Review by EJRICH

"Who You Callin My Momma?"

Fourth down. Five seconds left in the game. Team A (which currently has the ball) is down by three, with two yards standing between them and the win. The coaches call the play that will probably decide the fate of the game. One has a smirk on his face, the other is sitting there biting the nails off the stubs he calls fingers. The players get up to the line of scrimmage, the QB readies himself to make the play.

And then the defensive line explodes into an aura of bright blue fuzziness.

The QB is a bit concerned now, but snaps it anyway. Before the ball even touches his fingers, a gigantic center piles through the line and plows into him. The center then grabs the fumbled ball and runs up for the touchdown, finishing the game. Funny part was not even the running back could catch up to him, and he was 150 pounds lighter. What demented world would allow such fit and trim men to be outrun by some fat guy who's obviously been on the donuts for too long of a period of time? The world of NFL Street, of course. Taking root in EA's Street series of games (excellent series btw), NFL Street brings the football to the streets, allowing its players to get in touch with their urban sides while playing the game that they love.

Just what is the NFL Street series, though? Well, while most NFL games focus on making the game as realistic as possible, Street takes a few steps back to what some may call the fun side of football. The side where Peyton Manning doesn't have to look like some stuck up ignoramus. The side where Tiki Barber doesn't have to score five touchdowns in order to be hailed a hero. No, this is the side of football that leaves out all that mumbo jumbo and brings the game back to its purest form – a game that's fun.

Let's face it, though, as much fun as it is to play some football game, we all know what most people want to do – win. There's always that good feeling that comes with pounding the other team into oblivion, especially when you can make it hurt. Like true street football, NFL Street makes your players play on both sides of the ball, offense and defense. As you could probably imagine, some players will obviously dominate their particular field of expertise (such as the Quarterback being able to throw the ball, running back being fast), making the strategy of choosing your team that much more difficult. Quarterbacks are needed to make your offense run, but are completely useless when it comes to playing defense since they often times are incredibly slow. You know that defensive guy you need to round out your defense? Well, tough luck getting him to get his pudgy hands on the ball. Trying to figure out the magic of what makes a team work is what makes the game as fun as it is, which is why some people prefer it over a standard football game.

So you've officially managed to put together your dream team, watched the pretty intro, did a couple of jump ropes with your PS2 controller – now what? NFL Street offers several modes of game play, each featuring a different style of play. While some people may prefer a pick up game to test their mettle, others may want to climb the ladder and tackle some of the toughest teams in franchise football. Either way, you're in for one heck of a game.

Probably what stood out the most to me was NFL Street's deep level of team customization. In the game's main mode, players are given a fresh team to play around with. Not the seasoned vets that can run like a mad man either – the weaklings that randomly are put together by the game's random selection. Their stats are absolutely atrocious, leaving them easy prey for the titans of football. You have a way to change that, however. By choosing to take part in an assortment of objectives, players have the opportunity to earn points and gear to customize this gang of scrawny nerds. Some challenges are noticeably easy – most are just beating another team to a certain number of points. The challenge comes in when you have to make a goal line stand against a team that obviously has the advantage – for four plays! With your little squad, that may take a ton of time. Luckily, once you manage to get some points to buy gear and stats, you can buff your players up to take on these challenges one at a time.

Other than that, NFL Street offers a couple of other things to draw the attention of the prospective player. The graphics have a notable edge to them in terms of an urban look (for those of you who aren't familiar with it, think rugged) that gives that game the actual appearance of something you'd see on the street. Colors are obviously washed out a bit to promote this, bringing in a semi-faded environment that's complimented by a small cell of shading in spots. Aside from the moving graphics, Street also offers a gallery of artwork to accompany the loading screens that dot the game. These pictures are a bit disturbing (one has a fat guy doing a belly flop), but at least allow things to keep a person interested during the rather long loading periods.

Music is also obviously rooted in the urban tracks, but unlike the graphics, come with a nasty edge. They're horrendously repetitive, simply put. The same track you hear at the first moment you start a game will be the same track you hear at the end. Some people argue that the tracks dotting the menus make things a bit easier on the ears, but they forget the fact that you really don't spend that much time in those menus to begin with. Add that to the fact that they don't exactly appeal to everyone (rap music), and you have a tough jam.

Some other problems that Street has to deal with are in the difficulty settings. They're brutal when it comes to picking your players and taking them up the rung, and unless you're simply amazing at the game and have no problem dealing with hideous players, you will have a hard time getting past it. Add that to the fact that the game gets increasingly harder at alarming rates, and problems come in. Another thing that may trouble some people are the lack of plays. Although you can unlock a good amount of them, you can't get past the fact that there are not nearly as many plays as in a regular football game. The sad part is you won't even use many of them unless you're incredibly daring. Also, the game breaker (a moment in time where your players gain incredible abilities once you've earned enough points by completing moves) cheapens the experience by allowing certain plays to completely change the course of the game. Worst part is the AI abuses it terribly.

If you can get past those problems, then I can definitely tell you you'll deeply enjoy everything that NFL Street has to offer. A solid customization system, good graphics, interesting game play modes and more make Street the game to play if you're looking for something to get you away from the typical Madden hype that comes around every year. If not, then you may just want to shelve it and move on.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 05/21/07, Updated 12/20/09

Game Release: NFL Street (US, 01/13/04)


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