Review by pubbisk

"Takin' it to the streets"

Ahh...backyard football. The creme de la creme of unorganized sports. An activity that everyone loves. If you don't, you're either a communist or a complete nerd. The only problem with backyard ball happens to be that it requires you to actually get up and exert yourself...ugh. Well lazy gamers, developer EA Big has sympathized with your plight and released the super addictive NFL Street. Bigger plays. Bigger hits. Infinite style. Are you ready for the street? Read the review, yo!

Concept: 8/10 Capitalize on the success of the immensely popular NBA Street by applying the same formula to football, throwing out the rule book and adding smash mouth, in-your-face gameplay.

Graphics: 9/10 Woah! These are some high quality visuals. Everything in this game looks 24k, and I'm not lying. Lets start with the player models. They happen to be quite possibly the best you can find in any sports game. All of the NFL stars featured in Street look like their real life counterparts, and the sheer variety in the articles of clothing that they wear is astounding. Just to give you an idea of what I'm talking about, there are over 30 options to choose from in sunglasses alone. In addition to that, the animations are top notch. All the moves and acrobatics you'd expect in a game like this (spins, jukes, sky high leaps) are in there, and all of them are executed perfectly. As for the surroundings, the fields look great as well. Everything appears sharp, and each location has various objects on the sidelines (or even on the field) that can be interacted with. Example: There is a concrete wall/park bench/trash can on the sidelines. I will now proceed to tackle you into it head first, sending both you and the object flying. Sounds fun, doesn't it? Heck, even the ground is impressive, featuring various surfaces like grass, sand, or concrete.

Sound: 8/10 I was torn between a seven or an eight here because the sound in this game is really a mixed bag. On one hand, the music is great. The soundtrack is mostly rap, but there are a few other types peppered in. Also, the in game sfx are solid, featuring a lot of trash talking (some of which is a riot), bone crunching tackles, and that sickening noise you hear when somebody just ate the pavement for lunch or plowed into a brick wall at full speed. On the extreme downside, there is no announcer. I was expecting something like the guy in NBA Street, but there was nothing of the sort. If you can't see why this is such a big deal, you obviously haven't played either of this game's NBA counterparts. Go out and do so after reading this review. Seriously, until then you'll have no idea how entertaining an announcer can be. (Or how much of a downer it is that this game lacks one, for that matter.)

Gameplay: 8/10 This is hardcore, no rules ball. 7 on 7, everybody plays both sides. Have you ever fantasized whether or not Michael Vick would make a good D Back? Keep this in mind when you select your team. The playbooks are simple, featuring only a handful of run, pass, or trick plays. On defense, there are only 3 categories to choose from: stop run, short pass, and long pass. In all honesty, you improvise so much after the ball is snapped that it often doesn't matter what play was called. When I read previews for this game, I had no idea how they would pull all the gameplay off. It seemed too simple and yet all too difficult at the same time. Fortunately, the result of what must have been a ton of effort is a control scheme that works pretty well. Sprinting is done with R1 and is linked to a nifty 'turbo' meter which depletes as you run. Spins & jukes are performed with circle & square, just like in Madden. Triangle causes you to pitch the ball to the nearest teammate, a feature that will become more indispensable and fun to use as you play on. While that is all well and good, the meat and potatoes of this package is the style moves, activated by L1. By holding L1 while you have the ball, you can throw a funky 'style pass'. If that isn't your bag, you can also run with it and press a multitude of other buttons along with L1 to perform a stunt. You'll get used to this setup in time, but I think the style controls are a bit too awkward to become entirely comfortable with. Despite having played for days, I still haven't reached the point where I can style without having to think too hard about it, and I'm beginning to feel that I never will. Despite this fact, they are still a load of fun to mess around with. As described on the box, one's ability to make use of this system separates the players from the playaz. By adding style to your game, you earn style points. When you earn enough style points, you can get a gamebreaker. The gamebreaker, once earned, can be activated before any play and lasts for the remainder of the drive. Essentially, the gamebreaker pumps your players up and gives them an edge against the opposition. On offense, you're virtually guaranteed a touchdown. On defense, a turnover. It would have been nice to see EA Big do more with the gamebreaker, like allow you to perform even crazier style moves, but this just wasn't the case. I guess that's what sequels are for. On a final note, playing on defense just isn't very fun. Covering players is highly difficult, and since you and the computer will score on at least 3/4 of all drives, frustration quickly mounts. Fortunately, turnovers are abundant, and if you can hit a player while he's stylin' there will most definitely be a fumble.

Replay Value: 8/10 If you have buddies to play with, then NFL Street is your best friend. This has to be one of the most satisfying multiplayer experiences out on the market. I highly recommend the 'pickup game' mode, in which the computer randomly selects 40 players out of the entire game's roster. You and your friend then select seven of them (each) in a mini draft. After the draft, you play a game with those people you picked. This mode is great because the teams are unique every time, keeping things fresh. On top of that, you can even take the field online and play with any team you like, including the custom teams you create in the 1p mode. Speaking of single player, it's kind of weak. There is a definite limit to how much of this game you can take on your own. Pretty much all of the time you spend in single player is with the NFL challenge mode. Here, you start with a weak band of rookies and pit them against every single team in the NFL, completing numerous 'challenges' along the way. The challenges are games in which your team is asked to complete any number of specific tasks before an amount of time has passed/points are scored. Your prize for successfully completing a challenge ranges from the awarding of development points (used to improve the stats of your players), to secret clothes and equipment, to unlocking new arenas and trick plays for your playbook. While the Challenge mode does turn out to be surprisingly addictive for a time, it also becomes quite difficult and you'll run into many points where you just want to put the controller down for a while. If what I just described doesn't sound like your thing, you may want to rent this first before spending money. To sum it all up, despite the fact that the 1p may be in need of some performance enhancers, the multiplayer easily keeps this game afloat.

Closing remarks: Well, even though it isn't perfect, NFL Street still kicks in a serious way. I think it's definitely worth a purchase, and if you were a fan of Blitz back in its glory days, then this is the arcade like fix you've been craving. Because I couldn't fit this in earlier, I must say that I was disappointed with the glaring deficiency in the number of locales to play at. There are only eight, one representing each NFL division, but I want to see more. Worst of all, Philly was NOT on the list. You can call this hometown bias (I'm from Philadelphia) but if you make anything with 'street' in the name, it had better be associated with Philly. Still, don't see all this in too negative a light. NFL Street is an awesome game any way you cut it, and you'd have to be a fool not to think so too.

Overall Score: 8 (an average)

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 01/24/04

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