Meanwhile, the soundtrack is a huge part of the atmosphere. There’s no commentary or crowd noise, just a background of hip-hop, grime and dubstep with a touch of rock, trance and samba, and the shouts of other players. It won’t be long until you’ve heard all the samples, but the effect is still very convincing. Even when you’re watching Rooney take on Gerard, playing Panna in a grimey car park, FIFA Street has one foot in a gritty urban landscape – albeit one that’s been carefully constructed to appeal to ‘the kids’.
Some of us are a decade or two old for that demographic, but we’d still say that FIFA Street is brilliant fun to play. By tearing up the rulebook EA Sports has created a footie game that actually feels new and unpredictable, and while the learning curve can be tough at times, there’s something about juggling the ball in the air as you dribble before planting it in a crowded goal, or dancing the ball around the pitch in a flurry of exuberant back-heel and overhead passes before scoring a decisive point. It’s hideously addictive too, even played as a single-player game. Sure, you’ll see some AI or ball physics issues, but nothing really awful. And don’t we all know players who seem scared to close the opposition down, or who regularly pass to the wrong man?
If FIFA Street has any issues it’s that, compared to other EA Sports game, it feels a little short on options. You can play with big name teams and players, but only in single exhibition matches. The real meat is in the main career mode, which takes your carefully created team from local five-a-side matches through to national tournaments, and from there to playing with the best street football players in the world. There’s a nice RPG element in levelling-up and upgrading your captain and your squad-mates, while winning matches will unlock new perks and garments, and some beaten players may defect to your squad. It’s great fun, and we love the way the difficulty level grows in line with your skills, so that you’re constantly being challenged to play more skilfully and with more flair. All the same, there’s a slight feeling – and only a slight one - of “is that it?”
Maybe not. It’s difficult to tell at this stage, but with EA promising online tournaments, the ability to download ghost teams and players from mates and a range of other multiplayer goodies, there’s plenty of room for FIFA Street to grow. Certainly what games we have had have been smooth and lag-free. Nor should we forget that this is, at heart, a game best played against friends, preferably within the same four walls. For sheer show-off action and skilful humiliation of your chums, FIFA Street will take some beating.
A surprisingly successful reinvention. With the new FIFA Street EA hasn’t just created a decent offshoot of the series, but an enjoyable counterpoint that some players might actually prefer. FIFA Street is fresh, fast-paced and exhilarating, and hopefully a sign of things to come.