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NFL Street Review

In the late 90s and early 2000s the NFL Blitz series popularized arcade-style football video games, which were unrealistic yet extremely fun football games ideal for multiplayer play but not much fun for single-player. The NFL Blitz series started to die down once the next-generation systems came out, and although I liked the 2002 version, it really wasn't as good as the 2000 version, generally considered to be the best NFL Blitz game. Now Blitz has really stepped to the back of the pack of football games, but a new arcade-style football game has emerged. The makers of the Madden NFL and NCAA Football series (EA Sports) have given us their version of arcade-style football. Could NFL Street succeed and become the next great arcade-style football video game?

This Review is on a 0-4 star scale, as always with my Reviews. This is also based on the PS2 version of this game, available on all three next-generation systems.

Graphics: ***

The graphics are pretty good, as the players and places look all right. The environments add to the feel of the game. The players are not made to look realistic, though, as they are made to be somewhat caricatures of their real-life counterparts, thus meaning that the size of their body is usually either thinner or fatter than it really is. I don't mind this, as this is not supposed to be a simulation.

Sound: *

Only about a year ago, I really was into whatever music was in video games. Times have changed, and although there are still tunes I like in video games, I am more likely to listen to the radio while I play than to actually listen to the game itself. This means that I value the sound factor less than I did in the past. This does not mean I do not have an opinion on the sound, though; in all honesty, I'm not too big of a fan of the music in this game. I actually preferred Madden NFL 2004's soundtrack to this one. The players' talking to each other is pretty good, but the music brings down my overall opinion of the sound. Since sound in video games really doesn't matter much to me anymore, this doesn't affect my opinion of this game much at all.

Difficulty: *

For all the times you see me give the difficulty a four-star rating (usually not a good thing), it might be alarming to see this rating. I'm usually terrible at video games in general, but I do tend to excel at side-scrollers and sports games, and this game is no exception. Once you learn how to play this game, and once you get a definite gameplan, you can win (and dominate) on a regular basis, much of which I will explain later. I don't know if the fact that I'm 39-0 or something like that against my sister has more to do with my skill or the fact that in some games, she throws the ball on almost every play, a recipe for disaster (more on that later). Anyway, the only time it is hard to beat the computer is when you get to the final division, where the bar is raised. That may have more to do with the field for that division being smaller than most of the others, as that hurts my gameplan. Another thing that makes the game harder is the "cheat" factor, something I remember from the Blitz series: once you're up by quite a few points, you'll notice the computer getting "magically" better, even without using a Gamebreaker. All of a sudden, your running back who has run power through the roof is slammed backward like he has the weight of a ant. Your usually easy one-point conversions are stopped cold. In that final division, the computers play like this from play one, or so it seems. I can tell the difference between when they're cheating or not, which is why I don't think the second-year Houston Texans are as powerful as they were when I played them. Still, even with this "cheating", it is still possible to beat the computer. It usually takes one big play for you, and their cheating is nullified.

So all in all, I found this game to be quite easy, although it had its frustrating moments. Even through those, it was not that hard to rebound from some difficult times in games and be able to win.

Controls: ***

The controls take a little while to learn if you've played as much of the other EA Sports titles as I have. I had to get used to the different controls, but after that, I've had little trouble with them. I do wish that before a play, there could be two buttons for switching players like in Madden and NCAA. With one button, you keep on hitting it until you get to a certain player, and you always switch through the same order of players. With two buttons, you can switch through backward order, which saves some time. A combination of controls for certain celebrations is pretty difficult to pull off, though there are also easier-to-pull-off celebrations. Overall, though, the controls are pretty good.

Gameplay: ****

This is where the game succeeds the most, as the gameplay is fantastic. Unlike Blitz, there is a running game in Street, and it is very effective. The play is 7-on-7, with the same players playing offense and defense. This means you've got to use lots of strategy in building your team, preparing players to be good on both sides of the ball. Also, this is a game where celebrating is absolutely necessary for winning the game. You need to celebrate, or show off, or show some style in order to build up your Gamebreaker meter (using the L button to celebrate). While you don't want to do this if you're about to get hit (you fumble more easily), you do need to do this so you can get a Gamebreaker faster. A Gamebreaker can be used on offense or defense. On offense, you're almost ensured of scoring a touchdown, as it makes your players a lot better. On defense, you can force a turnover much easier. I usually use Gamebreakers on defense, as I have much confidence in my offense to score with or without a Gamebreaker.

There are lots of things like laterals, jukes, and hurdles, which can make an average play turn into a much longer one. The game is not timed, except in certain challenges; instead, you play to a certain number of points. You don't ever kick the football in this game. This means that after a touchdown, instead of kicking an extra point, you run or pass for it. A run gives you 1 point; a pass gives you 2 points.

I have found that despite all the cool features, your best bet to win at NFL Street is to play extremely conservatively. I run the ball on almost every play, and I rarely lateral. If you don't take chances on offense, but do try to be aggressive on defense, you can come away with lots of wins. When you play NFL Challenge mode and use your development points on your players, don't try to do what I did at first, which is to make your team balanced for passing and running. Make a decision to be committed to the run or pass on offense, and stick to it by using your development points on stuff that pertains to that type of play. If you like to run, then give your running back lots of points for speed, run power, carrying, and agility, and also give your other players blocking skills. If you like to pass, spend your points on passing for your quarterback, while using catching, speed, and agility for your receivers. Of course don't forget to focus points on defensive things, such as tackling, coverage, and d-moves (moves that knock the ball out easier). Speed is useful for all players and all purposes, offense and defense. Now you may want some skills of the other type of offense, for certain situations such as two-point conversions, but if you stay committed to one style of play, you'll be in good shape.

Fields: ***

There are eight different fields, two of which you start out with. These have varying sizes and walls, which affect play. One field may be wide-open, while another may be smaller, with walls that prevent you from easily getting out of bounds (which hurts if you fumble, as the fumble won't go harmlessly out of bounds). These make the gameplay a little more varied than if all the fields were pretty much the same, so I like this feature.

NFL Challenge: ***

The one-player portion of this game occurs here, where you unlock everything (unless you cheat... I didn't cheat this time). You first make a created team, where you get a certain number of development points to use on your players. You also get challenge points to use on challenges, which are certain situations where you need to do certain things. You gain development points for use on your players' skills, so winning these challenges is very important for success in the Team Ladder portion of this mode. Once you use all your challenge points, play the Team Ladder, where you'll need to beat all four teams in the division plus the division's all-star team in order to unlock a new division, field, and that team's all-star team for use in other modes (you get two divisions and fields from the start). You do this for all the divisions until you've beaten them all (getting more challenge points for each division you beat), and finally you must beat the NFL Legends team, a team with some of the best players in NFL history (winning this game unlocks a new mode). This is a very fun mode, which really makes one-player play not as dull as in Blitz. However, once you beat it, it's over. I will touch more on this in the replayability section.

Quick Game: ***

This is a simple game between any two teams you have unlocked. Not bad, though it's not as good as the following mode.

Pickup Game: ****

This game lets you choose your team of 7 players out of 40 randomly chosen players. One player gets the ball first, and the other gets to pick first. You never know what player could show up in this mode, so you could end up with Walter Payton (a great running back) or a bunch of losers from pathetic teams. This makes this mode very unpredictable, a different battle every time.

All NFL Pickup: ****

Once you beat NFL Challenge mode, this mode opens up, which is like the Pickup Game, except every single player in the game is able to be selected. This lets you build an absolutely loaded team, leading to a very interesting game.

Replayability: **

Although this game is very replayable for multiplayer play, once you beat the one-player NFL Challenge mode, you can't continue to build your created team up, or continue to beat the challenges. Instead, that's it.

It's a shame, because I would have liked to continue to build up my team's attributes, or beat challenges that allow you to add players from other teams to your roster. Why not a Season mode that is unlocked after you beat NFL Challenge mode, so you can continue to play with your created team? Why can't at least all the challenges be unlocked, so you can try to beat all of them? It's strange to do all that work and then for it to all to end so abruptly. That being said, the multiplayer play is enough to keep you playing for a while, and thus keeping the replayability rating up to two stars. This is the thing that stops NFL Street from joining its other EA Sports football counterparts at the four-star level.

Fun Factor!: ****

This game is extremely fun, and that's what keeps me playing it. You never know when you can pull out a touchdown with all kinds of broken tackles and laterals, only to see your lead shrink when your opponent takes the two-point conversion attempt back for four points the other way on an interception. Scoring against a team with an active Gamebreaker is such a huge thing to do, and it sure is exciting. This game is lots of fun, especially in multiplayer games.

OVERALL: ***1/2

The only thing that stops NFL Street from gaining the four-star rating is the lack of replayability. If it had more replayability, there would be no question that I'd give it four stars. This is still worth a buy for any football fan. It's also one of the few sports games that I think non-sports fans can possibly enjoy, though not as much as a sports fan would (NFL Blitz 2000 and the NES Ice Hockey game are the others... especially Ice Hockey). I wouldn't recommend a non-sports fan buying it (though a non-sports fan could enjoy a casual game of NFL Street or two), but definitely sports fans should buy this. It has revived arcade-style football... here's hoping for NFL Street Volume 2!