We’ ll let you in on a little secret. Call of Duty isn’t our favourite multiplayer game on 360. You’ll probably never guess what is. Battlefield 3? Nope. Gears 3? Not quite. It’s actually 3 on 3 NHL Arcade, EA Sports’ stupidly underappreciated XBLA off-shoot of its superb NHL series. The reason why we still love it so much is simple: the local multiplayer options still offer some of the rawest and most competitive gaming on the platform. It’s spectacularly good fun, a little like NBA Jam on ice – but it may have finally met its match here.
Far less boomshakalaka and far more beautiful game, football’s answer to NBA Jam has been reinvented for 2012, losing much of its arcade nonsense while retaining that hella-addictive trick-based gameplay – and it’s all the better for it. Neon trails and baffling physics have been replaced with an engine grounded firmly in reality, with key designers behind the core FIFA series brought on board to make Street a far closer representation of real street football – and deliver an oddly lovable dubstep attitude to match.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be any better at doing keepie-uppies here than you will in real life. In the transition to partway becoming a sim, FIFA Street’s new physics and control system make it slightly more difficult to pull off those gravity-defying tricks. There’s an upside to that, of course – improved physics offer much more control over the ball, and it’s far more satisfying when you finally do score that scissor kick goal.
It’s all held together by a standard World Tour career option, a tournament-based system that sees a team of customisable street footballers competing to become the world’s most successful squad. You’ll level up your team, learn new tricks, hire new players and unlock new customisation options, while competing in various types of street football: Freestyle, Five-A-Side, Futsal (identical, but on larger pitches and with line outs), Panna Rules (points are earned by tricks and banked when you score), and more. Much like NBA Jam though, the repetitive nature of its structure means that FIFA Street can become tedious when playing on your own – something not helped by the game’s reduced energy.
It’s in the multiplayer where FIFA Street really shines, then. As the numbers dwindle, Last Man Standing (a 4vs4 match with a twist – you’ll lose a player every time you score) offers one of the most intensely competitive multiplayer modes we’ve played in ages, while the rivalry and one-upmanship of FIFA Street’s tricking will be the source of oodles of banter on the couch. And really, isn’t that what football’s all about?
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