FIFA Street 3 Review (Xbox360)

If only all of football was like this. Pirouette after pirouette, defenders with ball-juggling skills and lightning step-overs on a par with (pre-booze) George Best, and midfielders that can actually strike the ball on target whilst wearing an England shirt; magic as that sounds. Actually, it'd be rubbish wouldn't it? No effort, no toil, no work ethic, no surprises, no payoff for years of clinging to a shattering dream - just an endless supply of fanciful skill and humble goalkeepers picking the ball out of the back of the net. Christiano Ronaldo in a box, if you will.

Fifa Street 3 attempts to capture the adrenaline-infused magic of showboating skill and frenetic attacking play, relegating the less glamorous elements of the game to a lonely bench-warming slot as a result. Like every Electronic Arts attempt at this formula to come before it, it also utterly fails in doing so.

Heavily stylised graphics are the order of the day

Kaka looks a little too effeminate there...

Now don't get me wrong, there is fun to be had here. The control scheme is a step up from years past, with players that actually feel fairly responsive this time round. Dribbling is easy to grasp, with tricks handled on the right analogue stick, and flicks and modifiers coming courtesy of the Triangle/Y button. It's easy enough to put together a flowing move that encompasses knocking the ball off a wall, flicking the ball up in the air and belting it into the net for example, and due to the arcade sensibilities, this can be done with pretty much any player on the pitch.

Attacking play then, is fairly rewarding. Passing the ball around comes naturally and swiftly, with high passes yielding spectacular opportunities for volleys and diving headers, along with the ability to keep the ball alive in the air if necessary. Shooting is handled fairly well, with the now-standard power gauge in operation - and a variety of shot types on offer that'd make Francesco Totti envious.

Of course it's all about the scoreline, and playing with enough flair eventually fills up the now-obligatory 'Game Breaker' meter, with the ability to launch a couple of virtually unstoppable shots once it's activated. The Game Breaker timer seems to last for a little longer than previous iterations, allowing for the luxury of knocking the ball around the park for a little while, before blasting a shot into the onion bag from the half way line. If that's what you choose to do, of course.

Multiplayer matches work fairly well, with the ability to chain together some impressive sequences of skill to humble a couch-bound friend, and Xbox Live play also benefits from the now standardised and solid EA implementation.

Players often spend more time in the air than on the ground

Ronahdinho is probably able to do this in real life

All of which sounds like it'd make for a great game, and indeed it does, for approximately half an hour but that's about all the time that you'll need to get the most out Fifa Street 3. Put simply, there really is no longevity to be found here. Skilful moves are ubiquitously easy to pull off, with the result being a complete lack of motivation to conquer any of the single-player modes or learn any advanced techniques.

As a game with a focus on pure attacking play, you'd also expect the defensive side of the game to be a little lacklustre in implementation, but not quite to the complete lack of regard shown here. Slide tackling (or tackling in any form really) is unwieldy, unsatisfying and annoying against a human opponent, whilst the computer AI has an uncanny knack of either staying completely away from any of your players, or alternatively spending the entire game pulling Maldini-esque tackles out of the bag on a regular basis. It just isn't fun. On any level.

At least the game has a sense of humour though. Graphics are stylised to cartoonish proportions, and watching the ogre-like form of Wayne Rooney passing the ball up to the almost camel-like veneer of Peter Crouch is entertaining enough. The courts themselves are well-detailed with some interesting lighting effects, but animation is painfully limited at times especially so with the goalkeepers, who apparently only seem to have approximately three different ways to save the ball or tackle an oncoming opponent.

Rooney looks just like Shrek. No change there then.

The England squad is a little too well-equipped for this sort of thing

All of which makes this another lacklustre prospect for arcade-football fans. It isn't like EA is incapable of pulling off this style of game either, with NBA Street crafting a well-beaten path for an arcade sports title that oozes playability, depth and polish. It just doesn't work here though. Perhaps football just isn't meant to be this way. After all it's not a game in which double-digit scorelines ever truly happen. Hell, even a scoreline with a cumulative total of five or more would mark out a particularly odd game. What people don't seem to get though, is that the magic of football doesn't always come down to an individual trick or a spectacular shot. It's the names of the workhorse players that get sung on the terraces long after the pretty-boy strikers have moved on, and in a world of increasing short-termism and shallow thrills, i'll take a player like Gennaro Gattuso over the Christiano Ronaldo's of the world, any day of the week.

Top game moment: Cracking an overhead off the bar with Peter Crouch. Just because of the novelty alone.