FIFA Street 3
FIFA Street 3 is a deceptive game. On the surface it’s the third game of a franchise that seemingly has nowhere to go. A game based on street football with an emphasis on style and tricks is bound to get old by its third iteration, yet this isn’t exactly the case. FIFA Street 3 for the DS is fun, it may not be a classic or one to shout home about, but it does a fine job of playing an interesting and stylish game of football, that’s surprisingly deep.
From the main screen, the amount of options available is a little underwhelming – there are just four modes available, three if you’ve not got your DS connected to Wi-Fi. There is the obligatory single match mode that lets you choose your teams and pits you against the computer, the street challenge mode, which is where most if not all of your gaming time will be spent, and kick-ups, a benami-orientated mini game exclusive to the DS, with online making the final line-up.
Street challenge mode is the defining feature of this title, as it combines a mix of different events that require many different play styles and levels of skill. You start by picking your favourite team out of a variety of countries and teams made up of a certain factor (a team of deadly strikers, for instance, or a team of players with names beginning with C). It’s a shame and an oddity that there are no club teams available to choose from, as such teams as Barcelona or Arsenal would fit nicely into the selection.
As well as choosing your favourite team, you’re able to pick your favourite player from everyone on the game; it’s a nice touch to the game that, while hardly reinventing the wheel, does something to make the game stand out as slightly different. Your favourite player is who your team will be moulded around, and your team becomes named after them. Once you have chosen, you’re expected to choose three more footballers, this time out of a group of players with low stats. Once this is done it’s time to start your journey to become the best of the best, and it’s a journey you’ll wish to see to the end.
The mode begins giving you a few events that ease you into the basic mechanics of the game. Challenges are simple and require little of the player, and you’ll never find yourself stuck. As you complete more and more challenges you have the opportunity to select a new player for your team, and this opportunity arises every few challenges you complete. Completing a challenge gets you ‘reputation’ points, and once you’ve accumulated a set amount your rank gets promoted and more challenges are unlocked. With each rank up comes a progressively harder set of challenges, so the learning curve is fitting. Alongside these ‘reputation’ points you receive points based on your ‘team chemistry’, and this changes based on your performance in the preceding challenge. If you win a challenge and have neglected a certain player, maybe leaving the shooting or trickery to the other players, then your team chemistry will most likely go down. This aspect of the game means balance is needed in your play, and as odd as it sounds to be talking about RPG elements in a street football game, they’re ever-present in this title.
The challenges are varied and for the most part don’t have you doing the same things over and over. Of course they mostly all still revolve around goals and tricks, but certain requirements need to be met that mean you need to play a completely different game most of the time. Challenges include keeping the ball in the air for twenty seconds, winning a game by five goals without the opposition scoring, meeting a set amount of trick points, or even winning a game without being tackled once. The variety of challenges is certainly refreshing, however things do get repetitive, as there are too many challenges that require you meet a certain total of trick points. This inevitably renders the idea of doing tricks more a time consuming chore than an enjoyable gameplay feature. Unfortunately it is usually the less inspired challenges that will unlock you a new kit or ball, so you’ll be playing just to get something out of it than actually enjoying yourself, most of the time. There is a good number of unlockables in the street challenge, yet the kits are too similar to feel like genuine rewards. Nevertheless, they provide a small incentive to complete the many challenges, and work well in telling you how close you are to 100% completion. Unfortunately, once street challenge is completed, there’s little left in the game to bring you back.
The challenges would mean nothing if the actual gameplay was flawed, but thankfully the football is on the whole fluid and well worked. The football is played through a vertical camera, which works extremely well as there are no hidden angles to worry about. The option to change to a side on camera is still there, but it’s an option you won’t need to use, as the default vertical camera is highly competent. The touch screen controls, too, work surprisingly well, and can be learnt within just a few minutes. The touch screen controls the tricks, passing, and shooting, with the d-pad used for dribbling, and the l-button turning a low pass into a high pass. The controls are simple yet refined, responsive and uncomplicated – and once mastered the football you will be playing can look truly impressive. Tricks flow together effortlessly, and sooner than you know it you’ll be racking up the points till you can pull off what’s known as a gamebreaker, which requires you touch the screen when prompted to result in a spectacular, and definite, goal. The gameplay is not without its mishaps, though, with passing feeling arbitrary; you have no real control over where your passes go. The library of tricks on offer, however, is nevertheless generous.
Aside from the street challenge mode is a mini game named kick-ups. Its charm soon wears off after your second go; it’s a small diversion, but nothing more. Online options are limited, too – games under a time or score limit are the only available alternatives, and with Nintendo’s friend code system supported it can be a painful slog to find someone to play against.
Graphics and sound are functional and fit the style of the game well. Arenas are filled with nice details and textures (an arena atop a rooftop is particularly memorable) however many are suspiciously similar in their aesthetic. Animation is smooth and realistic, and players are modelled appropriately. Each player is accompanied with a caricature picture, and these are filled with humour and spark, emphasising the defining features of that player’s appearance (Gattuso has an appropriately large neck, for example). The music is fitting for this kind of title, with some big urban names like Junkie XL involved in the soundtrack. Unfortunately there are only a few tracks, so you’ll no doubt get tired of the music after at least an hour’s play through.
With a meaty single player mode and a fluid gameplay model, FIFA Street 3 for the DS is a surprisingly competent package. It may not last you more than a couple of weeks, but for those weeks you’ll be pleasantly satisfied. As a result, FIFA Street 3 is successful in delivering a competent game of street football.