FIFA Street (2012) Preview (Xbox360)

There are two sides to football - there's what you see on TV, and then there's what you see in the playground. It's not there's a real difference, but when you take to the playground and park to engage in a kick about, there's more of a desire to show off than do well. While you may see some tricks on TV, the professional players are more concerned with scoring, helping their team win, and remaining uninjured mainly.

You may be encouraged to show off in this game, but it still makes you look like a dweeb
The FIFA Street franchise is EA's attempt to cater to that more skill-based style of football - a side that may lack all of the formal rules and regulations of League football, but is still a professional sport in its own right in some countries. This is actually the fourth game in the franchise, serving as an official 'reboot'. The previous games had a more cartoon-y feel to them, making them stand out visually from the standard FIFA games, but we imagine that for whatever reason it didn't catch on, so they're trying again with a more serious, professional look. Basically, it's now just like FIFA, just without the big name team/brands and the massive stadiums - the new development team is being headed up by several key figures from the main FIFA franchise.

Gameplay is quite similar to the main FIFA franchise, but with more emphasis on doing tricks and on one-on-one battles between attackers and defenders. The 'Attack' dribbling as it's called revolves around the careful use of the trigger buttons, and then using the analog sticks to attempt to power past your opponent (in style, obviously). There will be over 50 more tricks available in FIFA Street over its predecessor, FIFA Street 3, and there is also improved one touch passing and something called 'Street Ball Control'.

Of course, it's not just the tricks and the showing off - as a football game, FIFA Street is more tactical as well: the teams are smaller, with five and six aside teams as opposed to the usual eleven, and every schoolboy knows how the dynamic of the game can switch when you use the smaller groups. There are also other match types like last-man standing, and this game has put more of a focus on one-on-one 'battles' between players as they try and control the ball.
I'd hate to have to be the person who has to go fetch the ball if it goes out...
Playing the game, the new style of play seems quite intuitive, even easier to get to grips. Those of you who aren't really into the FIFA games for whatever reason my find the more skills-based gameplay to your liking - the challenge of trying to get past your opponents, the skill involved in certain tricks or play styles, the strategy... it's more than just another football game, and you don't have to worry about the brands and the politics, the teams who you may or may not have any connection with. There's less emphasis on team management as well, or at least, FIFA-style team management.

As we mentioned earlier, gone are the massive stadiums, and FIFA Street will see you playing in all kinds of nooks and crannies, from basketball courts, to roof-tops, to everything in between. There are 35 in total from around the world, and each environment will play an integral role in how the game will be played (along with the match-type chosen) - for example, if you're playing on any of the indoor pitches, or pitches with high walls, you can use wall play (kicking the ball at the wall so it rebounds where you want it to go) to help get around your opponents.

FIFA Street is also partnering with FIFA 12 on the EA Sports Club service, being the first titles to connect together over the de facto social network, with friends-based linking, leaderboards, and a levelling system. XP earned in one game can be carried over to the other, and the club tracks your stats. They'll also be the standard versus multiplayer options, both online and offline. With the main franchise doing better than ever, now is actually a good time for EA to start seeing what else they can do with the franchise - which is now really a brand in and of itself. FIFA Street always had some good ideas to it, and it was an engaging spin on a well known sport - the fact that it lost its way is a shame, but now it's been given a second chance.
Not your typical after-work engagement...

Whilst the audience for FIFA Street and FIFA will overlap somewhat, they both cater to slighty different audiences, and we see Street doing well with the more casual football fans, or gamers who enjoy skills and a challenge - much like the difference between those who enjoy technical racers and those who enjoy arcade racers. Although, it must be noticed that this is still an authentic game - Gary Patterson was adamant about brining that back to the series, so this is going to be as true to real life street football as it can, but as we said at the beginning there is a difference there. FIFA Street will be launching on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 in March 2012.

Most Anticipated Feature: We want to see what the most weird and wonderful match type is, a cursory glance at Wikipedia reveals some really surprising variations.

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