FIFA Street has been awaited by many, including ourselves, since its announcement last year. Set to finally provide an answer to the cries for 5-A-Side in FIFA as well as adding a tonne of other match types and style into the mix. So, now that we’ve had an extended period of time with the game, we can decide if it’s any good…
One of the key differences between the demo and the retail code is the availability of the harder difficulties and playing on Gold and Silver again after racking up some time on Bronze in the demo makes Eas decision to only include that difficulty even more bizarre. Given that the unlocks in World Tour stack, there isn’t really a reason to play the game on bronze. Once you’ve got to grips with the game, it won’t test you at all.
The two tougher difficulties however not only provide more of a challenge, but allow you to see some of the new AI at work. I’ve seen CPU players refuse to score in an open net in 2v2 Panna matches as they’ve not got anything in their bank, instead they’ll bring the ball back into play and try to take you on and rack up beats before finding the net. On the flip side of that, they will actively try to score to wipe your bank if you get cocky and build up a large lead without cashing it in. Sometimes those gems can work against the game though as I’ve also seen the AI avoid scoring in a similar way, but in a 5v5 match when they were behind.
Overall your supporting AI is pretty much spot on. It feels like they’re always trying to make themselves available to receive passes and ensuring you have options, Something I imagine is significantly helped by the smaller pitches. They can sometimes get caught behind the ball when you push forward quickly however. If you switch to your keeper or most defensively positioned player and move them, one of your team mates will drop back in behind to make sure your net is protected at all times. Keeper distribution is a bit of an issue, sometimes the keepers pass choice is just bizarre, it breaks the flow of the game when a pass doesn’t go to the obvious destination and at it’s worst, concedes possession.
Another issue Keepers have is getting pulled out of position at the end of matches. In the final 30 seconds or so of a match you’re losing, the keeper will stray from his line presumably to join the attack, but he ends up going out wide and leaving the net open. In a match with a one goal margin, it could be the difference between stealing an equaliser and taking the game to golden goal, or having the final nail smashed in.
Sticking with Keepers, they do cause problems in other areas. In match types with a dedicated goalkeeper I found them to be really heavy, and usually late, when going into a challenge, completely wiping the player out. This is usually coupled with a defender getting involved, creating a mash off three players all struggling to get up. It’s not the impact engine at its best.
Although the impact engine has been tuned to suit the smaller, enclosed environments of FIFA Street it still suffers. Perhaps more-so than FIFA 12. When a bad collision happens, it takes a while for the players to correct themselves and for normal service to resume. It’s not something that’s happening in every match and it seems to happen less in larger environments, but it’s a slag when it does. Generally speaking the interaction between players feels a little sticky and you can sometimes feel like things are out of your control. Not scripted as such (dear lord I hate that term) but somehow hindered. It could be a product of animation cycles finishing or something else entirely, but once in a while you really notice it. In fairness, this will work in your favour as often as it works against you.
You’ve got the option to lock to a single player in any given game which is a welcome addition, but not one I’ll personally continue to use. It seems to disable the supporting AI somewhat, making them take a backseat until you give them the ball. When they have the ball they do adopt a much more attacking mentality but considering the pace of most matches, you’ll want to be in control as much as possible and won’t want to be relying on the CPU to score goals for you.
Passing is good for the most part, although the heavy assists don’t always make the right choices. Manual players will suffer the most frustration, but after a few games you get used to it. In honesty I think the game is a little too quick for manual passing to have worked anyway. The frustrations with passing don’t stem from accuracy, especially once you’ve started levelling your players up, it’s the choice of destination that will cause people problems. When you’ve beaten a player and try to play the ball to a team mate in space but the game decides to try a 1-2 to yourself off the wall, it’s incredibly frustrating. It’s not a massively frequent issue but it’s there, and will almost certainly be a a focal point when people play online.
Shooting is solid, but again can be irritating. In some cases it does feel like there’s too much error, especially when you find yourself missing an open net from close range. In arenas with larger goals it’s entirely possible to score from range and shots tend to stay low when hit hard but as the net size decreases things get a little more wayward. With both passing and shooting, the balance between the heavy assists and error just feels a little off. It’s frustrating to miss sitters when you’ve pressed the right button, but without the error, scores would probably get a little out of hand. I think less assistance and slightly less error would probably give a better experience but I could be wrong.
The trick input is much easier than we’ve ever seen in a recent FIFA game (although you can revert to the FIFA 12 style system if you want) which allows you to concentrate on skills and combos without having to stress about the controller input. It was an absolute necessity to simplify the controls for tricks because of the broader audience EA are looking to reach and it’s been nailed. The style points feedback panel that flashes when you perform a trick gives you a visual indication of your input if you’ve pulled something off by chance and will tell you if you’re trying to do a trick that’s not yet been unlocked. I haven’t found any tricks to be particularly overpowered yet, or any that are completely undefendable and have been pretty successful in stringing together combos and chaining tricks that look cool but still actually authentic. I’ll leave the flashy stuff to the YouTubers, nothing beats the satisfaction of a good Panna anyway…
Streetball Control is the biggest change you’re going to see on the pitch, holding LT will allow you to face up to the defenders and move the ball around your player whilst remaining stationary. You can drag the ball left and right, back and forth, putting your player between the ball and the defender before choosing your next move. You can use it to tease players by hanging the ball out in front of you ready to ping through their legs when they dive in, or shield the ball to run the clock down. From an attackers perspective, it’s a wonderful tool to have at your disposal and i’m sure EA will find a use for it in some form in FIFA13/14, but as a defender it can cause you problems.
Defending is another area that needs some work. The controls are just too simple. With only one tackle option you again rely on the game correctly interpreting your intentions which is hit and miss. If your timing is sound you’ll stand a chance but a mistimed tackle can put you into a fairly wild swipe or stumble animation which pretty much leaves you for dead. I understand the logic, because the emphasis of the game is on style and not defending, but I still feel it should be more fluid. The ability to chose HOW to tackle as well as WHEN is a must and it’s sadly not available. Another defensive gripe is the way physicality works. The attackers ability to put himself between the ball and the defender creates situations where defensively you “tackle” the ball 2-3 times but aren’t able to gain possession because even though you’ve knocked the ball out of the attackers control, you can’t get round him to pick it up.
World Tour is where FIFA Street really comes alive. Once you’ve gone through the opening match you’ll start building your squad and levelling your players as you work your way through the 4 different regions. My experiences have been from a starting point of SE England, so your mileage may vary.
Those of you that have started a World Tour in the demo can import that progress into the game. I found doing this to take the edge off the earlier stages as your players have already levelled up. The first step of World Tour was clearly designed to be a challenge when starting from nothing, so importing players at level 6-7 from the demo allows you to steam straight through it, even on the harder difficulties. Just a gripe really.
The hub of World Tour comes in the way of a map, which gradually expands as you progress through. You can revisit earlier stages at any time, allowing you to truly carve your own experience. You’ll be walked through the various match types, Panna, Freestyle, Last man standing and so on, and the tournaments will come in the way of 4v4, 5v5 or Futsal, with the other types being available through challenges. It’s a great model that ensures you see everything the game has to offer. Challenges are offline only but tournaments can be played online, which is the equivalent of playing on Gold difficulty in terms of unlocks.
As well as the ability to play online, World Tour also downloads teams from the region you’re playing in. This morning I had the pleasure of playing in a 5v5 tournament in Newcastle and the first team captain I came across was called “Facebook my nan”. So now the afro loving idiots can infiltrate your game even if you’re an offline only player, there’s no way to turn the download teams function off (that I’ve found), short of not being connected to the internet. As more and more people have started to pick up the game, every tournament I’m playing in is filled with 6’7 monsters with huge grey afros. It’s ridiculous and I really hope something is done about it.
In each region, with the exception of the first, you’re required to reach a certain rank by playing tournaments to unlock the next. The beauty of this is that you can progress to the next part of the map without having to finish the prior part 100%. Once you’ve opened a particular area, you can play any of the tournaments or challenges within it, in any order you decide, giving a sense of freedom and allowing you to pretty much avoid any match types you don’t get on with.
The unlock and progression systems in place in FIFA Street are definitely one of the highlights. Any match played contributes to your players XP totals and level, meaning that time on the pitch is never wasted. Lose in the final of a tournament? No problem, you’ve been earning XP all the way through, upgrade your players and try again. If you really got hammered, you can go and play some of the one off events, or revisit earlier tournaments/challenges on a harder difficulty with your improved squad to gain some more XP.
Unlocks are fairly steady and seem to stay in line with the increase in difficulty as you go further through your tour, with small rewards in the way of kit/boots/arenas becoming available after each challenge to boost that feel of constant progress. There’s a mix of licensed and EA branded gear, with a fair few of the assets being immediately recognisable from Creation Centre, but sadly without web connectivity, so no badge/sponsor downloads. You can customise the color of your selected items to your hearts content, and as well as designing your teams kit, used in tournaments, you can also customise each squad members street outfit individually. For the more professional tournaments all of your players will wear the same kit, but in the challenges they’ll wear their street outifts. The customisation is really deep and if you want to spend the time editing your players street outfits you can, with everything from boots to glasses being changeable.
Tricks are unlocked based on your players levels and available XP points. When you reach certain levels, the next block of tricks opens up and you can purchase any that you have enough XP for. It’s a great system as it allows you to cherry pick the tricks you want as soon as the bracket they’re in unlocks. It feels a lot more open ended and customisable than traditional systems that funnel you through a certain path of progression and the variety within each bracket allows you to tune different players in different ways. With your defensive players, it’s unlikely that you’re going to want them doing the flashier, more advanced tricks, so any XP they earn will be better spent boosting their defensive and physical attributes, rather than on unlocking new moves.
At the end of each match you’ll get a summary of your players progress for that game, and from the World Tour map you’ll see an indication when players have levelled up and have unlocks/XP available to them. Other little touches like the ability to preview tricks are great too. When at the trick unlock page you can hit the preview button to watch the trick being performed, really handy if you’re looking for something but don’t know what it’s called.
You can search for friends players and add them to your squad at any time and they’ll start at the level they were on when you download them, for example I downloaded the player of friend who has early access and they started at level 8 rather than 0. The same goes for players you steal from other teams through World Tour. After beating certain teams you can choose a squad member to claim for your team, and depending on where you are in World Tour, they will be considerably better than your other players.
There is a genuine sense of growth within the mode, within the first stage you feel fairly small fry, but as you open the later tiers up, the game cracks wide open and suddenly you’re playing against far better players and real world teams in bigger environments with more at stake. Once you hit the international stages you’re into the realms of playing in the signature arenas with localised announcers which feels a long step away from a kick about in Guildford.
Whether or not World Tour will stand up to repeat playthroughs remains to be seen. I progressed to the third tier in one before starting another and so far so good. Starting in different regions should offer a little more replay value and take you through different arenas in different orders.
As you may have seen from our Recent Post, There has been an awful lot of work put into the arenas and visuals. There’s just so much variety and World Tour does a brilliant job of walking you through them all. Little touches like the sun shining through the window in The Hangar, or the background detail in arenas like The Park or Munich Park, really give the game that extra drop of class. Ok, you’re hardly going to stop and admire the view from the Rio Mountain Vista in the middle of a game, but the attention to detail in most of the arenas is outstanding.
The soundtrack captures the style of the game perfectly and there’s pretty much something here for all tastes. Again it’s the small touches like the audio slowing to a stop when the game is paused, or the squeak of trainers on polished floors that give FIFA Street such a unique feel. “Commentary” comes in the most part from the players themselves in the early stages, but as you progress into larger tournaments you’ll get stadium announcers. They pretty much only mention goals and slick beats, but it’s regionalised which is a nice touch.
There has clearly been a great deal of time spent in Eas Mo Cap Centre. The animations played for each trick change based on your starting point, so if you try a rainbow flick from a standing position, you’ll do a rainbow, If you do the same thing you’ve got the ball dragged out to the side using Street Ball control the animation will account for that and the outcome will be different. This goes for pretty much all tricks, meaning that firstly, you can create a much wider range of combos as the animations exist to fill the transitions and secondly, tricks don’t get boring as quickly as they might.
There are 2 camera angles available and both are excellent. The Sideline camera works better for larger matches, Futsal, 5v5 etc whilst the End to End camera works really well in Panna. Really really well. Playing in end to end does flip the controls somewhat but it shouldn’t take more than a half to get used to it.
The Practice arena is FIFA Streets answer to the pre menu arena found in FIFA, which gives you access to all of the available tricks and a keeper to try them out against. It’s surprisingly useful for learning trick combos and stick inputs without the constraints of a match in progress.
One thing that’s hard to describe is how light the game feels in terms of options. You can customise your button layout, but not the triggers, you can set a default AI difficulty and cameras, but not much else. There’s no EA Trax menu, which is a shocking miss as the soundtrack is so good. There are some nice touches to the match menus, such as the return to match setup option, which returns you to the setup screen rather than booting you back to the main menu.
Hit the Streets is the equivalent of Kick Off in FIFA, letting you jump straight into any match type either solo or with friends. You can customise settings like, whether it’s a timed match or first to x goals, which ball type you want to use and how many players are on each side. There’s also 4 slots for you to save customised match types into.
Following in the footsteps of EASFC is the FIFA Street Network, which provides a new way to see what your friends are doing, see when they post or like new videos and hit milestones. It’s well laid out and far less intrusive than the menu toasts you get in FIFA 12. It scans your friends list and makes suggestions on people you could add. At the moment it’s hard to see how good it’s going to be as there just isn’t much content uploaded yet, but that’ll change next week, we’ll do a follow up post once we’ve seen it in action properly.
When first digging into the online menus you’ll get a bit of a shock. The shock being that not all gametypes available offline have made their way online, Panna, Freestyle and Last Man Standing have sadly not made the cut, which seems especially strange given that Gary Patterson himself has said frequently that Last Man Standing was the surprise hit once they started showing the game off. With that in mind it seems really odd that it’s not been included. They’re a huge miss in my opinion. 2v2 Panna online with three friends would have been amazing.
We were really pleased to learn that you could use your team from World Tour online, less so when we found you can ONLY use your team from World Tour online. You can’t use real teams. It’s BAFFLING and will probably turn a few people off of the game. Yes, every game you play will reward you with XP and will allow you to level up your squad, but unless there is some REALLY smart matchmaking tech in the background online play is set to become a complete mash of unbalanced matches and frustration. My biggest concern would be for people who don’t pick the game up on day one as they’ll be miles behind, even after a month or so. Unless there’s something in place to protect them from heavily levelled teams, they won’t stand a chance.
Street Season borrows heavily from Online Season and rightly so. I think most FIFA players agree that the format is great and offers a lot more than the previous ranking systems ever did. Matches are 3 minute halves and in my short experience online I haven’t yet come across anything horrendous. It should be noted that I haven’t been able to play that many matches online, due to the servers not being very full yet.
Present are 5-A-Side, 6-A-Side and Futsal, which can be played Ranked in Street Seasons or Unranked with friends. As well as Online Team Play which again can be played with friends or random ranked matches.
Street Stories is a section of the menus that allows you to search the leaderboards, see where the spead of players lie in terms of Division and view your Online trophy case to see which of the 9 Trophies up for grabs across the year you’ve won.
Another less important gripe with online is the absence of highlights at the end of matches. It’s not a huge deal but with the FIFA Street Network giving you a new way to upload, share and rate video, it seems bizarre that you can’t save clips from online games.
FIFA Street isn’t going to be the game that everyone was hoping for. If you’re specifically looking for it to scratch certain itches that the main franchise hasn’t, i.e 5 a side, then you’ll certainly enjoy it, and may find yourself surprised by the other modes too, but I can see some of the mechanics and heavy assistance not being to everyones tastes. World Tour is definitely the saving grace given the mistakes that have been made with the online portion of the game, but thankfully it really is superb.
People concerned about the game having too much emphasis on tricks shouldn’t worry. I’m not big on skills or flashy moves, but have still had a really good time playing through World Tour, levelling up my team and unlocking new arenas to play in.
It’s fun, fast paced and a little out of control at times, but it’s definitely worth a look.