PREVIEW: FIFA Street [PS3/X360]

We hear a lot about negativity in video games – but have you ever thought about how much negativity there is in real-world games, too? Look at street soccer. The urban cousin of the Beautiful Game has two major objectives. One obviously, is to score as many goals as possible. The second though: Humiliate the defender. That’s it. And that’s what’s captured in FIFA Street, due out next month from EA Sports.

Despite the lack of number, this isn’t really the first time EA has tackled street soccer. The original FIFA Street popped up back in 2005, followed by two sequels in 2006 and 2008. Given how rapidly the original series went downhill, however, EA would like you to think of this one as a reboot, a blank slate, and an all-new game.

After taking a quick look at what’s in store, we’re happy to oblige, leaving our preconceptions at the door.

While it might look a little different, rest assured that FIFA Street still uses the FIFA gameplay engine that has powered the most recent major games in the franchise, so you know it’s going to be awesome.

Furthering the awesomeness, the development team headed to a number of different spots around the world to find out how street soccer is played in different countries. They found that what’s played in Amsterdam is very different to what’s played in London – and both are very different to the game played on streets in South America.

All three forms have been incorporated into FIFA Street. Matches in Britain feel simply like a cut-down, faster-paced version of 11v11, with more physical elements and a bit of wall-play thrown in. South American street soccer is “more like a dance”, we’re told – full of fluid body movements and plenty of fake-outs. Amsterdam is all about humiliation, there’s no delicate way of putting it. You’ll want to brush up on your nutmeg, or panna moves to play there.

Those aren’t your only destinations – there are 37 different environments and locations contained in the game, as FIFA Street takes you to football centres, loading bays, playgrounds and rooftops, dotted all over the world. If you thought there were plenty of places in earlier versions, now there are five times more.

[img_big]center,8340,2011-11-02/fifastreet_rooney_hero_jump.jpg,FIFA Street[/img_big]

The game you play is varied as well – you can choose from straightforward 5-a-side or 6-a-side matches, if that’s your preference.

Otherwise, a quick match of futsal might be your thing – it’s a 5×5 version of the game that’s super-popular in South America, played inside on a court with no walls. Points are scored in the same way as standard soccer, but the rules make strategy, creativity and improvisation more important than ever.

There’s also a new style of game that’s been included in FIFA Street for the first time – called Last Man Standing, both teams start with four players, but one person is sent off each time you score a goal. By the end of the match, you might end up a solo player against a full defense squad – and still win!

…if none of those thrill you, there’s always the custom match option, of course.

[img_big]center,8340,2011-11-25/fifastreet_messi_action_london.jpg,FIFA Street[/img_big]

Addressing the earlier games, this time around the developers sat down to explicitly address “what went wrong” in previous games. They’ve set out to make things even better than the acclaimed original, and part of that includes the improvements made to World Tour, which now includes a hefty online component.

From the outset, you can create your own player – in your likeness, if you choose, or perhaps looking like your ideal version of a footballer. When you connect online, you’ll be able to see anyone on your friends list who has also created their own player – and you can enlist them to your team to take on the world. (No friends? No problems! Pick from some pre-made templates and give yourself a dream team!)

You’ll start off in a local area – say, England – and then pick the local event or challenge you want to play through. The more you play, the more you’ll rank up, and the more challenging challenges await!

Keeping replayability in mind, even after you finish a local event, it’s not over. Check back and see if anyone’s topped your high score – and play again to keep on top.

[img_big]center,8340,2011-11-02/fifastreet_buenosaires_1003l.jpg,FIFA Street[/img_big]

This one’s an all-new experience. The cartoony, stylised visuals have been scrapped, bringing a little realism back. Tricks have been adjusted and tweaked, made even more accessible – and there’s twice as many as you can perform in the traditional FIFA 12 (that’s more than 50 more than FIFA Street 3, by the way).

The whole shebang is compatible with EA Sports Football Club, the social network introduced with FIFA 12 – any experience earned in one game will carry over to the other, earning you special unlocks and bonus features in both games.

FIFA Street is set for release in March 2012, for Xbox 360 and PS3.

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