EA's "Street" series of videogames have always been playful, over-the-top, arcade-y takes on pro sports. I've always loved the Street games, and was sad to see them back-burnered at EA in recent years. The last time we saw NFL Street was 2006; the last NBA Street was 2007's excellent Homecourt; and the last FIFA Street was 2008.
Now, EA is finally resurrecting the old Street brand, but only for futbol fans. EnterFIFA Street (PS3/360, $59.99). On the box cover: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona. The biggest difference between this Street and previous Streets? It's got to be the more realistic look and feel of the game. Gone are the turbo meters and over-the-top antics seen in previous Street games. In fact, the player models here, while looking and acting somewhat more playful than usual (see: gigantic afros), are all relatively realistic-looking.
World Tour is the game's single-player campaign taking you around the world and challenging you with a variety of game types. You'll play everything from 5-on-5 to 2-on-2 with all manner of rules and scoring challenges. En route to making a name for yourself on the international stage, you'll build your own team of superstars, recruiting big-time players along the way to aid you in your quest. There's an almost daunting amount of player customization involved here, meaning that between matches you'll have to spend time leveling up players and tinkering with your team. While some gamers might balk at all the time you'll spend in the menus (and sub-menus; and sub-sub-menus), I felt like this sort of team management--or micro-management--really forced me to get to know my individual players better.
Gameplay in FIFA Street seems somewhat limited at first, but trust me, after a few matches, you'll be a pro at using the right stick and shoulder buttons to juke around opponents and create scoring opportunities for yourself. Juggling, dribbling, and pulling off crazy tricks and amazing shots can all be accomplished with minimal effort in the game. Pro Tip: Study the game's tutorial videos to learn all the intricacies of the controls.
One minor gripe: sometimes the A.I., especially on the lower difficulty settings, does not take scoring opportunities when they're presented. On more than one occasion, I watched an opponent standing directly in front of my un-tended goal, and instead of scoring, he backed off. At first I thought this was simply good fortune on my part, but after the 10th time this happened, I started to feel like the game was taking pity on me for my poor play. Pro Tip: Jack up the difficulty level, and this won't happen quite as often.
Naturally, the real action is found online. Take your custom-created team online, and see how you stack up in ranked divisions and regularly scheduled tourneys against players from around the world. No matter how good you think you are, trust me, there's always someone who's better. Final Word: If you're a hardcore FIFA fan, this might be too arcade-y for your tastes. But if you're in the mood for some fast, light-hearted futbol action, give this game a try.
The Sports Gamer's real name is Scott Jones. He played football for 12 years before hanging up his cleats and jumping into video game writing. In his time covering the gaming world, Scott has interviewed star athletes such as Venus Williams, Tony Hawk and David Wright.