FIFA Street was always going to be divisive, especially considering how vocal the FIFA Community is. Everybody knows what they want but as we’ve found over the years, not everybody wants the same thing. That puts EA in a tough position when rebooting a series like FIFA Street, which was already going to struggle to shake off the hang ups people had over the “Original” Series.
Firstly, there was getting people to refer to it as “FIFA Street” and not “FIFA Street 4”. It might seem like a small detail, but in reality that little number brings with it some fairly hefty connotations. It immediately conjures up images of lightning bolts, gamebreakers and hilariously caricatured player models, exactly the opposite of what EA set out to achieve.
Breaking away from the numbered scheme laid out by the previous versions was crucial to reinforce the fact that the game was taking a new direction, under new direction. When we spoke to Gary Paterson, he was quick to point out that they were going for “plausible authentic”, looking to capture the magic of Street Football, maintaining the charm and unique feel from different parts of the world. This decision laid out the path the game would take and I think they did a great job of achieving what they set out to do. It wasn’t just a case of ramping up the number of arenas for FIFA Street, EA have done a wonderful job of putting together a huge range of play spaces, each offering something different in terms of style and visuals as well as providing different variations to the gameplay.
If you own the game and haven’t got to the New York 6 a side arena, I’d recommend making your way to unlocking it. It’s a huge pitch, walled, with large goals, and offers exactly the type of gameplay that I think many people were hoping for from FIFA Street. The wide spaces give you a little more time on the ball and the emphasis is very much on football, not tricks. It’s definitely the best pitch in the game to see how the FIFA engine handles 5/6 A Side properly, which makes it a shame that it’s tucked away at the end of World Tour.
Many have said that FIFA Street should have been a DLC add on to FIFA, but I now don’t think that would have been the right way to go. If it had been DLC, it’s unlikely we’d have seen the overhaul to the trick system or the inclusion of Street Ball control, both of which are crucial to the way FIFA Street handles. Nor would we have been given such a wide range of arenas. Think back to FIFA 97, it had one.
Even prior to the FIFA Street announcement people (Including myself ) were asking for a 5-A-Side add on, frequently referencing FIFA 97 as being the way it should be done, but when you look at things without the nostalgic specs on, it just wouldn’t have worked. From various interviews it’s become apparent that it’s not simply a case of shrinking the pitches and adding walls to create a Five-A-Side experience in FIFA, in fact the walls and the way the players and ball interact with them were one of the biggest hurdles when it came to AI. To create the experience we have, EA needed to start fresh, making use of the parts of FIFA that enhanced FIFA Street and disposing of those that didn’t. Without doing that FIFA Street would have been a hugely watered down affair and probably a huge disappointment, so repeatedly complaining that it should have been DLC is unfair to me.
There would have been some benefits to tying the game a little closer to FIFA however. Most notably the defending, which is poor and frustrating in FIFA Street. The inclusion of TD might have been taking things a little too far and broken the flow of the game, but as it stands, there are massive improvements that need to be made if this isn’t the last FIFA Street. One tackle option just isn’t enough and although the emphasis is on attacking and stylish play, you still need the ability to counter that properly.
There are issues with longevity too. I’ve finished a World Tour, have reset and replayed the final stage and am now poking around in other areas, but the main reason the game feels short is because of the huge mistakes made with Online. I’m not a big online player anyway, but making some of the more unique game modes unavailable online has caused me to take even less interest in it than I normally would. I’ve finished a Street Season and have tried playing online within World Tour, played all of the match types available online, unlocked all of the arenas and teams, 95% of my team are now at level 50 and I feel like I’ve exhausted every corner of the game, which is only around a month old. Maybe it’s because I’m used to FIFA lasting a good 6 months, but I’m slowly losing the will to return to the game because I know it no longer has anything new to show me.
It’s not uncommon now for certain games to launch at a lower price and given the length of time it’s taken me to see everything FIFA Street has to offer, perhaps FIFA Street could have followed that and launched at around £25-30. That price would seem slightly fairer to me than £39.99 but it hasn’t stopped the game holding on to the top spot in the UK chart for a fair few weeks.
If FIFA Street, as it’s been rebooted by the team in Canada, is set to be making regular appearances then all of the mis steps made with this effort have to be learned from. I think most are prepared to give the benefit of the doubt regarding some of the mistakes, but some of the design decisions were bizarre. The facility to download teams needs the option to be disabled, as it quickly meant that we were flooded with Afros and horribly proportioned players as soon as the servers were up, even if you weren’t playing online. It’s a real shame because it’s actually a great idea, populate the game with teams from the regions you’re currently playing in, ensuring that no two players experiences through World Tour are the same, right? Wrong. They’re all the same because the FIFA Community demonstrated how “unique” everyone is by all being 6’7 and having an Afro. It’s ironic that the more customization options people are given, the less variety we see on the pitch. Not really EAs fault, but they can stop it happening again.
The FIFA Street network has been buggy and basically broken since launch, at least for me anyway. I very rarely get any updates on activity that isn’t my own and have been unable to view peoples clips or progress using the built in tools. If EA are looking to make EASFC seamless across all titles, then this wasn’t a good start. As well as not making all game modes available online, there have also been big issues with quitters not being punished and at times the matchmaking has been pretty uneven, I’ve frequently been matched up against teams with far lower rating than mine and although I’ve not always steamrolled them, you can tell there’s a difference in the teams. Since release all has gone quiet, so whether we can expect a patch for some of the issues isn’t known at the moment. I’d wager that there won’t be one.
For all the time I’ve been playing the game I’ve really enjoyed it, I will be looking forward to the next FIFA Street if there is one and I’d like it to continue down the path it’s now on, but there needs to be a bit more meat on the bones for it to stay in peoples disk drives for an extended period.
Let us know if you’re still playing FIFA Street in the comments.