From the streets, to the world stage
*The build of FIFA Street we played was an Alpha version of the game and was not representative of the final product. We played on the Xbox 360 and all online functionality was disabled*
FIFA Street: World Tour Preview
The first thing you’re tasked with in World Tour mode is creating your street football character. The player creation suite is very similar to that seen in the main FIFA series but the menu style has been completely overhauled for FIFA Street. The options you have at your disposal are good and you’ll be guided through the process of changing body types, skin colour, hair, eyes, face shape, etc.
The one notable absentee from the character creation suite in FIFA Street is the option to import a Game Face. This has been left out by design because the technology still doesn’t support multiple Game Face’s. So if you downloaded a friends FIFA Street player lets say, you wouldn’t be able to see their created Game Face. It’s a minor disappointment but none the less the interface is slick, the options are exhaustive and you should be on the pitch with a lifelike representation of yourself in no time at all.
Your first match in World Tour acts as a sort of tutorial really because you haven’t actually created your street team at this point. There are proper Tutorials available in-game too which guide you through the games core components and these are voiced by none other than EA SPORTS FIFA Podcast host Stevie Morgan. At the beginning of World Tour though its just you and a random collection of mates having a kick-about but once this match is completed, your rags to riches street tale can begin in earnest.
The team creation suite is also nicely presented and you have the ability to customise your teams badge from a host of pre-sets and setup kit options for home and away variations. The colour schemes you choose for your kits are also quite clever because they work in colour bands. So, if you choose blue as the primary colour for your home kit, all your players will turn out in blue but they may wear slightly different shades depending on the apparel (hoodie, football shirt, tank top) they have equipped. It’s subtly done but it adds a pleasing amount of depth to your squad’s appearance. Initially your kit options are quite limited but as you play through World Tour mode you begin to unlock more and more items and eventually you’ll be sporting the finest licensed street gear.
Then it’s on to naming your team and finally choosing your starting Nation. We chose the UK and were pleased to find that the game then asked us to choose a starting region within the United Kingdom. We selected the South East and the first Challenges and Tournaments available to us were in Maidstone, Guildford, Portsmouth and Brighton. Taking the regional detail to a level this finite is just fantastic and starting in Spain, Italy or anywhere else for that matter will invariably provide a completely different World Tour experience.
The World Tour map itself is beautifully presented and the variety of match types on offer even in the starting region is excellent. Some of the matches are one-off Challenges which you just need to win to complete and others are Tournaments which could be knock-out or league based. There are three match difficulties to choose from, Easy (Bronze), Medium (Silver) and Hard (Gold) which control the rate that you unlock new kits and accessories as well as game difficulty. Completing matches on Hard will unlock all three items available per match; on Medium you unlock two and Bronze just one. This gives you total control over game difficulty in World Tour and if you do get stuck at any stage, you can always retry the same Challenge at a lower difficulty or revisit it when you have better players.
And that rather neatly leads me on to the way that your players develop and improve during World Tour mode. When playing in matches your squad members will accumulate XP for beating players, performing tricks, scoring goals and generally playing well. This will eventually result in them leveling up and having points to spend on upgrading their attributes which you can choose where to assign. Once enough XP has gone in to particular attribute categories your players begin to take on specific squad roles. So if Player X has a high Defence skill that makes them a “Stopper” and if they have high shooting they could be classed as a “Finisher”. It’s similar i guess to the traits system in FIFA 12 but you now have the kind of control over player development that you’d expect to see from a traditional RPG rather than a sports game.
There are a number of ways you can choose to populate your street team one of which being you hand creating each team member individually by using the character creation suite. You’ll also have the ability to download characters that your friends have created, or simply fill your squad will randomly generated players. The option to add real life footballing stars to your World Tour team happens a bit further down the line and some challenges will even allow you to hand pick one member of the opposition to join your team as an additional reward. You also have complete control over the apparel and accessories each of your squad players wear, which makes putting your own unique stamp on FIFA Street incredibly easy and satisfying.
Once you’ve played through and won the Regional street matches its then on to the National stage where we had matches in Aberdeen (2v2 Panna), Liverpool (6v6 Futsal), Belfast (3v3 Freestyle) and many more. Again the variety is fantastic and when you start playing in bigger tournaments like the Futsal one in Liverpool, where there are proper stands, a big crowd, a referee and more professional teams to play, World Tour really begins to flesh out in front of you.
In the limited time we had with FIFA Street the National level was as far as we got in World Tour mode but after that you eventually advance to European and then finally World events where you’ll come up against the very best players and teams the game has to offer. It’s a mouth-watering prospect and I for once can’t wait to venture in to World Tour in more depth once the game comes out in March.
What’s also unclear is how the online aspect of FIFA Street will integrate with World Tour but even with the online functionality disabled we were able to see leaderboards for each Challenge on the World Tour map, so you will be able to compare your offline scores against your friends. That’s really important because there needs to be more to World Tour than just completing every match on Gold and unlocking items, so it’s pleasing to know that a competitive element between you and your friends will also be persistent in your World Tour experience.
Playing through a games core single player component is always difficult in such a short space of time and we did have to fast path a lot of the upgrading and customisation in favour of just playing matches to advance the mode. That’s probably a blessing in disguise to be honest because there’s so much to customise and micro-manage about your FIFA Street team, that delving in to it with full code is probably the only way to do it justice. None the less, for those of you that like tinkering, FIFA Street has more than enough options to quench your creative thirst.
Even at Alpha build World Tour feels surprisingly complete and the variety on offer in the different match types, locations and tournaments makes it feel truly compelling. It’s very structured, very coherent and your path to success is literally laid out in front of you. That’s not a bad thing necessarily because you can complete the matches in any order you choose, but ultimately you’re locked in to World Tour’s grand design. Perhaps the rigid challenges could have been complimented by some dynamic ones which initiated randomly, I don’t know? I’m knit picking a bit here and that in itself is a good sign because during the four or five hours we poured in to World Tour I struggled to find anything that I really disliked about it and Tom was the same.
I think everyone can imagine how FIFA Street will fare online this year and the sense of style, fun and banter it brings to the FIFA franchise makes it almost guaranteed for success in that field. Offline is where some people would have been worried about World Tour being perhaps under-cooked or a bit thin on depth but that’s certainly not the case from what we experienced.
The team have focused so much time and energy in to the little details of World Tour that the only way to truly appreciate it in all its glory will be to run multiple game saves with teams from different starting regions. That’s going to increase FIFA Street’s replayability immeasurably and any question marks surrounding its longevity can be firmly cast aside because of that. The team at EAC traditionally produce offline modes which have a definite beginning and end with great success (World Cup 2010) and FIFA Street’s World Tour mode might just be the best of the lot.