With the Superbowl just gone and the season over for another year some gamers may be looking for something to tide them over until the new season begins. Official NFL games may fill that gap somewhat but some gamers may be looking for something different and this is what EA is hoping with the new EA Sports BIG Game, NFL Street. EA Sports BIG has had some cracker titles recently such as SSX 3 and it looks like they have definitely delivered the goods again with NFL Street.
The most impressive aspect of NFL Street is the actual style of play. When EA created NBA Street they had a sport to work off, with NFL street they didn't but they have come up with one of the most fun and addictive non-traditional sports games to hit the market in a while. Obviously there has been numerous rule changes to the typical NFL format, but in many ways the actual gameplay remains the same. The first rule is there is no kicking at all. Teams begin with the ball on their on ten yard line and have four plays to make ten yards otherwise it is a turn over. As there is no kicks a fourth down must always be played as either a run or pass play which changes the game significantly and gives better rewards to a team who defends well. When a touchdown is scored there is no kick conversion. A running play gives the team a one point conversion, whilst a passing play two.
The gameplay is also greatly affected by these changes. Each team only has seven players on each side. This allows for a lot more open game with a lot more of the field being exposed due to the lack of coverage. It is highly unlikely you will be able to keep a team to only four downs per drive and most of the time may find yourself defending on the goal line to stop a touch down. The other major change is the styling aspect of the game. You can choose to play to a certain number of points or via styling. Styling is where the aesthetic touch of NFL Street shines through the most. As you run with the ball holding down the left trigger will begin a styling move. You can change this and create combos with different button presses and these style points. Stylin' can range from the player putting the ball continuously through their legs, diving like a super hero for a touchdown, waving his hands up and down and others.
NFL Street contains a few game modes with those being play now, pick up and challenge. The play now game mode allows you to select to NFL teams to go head to head on the field in a one off exhibition mode. This is the only mode where you can straight out select the NFL teams with their official players and play in a game as close to the actual NFL as possible. Pick up mode is a typical school yard style game. The game randomly selects players from various NFL teams and you and the AI (or a mate in multiplayer) progressively choose from the available players to make up your team. You can choose different positions at different times so if you feel a quarterback is the most important position you can pick him first whilst the AI may pick a defensive lineman.
The main mode of NFL Street is the Challenge mode. In Challenge mode you have numerous tasks which must be completed to progress. It is here you will unlock new clothes for your players, new plays for your play book and more fields to play on. The challenge mode is split into two areas; challenges and ladder. In the ladder you have to defeat four teams from the current NFL division and then an all star team to progress to the next division. The challenge mode gives you tasks such as scoring first against a team, scoring in a certain fashion, beating a team to a certain score limit and others. As mentioned before this can unlock new clothes and plays for the playbook but also development points to spend on your players.
You begin with seven players, who aren't from the NFL and have fairly basic attributes and skills. As you beat challenges you are rewarded with development points which buys you skills for the players such as catching, agility, tackle and many others you would typically find in an NFL game. Clothing also greatly affects your players. If they are wearing metal shoulder pads, they will find it easier to break tackles then if they weren't This can lead to humorous consequences with small players tossing large defensive lineman away like a piece of paper. Obviously this is the key to victory spending your points wisely and buying some useful clothing for your team. You have to share the points across the entire team, so you may find yourself with some awesome players, but the others are lacking due to the lack of balance in spending.
Whilst the game is officially licensed there is some limitations to this. The game does indeed feature all the NFL divisions and franchises as well as the logos etc but it doesn't feature the real stadiums and there is only a certain number of players for each franchise. Obviously not all fifty plus players are represented so EA took the most famous and most useful players from each franchise. If you're a fan of quarterbacks, fear not because all the official NFL quarterbacks are there including Carson Palmer, last years number one draft pick. They don't have their official uniforms but they do wear clothing with their teams logo and name on it.
NFL Street is not an easy game, especially in the challenge mode. This is due to the fact that you start off with a bunch of nobodies and have to taken on some superstars from each of the NFL franchises. Whilst you will probably find it easy to score on the lowest difficulty level, so will the AI and thus games can come down to making or breaking a two point conversion. The exhibition game mode proves this point because when you play as NFL vs NFL, the matches are much easier to win due to the balance of attributes between the superstars. Obviously as you gain development points your team will improve.
As mentioned before the game doesn't feature the official franchise stadiums from the NFL and thus EA have had to come up with some different fields for you to play. The first two unlocked are EA Field and a field on a beach, complete with moving waves and water splashes. Others include a roof, warehouse and others. The change of environment doesn't change the gameplay at all, for instance its not harder to run in sand then it is on the grass fields and the fields are somewhat interactive. If there is a garbage bin on the side line and you hit it, it will topple over with ragdoll-like physics. They are all heavily detailed and feature logos such as the NFL street logo painted on the grass. The variety is good and perhaps suits the style of game better then the official NFL stadiums.
NFL Street on the Xbox looks quite impressive. As mentioned before the game features superstars from each franchise and they have been rendered in a comical almost caricature manner. If they were to make a cartoon which feature NFL superstars then this is what they would probably look like. They do somewhat look like their real life counterparts which aids in the realism of the game and the fields as mentioned before also look great. Some of the hit animations are big and painful and the characters have individual animations depending on their size. The soundtrack featured is a rap soundtrack. Players will smack talk both before the game and before plays, and will rub it in after a big play is made such as a touchdown or a huge sack.
NFL Street is a great accomplishment by EA to create a brand new style of a sport from an already thriving game in America. The fast gameplay and room to run will appeal to those wanting an arcade experience and even if you haven't liked official NFL games in the past, then Street may still be enticing to you because its a fun game to play and doesn't take the sport to seriously. Whether Street becomes a title you will play till next season and beyond depends on one factor. If you have a lot of mates you can invite around regularly to play this game then the replay value is almost endless, if not you may tire of the single player game fairly quickly but still have an enjoyable time with it.