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Updated: April 16, 2012 13:37 IST

A different pitch

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FIFA Street
FIFA Street

Electronic Arts has a good companion piece in FIFA Street

Pretend the first three FIFA Street games didn't exist. Well, that's what Electronic Arts wants you to do anyway, because it has just rebooted the franchise with Lionel Messi on the cover. What's more, the game doesn't have those silly cartoon graphics any more, and it's realistic. As realistic as a game that's based entirely on show-boating can be, anyway. But isn't that what makes football interesting? That, and Brazilians. FIFA Street gives you both. Interested yet?

As you would expect, FIFA Street is all about dribbling and juggling your way past the entire opposition in a fashion that would have any modern-day coach fuming with anger. It's about selfishness, indulgence and other things that don't involve passing the ball when a clear-cut chance presents itself. And FIFA Street rewards you for it. Across its several games modes, including five-a-side football, panna, futsal, as well as custom game modes (where you set the rules) and a particularly interesting one in which you lose a player for every goal you score, skill moves are almost as valuable as the goals you score — sometimes more valuable. Apart from the huge roster of real-life squads and players, the game features twice as many moves as its more serious cousin, FIFA 12, and thanks to some great animation, looks nearly twice as good when its players are getting their game on. The game rewards attacking play, but seems to ignore the defensive aspect of football entirely, so you'll get a 100 points for accidentally beating a player with a flick of the stick, but make an incredible interception or last-minute tackle and the game doesn't even acknowledge it.

A nice set of locations across continents offers as much aesthetic variety as the game modes themselves. As for the skill moves, the game coaches you with the basics (via tutorial videos), but you'll learn the bulk of them only by unlocking them during your time with the game's “World Tour” or career mode. Unfortunately, the career mode disappoints. The game allows you to create a player and play alongside several other created players in competitions that start local and go global. The character progression system feels tedious and levelling up each individual member of your squad is quite the chore. Unlocking skill moves and upgrading abilities requires points that you earn during games, but the system doesn't feel balanced or well-paced. However, an interesting feature remains hidden behind the walls of the game's career mode — one that allows you to add your friends' characters to your squad. FIFA Street's online modes don't allow you to play with international/club squads either, so you'll have to work on getting your custom squad's abilities and skills up to scratch if you want to start winning games online.

FIFA Street will not only appeal to fans of the FIFA series, but also to those who would like to see complex layers of strategy removed from their virtual football experience. That doesn't mean strategy is altogether stripped; its tone is changed, with strong emphasis on skill moves and one-on-one situations. The shift from cartoon-styled visuals to a relatively more realistic look is a welcome change as well, while slick animations make the fancy football juggling look impressive. Despite a lacklustre career mode, variety is present in several distinct game modes that range from panna to traditional futsal, resulting in an addictive single or multiplayer experience with the skill-based system proving to be the driving force behind the gameplay. In what has been a trademark for EA Sports for several years now, FIFA Street sports a superb roster of international and club teams (most of which are instantly accessible at the start), but the game seems to hold back unlocks, reserving them only for those who invest a lot of time in the career mode. Overall, it's a good companion piece, if not a spectacular standalone experience.

FIFA Street is available on PS3 and Xbox 360.

Keywords: video games

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