NFL Street
Game Info
Platform(s)
PS2, Xbox, GC
Publisher
Electronic Arts
Developer
Tiburon
Genre
Sports
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Mild Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Highly customizable
• Deep gameplay
• Lots to unlock

The Bad

• Uneven game features
• Steep difficulty in Challenge mode
• Very few features at start of game

 
Grade
A-

Graphics: Street isn't going to blow many people's minds graphically, but it does a good job. Fourteen guys on the field, pretty well detailed, all with subtle customizations, and frequently all visible at the same time. That becomes a more impressive feat when you're playing with two completely customized teams that look nothing like each other. The graphics engine itself renders the characters a little blocky, but Street pulls this off by using a highly stylized look that works for the game. With the famous players, many of them are easily recognizable through subtle distinctions, though all the body-types in the game have been exaggerated to produce scrawny quarterbacks and ham-handed linesmen. The playing 'fields' also won't blow you away, but many feature interactive objects such as crates to smash into or tables to stumble over, which can be a plus and a minus. There are weather effects faithfully represented in the game, and overall the fields feel pretty organic. The animations for the players are very smooth, and there are great varieties to see in the game, including a little variety in the trash-talking and celebrating segments.

Sound: The sound effects for the game are pretty good; with satisfying hits and bone-crunching collisions with walls and objects (fortunately there are no injuries.) There's lots of voice-acting and though it's nobody famous, it's all pretty well done. The trash-talking and celebration scenes in the game at the beginning and after big plays or touchdowns are initially pretty funny, but they pop up so often that they get tiresome after a few weeks with the game, and sometimes you can't skip them. There are a lot of random comments on the field as you're breaking from a huddle or getting into one, and those are highly varied and pretty amusing if you listen for them. Where the sound really stands out is in the big names they got to contribute to the soundtrack. Korn, Cypress Hill, and many more artists contribute over 20 songs to the game. The soundtrack is mostly rap and hip-hop, but has enough rock in it to please non-rap fans. The disappointing side to this is that you can't listen to these songs in the game itself! During the games you hear the regular in-house music! Now, this music isn't bad per se, but it's not good either, and it gets old quick, especially knowing there's great music in the menus and other parts of the game! Overall, high marks on the sound, just a bummer about the music.

Control: Street has a deep, deep control scheme which really must be mastered in order to get the most out of the game, and to beat your opponents. On offense, you've got a button to snap, which then becomes throwing, which then turns into a stiff arm/shoulder charge button. You've got a button to spin or juke, one to hurdle or dive, and one to pitch the ball. As described above, you might be able to tell that all these buttons are not only analog sensitive, but context sensitive. What move you do on-screen depends on the timing of your button press and how hard you press. This is very important in the game, as you might want to stiff arm past a guy for a touchdown, but instead you lower your shoulder to charge and end up only gaining a couple yards. Or say you want to avoid the defender entirely. This will require a very well-timed spin or juke, and the exact timing will be different depending on which you do. Screw up the timing and you'll pull off a move that looks good and is followed by a tackle all the same. Similarly, throwing a bomb or a bullet pass depends on how hard you push the button. You may select a play that sets you up perfectly for a bomb, but it's all for naught if you can't pull off the pass.

On defense, you've got a button to spin with the ball carrier or rip the ball from him, one to jump up and catch or deflect the pass, one to dive or tackle, and one to switch players…once again, all context sensitive. Add to this a limited turbo meter shared by the whole team assigned to one button, and the famous style button. Pressing turbo in conjunction with another button adds a little 'oomph' but decreases your accuracy a little. Similarly, the style button turns any move from basic to over-the-top, ranging from plowing a defender into the ground while you flip over him like a subway turnstile to throwing a pass behind your back. Style moves will net you extra points, but they decrease your accuracy and ability to hang on to the ball. On defense, style is mostly used to pull off a super-tackle, which is highly likely to cause a fumble but very hard to make accurately hit.

In addition, there are more advanced (!) moves in the game. If you want to flaunt extra and aren't a-feared of a fumble, you use a combination of buttons and the right analog stick to perform signature style moves specific to each character as you run down the field. Typical moves are dangling the ball in front the defender chasing you and dribbling the ball as you run. You can also call a couple simple audibles on offense or defense, sending your extra receivers to one section of the field or calling coverage to the backfield for example. And there are extra tweaks you can discover along the way like faking a pass or using a man-in-motion. Overall the control scheme is incredibly precise, and well-implemented, but there are so many aspects to it and so many options that casual sports gamers may be overwhelmed.

Gameplay: NFL Street plays like a combination of Blitz and Madden. You've got all the depth of Madden with the stripped-down arcade feel of Blitz. There are several game modes: 'Quick Game' where you and a buddy or the PS2 pick teams and scrap, 'Pick-Up Game' where you play with a team that you put together consisting of seven players selected from the available teams in the game, 'Online' which I unfortunately cannot comment on since I'm a Neanderthal without a network adapter, and the 'NFL Challenge' mode where your newbie team takes on distilled NFL teams for either specific challenges or full games organized in ladders.

As noted above, Street has a very detailed control layout reminiscent of Madden. If you hammer on the buttons when you get excited, you won't make it far in this game. However, for a basic game against the computer, you can get away with a rudimentary amount of skill with the various moves as well as the various plays. Your playbook is the same for every team, and is stripped down from other football games. But for a 7 on 7 game, it's got about as many plays as you need. And you will need to switch up your plays and get experience with a running game and a passing game. Calling 'Go Long' every play will start to get you sacked as the computer adjusts to your playing style. Thankfully there are trick plays as well, which while they may not fool a friend, frequently fool the A.I. when used right. In theory, the different play fields will cater to different styles of play (turf type affecting your running game, etc.), but you only have two fields until you unlock more through the Challenge mode.

The Challenge mode is where this game really takes off. You create a team geared for offense, defense, etc. and put points into them to build each individual players' distinct abilities. You can also customize their facial features, tattoos, and what they're wearing, although you're a little limited in body type since that affects gameplay. Change your guy's hair anytime you want, but if you want more height or weight on him, it'll cost you, since that will increase his chances of pulling off a tackle or intercepting a pass. You get more points through completing specific challenges, ranging from 'Beat the Chargers in a game to 14' to 'Beat the Falcons in a game to 60 while forcing 2 fumbles, getting 2 user picks, 2 sacks, and 2 defensive touchdowns'. Obviously you have to take on the easier challenges to get a few points to raise your team up to where they can try harder challenges and get more points. You have to pick and choose which challenges you try too, because the ones with greater rewards cost more tokens, and you start with a limited amount of those to spend. This adds an element of strategy to how you build your team. How do you get more tokens? By beating ladders. Groups of four teams each are organized into ladders according to regional guidelines like 'AFC East'. Take those four teams on in any order, and then once you beat them, take on the All-Star team for that region. After beating them, you get more tokens, choose a new region to unlock along with their playing field, and open the teams you just beat for your play in the regular game modes. So you see, the Challenge mode is a highly addictive and rewarding experience that adds tens of hours to the gameplay.

But there's a downside. The Challenge mode is far harder than the regular game. You'll need to know nuances of the control, details of the playbook, and every subtlety about how to play your team if you're going to take them to the top. The difficulty and AI is pumped way up in the Challenge mode. Teams you may waltz through in a regular game with far lower stats than your boys will give you a run for your money in the later challenges. You'll find particularly that if your goal is simply to force two fumbles, you'll have to land five times the solid tackles you would in a normal game to force those fumbles…and it'll be harder to get a decent tackle, too. That is to say that aside from the general increase in difficulty, your specific goal will be particularly more difficult. Also, the computer employs catch-up logic that cannot be turned off in this mode. So you may find yourself tromping a team only to have them bulldoze through you three touchdowns in a row before letting you easily take the lead again. Particularly playing against the last couple of conferences you open up, you'll need to be a master of the game to beat all the challenges. This will require you to beat some of the challenges which offer specialized 'Impact Gear' that boosts a player's stats beyond what they would be, even if they're already maxed out.

The last thing that really needs mentioning are the requisite 'Gamebreakers'. This is what you use all your points for. Every 100,000 points your Gamebreaker meter fills up and you can activate it at any time to put your whole team in a state of heightened play. They're faster, smarter, tougher, etc. On offense, this usually means a quick touchdown; on defense, you usually get a fumble or interception. So you want to get as many points as quick as you can, because these plays can really break the opponent's game. Theoretically this is the purpose for all the style moves. You can style pass, style pitch, style run, and then style dive into the endzone. But you do that and you're likely to botch the pass, miss the pitch, and fumble during the run, or worse yet in the endzone. You actually don't get that many extra points for doing style moves, and they pose a much added risk to your game. You get the most points from just playing well…completing passes, gaining yards or first downs, scoring quickly after gaining possession. In addition, your Gamebreaker is best saved for defense, as you'll find that your supposedly unstoppable offense actually seems more likely to fumble than normal if they take a hard hit. So against a good player, or in later challenges, you're better off just playing a regular game really well…switch up your tactics and your go-to guys and use your style moves sparingly. Similarly, don't worry about the different fields that much. They make a difference, but not so big a one as to ruin a playstyle you've got perfected. Just do what you do best.

Final Verdict: Overall, a great game with just a few beefs: poor use of great licensed music, slightly lacking implementation of the Gamebreaker feature, pointless hype about all the style moves (they're best used for taunting and bragging rights), and an insane difficulty curve in the Challenge mode which may send you to the store to buy new controllers. Every gamer should at least rent it, and sports gamers need to own it.

- - Jeff Light

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