NFL Street Review
With the Blitz series taking a more sim-like approach to football, there's now room for a new game to step up and take its place in the over-the-top, big hitting, trash talking, high scoring pigskin genre. That game is NFL Street, which is EA Big's take on seven on seven football, with a lot of NBA Street's flavor thrown in. While the game is fun to play, the experience of NBA Street doesn't flawlessly translate to the gridiron, but it's a solid first effort.
NFL street features two teams of seven playing, you guessed it, street football. During the course of the game, you'll not only play in the street, but at EA Tiburon's own field, a beach, legends park, the pit, and more. Each level has its own unique characteristics like beach balls on the field, or a wall that serves as one of the sidelines, which is supposed to help create the feel of just picking up and playing a game, but instead is rather annoying.
While you can play a pick up game by choosing from 40 random players, the meat of the gameplay is in the challenge mode. Here you start with seven generic players, and you must lead them through a number of challenges and beat each NFL team along the way. Some of the challenges are simple, like score on your first drive against the Cardinals, while others are pretty tough, like throwing and running for a score in a game to 24. Playing the ladder, where you take on each NFL team, division by division is a pretty tough feat, but it's a good way of forcing you to learn the game by completing challenges. Unfortunately, the games tend to average close to 15 minutes, which means that if you come up short, you've got to spend 15 more minutes trying again. After failing a few times, you're likely to just give up, tired and frustrated.
After you complete a challenge, you are awarded development points which you can use to beef up individual players' stats, or even increase their height and weight. Having a well-balanced team is key because everyone on your team must play both offense AND defense. This basically forces you to have a weakness somewhere on the field, and it's up to you to decide where you want that weakness. When you first start out, that weakness will be your defense, because your team is bound to be undersized and slow, but as you earn experience points you can get some speed, increase your team's ability to tackle, and get yourself some linebackers that are big enough to hit.
In addition to several hundred current NFL Players, Street has quite a few legends on board. Walter Payton, Lawrence Taylor, Barry Sanders, and Ronnie Lott are just a few of the old-schoolers that you can earn, should you play the game long enough.
The actual gameplay is a lot like what you would find in the old Blitz series. There's very little defense to speak of, which is quite annoying when you are on D and you can only watch the other team drive, and you rely on plays that you would draw up in the sandlot. The quarterback is the most valuable position since he has a lot of running plays built in, and he can scramble for a nice gain out of most passing plays. This means that having a mobile quarterback is a must for the game. Where the game tries a little too hard to be like NBA Street is with its style during the game. To earn the coveted gamebreaker, which makes your team nearly invincible for a series, you'll need to earn style points. You can get these not only by racking up big plays, but also by taunting you opponent or doing tricks with the ball. It all ends up feeling really forced and pointless, and a lot of times it just gets in the way of playing the game. When you get close to a gamebreaker, you'll find yourself performing these silly moves to fill your meter, but since you're more prone to fumble when doing these, and you're not focused on finding a hole to run through, your run often ends with a turnover.
Just like in Blitz, the computer can be quite frustrating, scoring at will, and creating turnovers with ease. You can allegedly turn off CPU assistance in the options menu, but when you're playing you know exactly when the computer's going to score, or when you are due for a turnover. When you combine the CPU assistance cheating you out of a win, with the long game times when you have to replay the challenge, you'll often just walk away angry instead of playing again.
The PS2 version of the game offers online play, and while it is the usual bare bones EA online experience, it does play quite well. Playing against another person eliminates the cheesy AI, and puts it all in your hands. The game does run smoothly when playing someone else with a solid connection, but there are so little features that it doesn't add as much to the game's value as it could have.
As you would expect from any EA title, NFL Street is a nice looking game. The players are all large and colorful, and they are animated superbly. From an ankle-breaking juke, to a crushing tackle into a brick wall, the moves look great and they all fit together well. Each level looks nice, though none of them look mind blowing - they just aren't that interesting. The game supports wide screen, and it looks awesome on a big 16x9 TV. Since there are only 14 players on the field, the framerate is consistent throughout the game, which is a must for a game that is this fast-paced.
NFL Street features the same style licensed music that you would find in Street or Madden, but oddly, it only plays in the menus and not during the games. There's some quiet background music when you play, but for a game that's supposed to be heavy on style, it's too quiet. The players talk trash before, during, and after each play, and it's nothing short of horrible. I guess EA has finally run out of trash talk, because these guys sound like a bunch of 13 year olds insulting each other. If I had heard "I know you are, but what am I?" it wouldn't have shocked me. You'll cringe as they spout out a weak insult, only to hear an even weaker reply.
All in all, NFL Street is a fun game to play, but it does have a lot of flaws that will keep you from enjoying it like you did with NBA Street. The single player mode is frustrating and time consuming, but it's a necessary evil if you want to beef up your team to play online or against friends. If you've got some buddies to play with, and you're trying to pass the time until Madden comes out, then it's probably worth a purchase, but if you're a casual fan that's likely going to be playing alone most of the time, then a rental will suffice.
2/6/2004 Aaron Thomas