FIFA Street 3 PS3 / Xbox 360

FIFA Street 3 PS3 / Xbox 360
EA Sports has never been shy about getting value from their official licences, from their annual updates to their established titles to the more recent EA Sports Big games, which dispense with reality and try to move the action into the "extreme” category. Some iterations have been more successful than others, with NBA Street picking up where NBA Jam left off years earlier. But FIFA Street has always been more of an uncomfortable mix because it never took things to the logical conclusion Midway’s long forgotten Red Card series did; it was holding out on us. FIFA Street 3 looks initially as if EA has been listening to the criticisms. The graphics for this first instalment on the Xbox 360 are quite impressive, as the 250 or so actual players have been turned into over-the-top caricatures, varying between the amusing and the grotesque, although in the case of Peter Crouch, it’s hard to know which category he falls into. The controls have also been given a fresh coat of paint and now rely on a simpler scheme where many of the moves seem to happen almost automatically. The other staples of the series, such as the almost unstoppable Gamebreakers, are still around and many people will find this the most accessible game in the series to date. The game play is remarkably tame, considering this is supposed to be a "Street” game. The focus is on making the attackers look as good as possible — ball juggling and other tricks are easy to perform and become essential because they are the quickest and easiest way to build up the Gamebreaker meter. Defence, on the other hand, is really disappointing because it’s so tame. Instead of violent collisions that look like they’d end in nasty concussions, the only tackles possible are low spinning kicks and ineffective looking pushes that are hardly convincing. It’s all a little on the tidy side and it would be much more satisfying if the action was as cartoon-y as the graphics. Perhaps it’s naive to think that with so much focus on online gaming EA Sports should be making any kind of effort to create a compelling one-player game but this is just plain annoying. Short of acting as a training mode, the one-player mode simply repeats the same shallow options again and again with different teams and there’s little incentive to stay with it until the end. Thankfully, the game does come into its own with human opposition. It becomes much harder to rely on the cheap tricks that are possible against the computer and the game is a lot more well rounded and just more enjoyable. At the end of the day, while FIFA Street 3 is the best game in the series so far, there are still many issues that should have been resolved for this version. Fortunately for EA, there aren’t any other options when it comes to stripped-down soccer games where the focus is on action rather than realism. But most players looking for a good game of soccer would be better served by FIFA 2008. (EA Sports)