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NFL Street 2 Review

NFL Street was the football version of the popular NBA Street series. It was very good, though short. Now it has a sequel, available for all three consoles (I have the Xbox version), with new modes and mini-games. Is it worth the buy if you own the original game? Is it worth buying period? These questions will be answered below.

This review, as always, is based on a 0-4 star scale. 0 is pathetic, 4 is excellent.

Graphics: ***
The graphics in this game are really great, although not quite as good as Madden's graphics. The fields are detailed, and the players look interesting. They may not be realistic-looking, but they're good enough. There isn't really much to say that's bad about the graphics.

Default music (PS2, Cube versions): no stars
My music (Xbox version only): ****
I love this custom soundtrack thing on the Xbox, where I can take my own CDís and download their songs onto the Xboxís hard drive, and in certain games, such as this one, replace the songs from the gameís soundtrack with my own. Donít get me wrong, the music from the real game stinks. Itís the usual rap music that is increasingly popular in EA Sportsí games, and itís not any better than listening to a faucet dripping at night or a baby crying. But when I put my own music in, then itís awesomeÖ I mean, football and rock go together, and I donít mean that stupid punk rock in some Madden games. No, Iím talking about Van Halen, The Who, even ďTubthumpingĒ from 90ís one-hit wonder ChumbawumbaÖ yes, thatís football music there.

Difficulty: *
NFL Street 2 lets you choose your own difficulty. So if you want an easy game, put it on easy. But when it comes to playing the game against other people, and how hard it is to play the game, Iíd say itís even easier than the first NFL Street. The constant fumbling from NFL Street isnít here anymore, so you can actually stay in bounds and not drop the ball this time around. This makes for easier gameplay, and while maybe less strategic, certainly itís not as frustrating.

Controls: **Ĺ
The controls of this game are fairly simple for the most part, and Iím not going to list them here, as there are too many to list. But some do get confusing, especially considering that EA Sportsí other football games (Madden and NCAA) use different controls, so getting used to the different controls can be difficult, and especially difficult if youíre going back and forth between Madden and NFL Street 2 like I did. Some of them are a little difficult to pull off, too, like when you try to complete a user wall-to-wall pass (which ends up being pulled off due more to luck than skill). Still, the controls arenít bad by any means, just a little confusing at times, and a bit complex.

Gameplay: ****
There have been changes to the gameplay, and itís for the better. First off, the fields have more walls now, which means you canít go out of bounds as often. That would have been a nightmare in the first NFL Street with all the fumbling that would occur, but in this one, there is less fumbling, and also something known as ďWall Moves.Ē Wall Moves are when your player jumps to the wall and pushes off the wall, which usually results in your player leaping over an opposing player about to tackle you, or making an amazing catch of a high pass. You can even throw passes as you are pushing off the wall. Wall Moves give you more GameBreaker points, something Iíll explain more later, and you get a lot of GameBreaker points (and occasionally unlock NFL Legends) if you use a Wall Move on a HotSpot poster, which is a poster with some sort of logo on various parts of the wall (there are usually five or so of these on each field). In short, these Wall Moves are really fun, and they add a lot to the gameplay (they always allow you to have a chance to leap over a potential tackler).

GameBreaker points are accumulated until you have enough for a GameBreaker, which you can use at any time to boost your teamís skills. However, in NFL Street 2, there is now a GameBreaker 2, which you can get if you wait until you accumulate enough points to get one of them instead of using a GameBreaker beforehand. The difference? GameBreakers give your team boosted skills, but they donít necessarily guarantee a touchdown or a turnover (depending on whether you use the GameBreaker on offense or defense), as you arenít invincible. GameBreaker 2ís, on the other hand, are unstoppable; itís basically an automatic touchdown when you use one, on offense or defense, unless you do something really crazy. The bad thing about GameBreaker 2ís is that they arenít interactive. You watch your team do some insane stunts that usually lead to a touchdown, but you donít get to do much about it. This is a waste, in my opinion; why not make your team have some sort of special moves that can only be used during a GameBreaker 2, but force the player to use them himself? Itís not that fun to watch the game play for you. Is this such a terrible thing that it makes the game only mediocre or not that great, like Game Informer seems to think? Not at all. Itís just a little problem that could use fixing. Game Informerís opinion is sort of like saying that Super Mario Bros. 3 stinks because you can only use Kuriboís Shoe in one levelÖ yet those guys get paid to write their opinions.

But anyway, the gameplay is improved off the first NFL Streetís gameplay, and itís really, really fun. The trouble is, with any game, even if the gameplay is awesome, you need to have a deep game in order to keep the player playing it for a long time. Dr. Mario, for example, is a lot of fun, but the same thing over and over again. So, after NFL Street offered an incredibly short experience, will the following modes suffice to make this game longer?

Own the City Mode: ***
The first mode I played was Own the City mode. This mode is all about your created player. His stats are all that matter in this mode; all you want to do is make him as good as possible by winning challenges that mainly center around him. You basically play a combination of NFL Street 2ís mini-games and pickup games, where you pick players like on a playground for kickball or whatever. If you win the mini-game or pickup game, then you get to add a player to your team. Eventually, youíll add enough players to your team that you will have your own team that takes on other teams in games. In fact, as you progress through the different parts of the city, youíll be kicking players off your team and adding new ones, as the new ones will have better skills. Eventually you get to a tournament, where you take on teams with various NFL players from different teams mixed together, and finally you take on Team Xhibit, which is a team of NFL All-Stars along with a rapper named Xhibit, who I didnít know who he was, though my sister tells me heís on some show on MTV. If you beat his team, you beat the mode, and your created player can be saved and eventually moved to Madden NFL 06 (which you know is just tantalizing for me).

So what do I think of the mode? Itís a nice introduction to the game, if you choose to play it first, because the skill level of most teams you play early on isnít that high. However, one real drawback is that none of these players on any of these teams before that tournament are actually from the NFL. Theyíre all just generic players with generic names with generic faces and bodies. Youíre not building a team of NFL players together, which would be much more interesting, even if the NFL players you could get on your team couldnít be as good as the ones in that tournament. Now if there was a mode that allowed you to do that, build a team of you and a bunch of NFL players, AND this mode was still the same, Iíd be really happy. But it isnít like that. Donít get me wrong, itís still fun to play, but the generic feel of it makes it a little less fun than I think it could be.

NFL Challenge Mode: ***Ĺ
This is a long mode in which you create a bunch of players, and even may add your created player from Own the City Mode (a big bonus to your team), then put them through a whole bunch of challenges in order to boost their stats before going through a 32 NFL team tournament and then facing the NFL Legends team. These challenges are not the same as the ones in the previous mode, however; these challenges are actually game-based challenges where you start a game with your team and have to pull off some sort of feat in a certain amount of plays or time. Itís last yearís one-player mode in disguise, or actually very little disguise if you played last yearís one-player mode. This mode offers the most variety of any mode, as youíre doing many different challenges and testing your mettle in different areas of gameplay. Then you get to go through a tournament once youíve beaten enough challenges, which is when you get to see really how good your team has become. Did you boost their stats right? Or did you waste them all on a couple of players and end up with an unbalanced team? This mode is a lot of fun, though some of the challenges in this mode are downright next-to-impossible. Fortunately, you donít have to do them all, but itís frustrating to try one out, think you can do it, then waste an hour trying to pull it off (normal people would quit after a while, but not me).

NFL Gauntlet Mode: **Ĺ
In this mode, you take whatever team you want, even your NFL Challenge team with your Own the City player on it (which is why to play the gameís modes in this order), and take down all 32 NFL teams, the NFLís 8 divisionsí all-star teams, and the NFL Legends team. Itís just 41 games of NFL Street 2 football against 41 different teams, nothing more, nothing less. Itís fun if you use your NFL Challenge team, because spending all that time building your team for a mere 6 games in NFL Challenge mode would be somewhat of a waste. I donít think it would be that fun if you took a NFL team, for example the Packers, and played through this mode, as you can. Thereís nothing really special about that, but if you built your team from the ground up, now thatís special. Certainly this mode isnít that spectacular, but itís not that bad either.

Mini-Games: ***
These mini-games are more fun than your average Mario Party mini-games, especially most of the recent Cube MP mini-games, at least if youíre a football fan. Their descriptions follow below.

Crush the Carrier: ***
Five guys run around trying to tackle the guy with the ball and knock it loose. Then the one who picks it up runs away from the other five. Tackling the ball carrier gives you a bunch of points at once, and you slowly accumulate points while you hold on to the ball. The one with the most points after the set time period wins. Itís actually quite a fun game, and quite a challenging one as well. Pulling off Wall Moves to pick up points as well as avoid tacklers when you have the ball is the key to winning this game.

4-on-4: ***Ĺ
Whoever thought of this mini-game was a genius. Itís NFL Street 2 with only 4 players per side instead of 7, and the quarterback may not cross the line of scrimmage (if he tries to, the play ends immediately right there). Itís the best mini-game by far, the most fun for sure. The reduced players on the field and no QB sneaking make it a whole new ballgame, as that totally changes my gameplan of running with my created QB every play. This was a great idea.

Open Field Showdown: *
Itís one-on-one football, where each player gets a certain number of attempts to score a touchdown against the other player, and vice versa. The one with more TDís at the end of the attempts wins. The trouble with one-on-one football is that this isnít basketball, where one-on-one works great as it showcases playersí individual skills. Football is about more than just one playerís skills, and this mini-game shows it. Itís really hard to figure out what to do on offense and on defense. Running straight forward is usually walking right into a tackle, but running to the side may make you run out of turbo too fast. And on defense, if you dive for a tackle, you may miss entirely. Yet if you donít dive, the offensive player has a better chance of breaking your tackle. Maybe I just donít have the hang of it, and itís just a matter of my getting used to the mini-game, but I have played it a lot. Itís certainly not as fun as the other mini-games, thatís for sure.

Jump Ball Battle: **Ĺ
This jump ball mini-game challenge has a bunch of QBs throw lob passes to a bunch of receivers, once of which being your player. You want to catch as many balls as possible in order to score more points than the other receivers, with the NFL Street 2 ball being worth 2 points instead of just 1 for the normal ball. Itís simple, but a lot of fun when the passes get tipped and you have to try to dive to catch them, or stop one of your opponents from catching one.

2-Minute Challenge: **
In this game, you play offense for two minutes and then defense for two minutes. The offense consists of a QB and two receivers, while there are two defenders. Like in 4-on-4, the QB may not cross the line of scrimmage, or the play ends immediately right there. This challenge isnít too fun, as playing defense can be either really easy (sometimes youíll sack the QB on almost every play if you time it right) or really hard (sometimes youíll fail miserably to defend passes). Offense is pretty fun, though, making this mini-game at least mediocre.

Pickup Game: ****
This year, you can customize what players you want in the pickup pool, making it more interesting. Do you want every NFL player in the league in it, and all the NFL Legends and created players? Or do you want only 40 random players, with no legends or created players available? This makes this mode very interesting, with different teams each time you play (unless you make all players available and pick the same players every time, but thatís your choice anyway).

Quick Game: **Ĺ
Itís a game between any two teams in the league, with seven players per side. It doesnít have the variety of a pickup game, which hurts its score.

Replayability: *Ĺ
Despite the fact that this game has all these modes, once you beat the three main modes, the one-player play is pretty much boring, and only multiplayer play is still interesting. How could this game be improved? Why not a Franchise mode, like in Madden? I know, it couldnít be the same, but wouldnít it be sweet to take your NFL Challenge team from some street to becoming a NFL team, kicking out a team of your choice, and playing in a NFL that plays by NFL Street rules in stadiums with walls along the sidelines? Then, you could go through schedules, playoffs, and win the Super Bowl, and even make trades and sign free agents, as well as release players. I could go on and on, but you get the point. Thereís so much more that could be done. The new modes made the game last longer, true, but not long enough.

Fun Factor!: ****
Iíve seen reviews criticizing this game mightily, and they miss something about it: itís not meant to be real NFL football. Itís meant to be crazy, off-the-wall, arcade-style football (arcade meaning purposely unrealistic). Itís supposed to be unrealistic. Itís made to be fun. Those who criticize the game for lack of defense (although thereís a lot more defense this year than last year) and technical aspects just donít get the NFL Street series. Itís supposed to be that way. Itís fun the way it is. It doesnít need to be realistic to be a good game; it already is.

NFL Street 2 is a great game, and a lot better than its predecessor. Why the same rating, then? Itís still not replayable enough to be one of the greatest ever. It needs some sort of mode that makes it so good that I keep playing that mode for months and months. But if you like football, this game is a must-have. Itís the most fun arcade football game since NFL Blitz 2000, still the greatest arcade football game of all time. This oneís really worth the buy. (By the way, the PSP version of NFL Street 2, known as NFL Street 2: Unleashed, is not the same as this game, and I havenít played it, so this Review does not apply to that game.)