Having played Futsal at university for the past 3 years, the announcement of a new fifa street and it's more realistic approach was quite exciting. Bringing the FIFA 12 engine into Street made a lot of sense and it seemed to be the game I'd been wishing for.. for years.
However, the new FIFA Street has been a very ambivalent experience. The basic game-play struggles from a number of technical issues and the modes feature various annoyances that leave the overall game feeling unpolished. This is even more prominent when playing the game on the higher difficulties, where the computer AI seems adept at exploiting all the games flaws.
Defending/tackling isn't well done. You'll make plenty of clean tackles on a player and still not get the ball for some reason. It's clear the game's emphasis is on dribbling and attacking play, but it means if you don't have the ball you often feel unequipped to deal with people and ultimately watch more than you play. Sometimes it works, but often it doesn't. If you played FIFA 12 then you're probably aware of the 'Player Impact Engine' and all the annoying clashes it produced. These are even more prominent in Street, meaning that people are constantly falling over or bumping into people - focusing the game heavily on players that are tall and strong. Again, all of these issues become most apparent on the harder difficulties.
Passing is quite inaccurate and often is just used as a reserve tactic if you can't beat the player - which is in style with the game, but it's unfortunate you can't really play a passing game - as it's a fundamental element of any type of football. Shooting also ranges dramatically, where sometimes it's pinpoint sharp from range with poor players - to literally not being able to score an open goal with a player with max stats. I could deal with it being one or the other, but pressing the shoot button is more like rolling dice - you rarely feel responsible for scoring a good goal. The goalkeeping suffers from similar issues.. sometimes they are impossible to score against and others embarrassingly useless.
The dribbling is well implemented and can be quite fun once you master some advanced tricks. It's easily the best part of the game and lucky that it focuses so heavily on it. But I can't help but wonder why the other elements are so poor? They wouldn't have to compromise on dribbling in order to make passing, defending and shooting more important. I can even live with game-play issues (you just play around them right?) but the biggest problem is that all of the issues are so inconsistent. Ultimately, when you're doing well it feels hollow and when you're doing badly, it feels cheap and punishing.
It's not just the game-play either, the game is riddled with little issues - most of which aren't big problems in themselves - but leave everything overall feeling a bit jagged. The game's focus is on World Tour mode, but there's way too many tournaments and not enough single events. The tournaments are just like any single event, but can be as long as 7 matches in the same pitch - which just gets really boring. Considering FIFA Street allows for lots of variables in game type, number of players, pitch size, rules - surely you'd want to make the most of that by constantly switching up the play from match to match? But even with that poor balance - there aren't really a huge range of events so you'll blaze through it. It really doesn't have much longevity.
Leveling up your characters is a grind too. You'll level up every 1-2 matches, meaning you have to go to a separate menu and individually attribute points. It's an okay system, but you have to do it so often that it just feels annoying. Especially considering that each time you level up, the amount of points you get doesn't allow you to do much. The difficulty is also wildly spiked. Easy is.. too easy (but probably the only place the game is 'fun'), medium feels do-able but you often get screwed by the game's cheap AI and Hard can sometimes be masochistic. Again, it's not so much that the game is 'Hard' but more so that you feel cheated by the game's mechanics and wild bias on the computer. This is especially so when you've played 6 long games in a tournament, only to be knocked out in the final by a horrific piece of goalkeeping.
Online from what I've played has just been very laggy and full of teams that have max stats. In fact, the last game I played was so slow and broken up that it felt more like a game of chess. I experienced less lag with direct friend play, but then there's no option to even play another match - meaning you have to exit, go back into the menus, invite your friend etc - and you can't even change the parameters of the match be it pitch, rules or game-type. The options here aren't very full featured and you're required to use your own custom team - so forget playing with your favourite National/Club team. On top of that, there's a mode to play a game where you only play as your captains character with and against other online players - but for some reason you don't even gain any experience from it..?
So yes I have a lot of issues with the game. That said, there is fun to be had here but it will fluctuate from person to person. Some may not see any of these as big issues or play around them whilst others will be driven to 'Fifa Rage' and high blood-pressure. I want to like this game so much that I keep playing it, but more often than not I don't actually know if I'm having fun. Your best chance of a good time is going to be offline multiplayer, so if that's where you play FIFA the most then this game might be worth having. I recommend renting, borrowing or just playing it first though. My biggest overall problem is that it's so inconsistent across the board.
The game had some great ideas, it looks nice, the dribbling is intuitive, the range of arenas and game-types is interesting... but simply it's not the game it could or should have been. Hopefully EA will make another one and use this as a building block to make a much better game - because it seems odd that this and FIFA 12 retail at the same price brand-new. But with that in mind, the next FIFA Street could be quite special.