast with no fouls (except in futsal), thanks to the removal of the sort of heavy sliding tackles you see in the traditional games. It causes an uncomfortable “zombie shuffle” effect for many players in motion, who only seen to run at full speed when they’re far from the action.

While Street uses FIFA 12’s Impact Engine for its physicality, it’s not always to great effect. Player collisions abound, and goaltenders and attackers in particular get tangled up and often wind up on the ground. Playing defense can definitely get frustrating, as your player will often stick out his foot in a desperate attempt to gain possession. It’s a clumsier affair than it ought to be, in that regard.

Awkward animations aside, the new Street looks great; the facial models are borrowed from FIFA 12, which means a big aesthetic departure from FIFA Street 3’s funhouse caricatures. When the best players in the world are spinning, hopping, and bicycle-kicking, the movements are fluid. We have to admit we don’t love the audio, though, as the combination of annoying soundtrack and blow-by-blow catcalls from the crowd leave much to be desired. While we understand Street doesn’t make sense to have traditional announcers, we would’ve appreciated a less grating approach.

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