Review by TheKyle

"Enjoyable, but more of a quick fix for football fans than a lasting experience"

As Winter gives way to Spring, the NFL season winds down, thus creating the annual (yet always painful) void known as the off-season. The off-season poses particular problems for football gamers, because for many of us the latest Madden (or NFL 2k) installment loses steam within a couple weeks of the Super Bowl. While a variety of ambitious ventures to satisfy football fans during the off-season have been attempted, none have enjoyed long-term success.

The latest of these ventures is NFL Street, which boasts more hype and expectation than any previous game of its kind. While the formula of Blitz gameplay and a Madden-esque level of depth looks great on paper, it simply doesn't work well when put into practice. What we are left with is a glorified party game that, despite all attempts, still provides little depth and a tedious, unspectacular single-player mode.

Graphics (9/10)
As trendy as it is to stand on a soapbox and proclaim that graphics don't matter, for sports games this simply isn't true. Even for a game that isn't ''realistic'' in football terms, being able to recognize players and see them out of their traditional environment is a big plus. The fact that most players, who are clad in a variety of street clothes and have ludicrously exaggerated features, could be identified immediately by a football fan attests to the graphical excellence of NFL Street. While the level of detail in creating players isn’t up to par with its contemporaries, it is certainly more than adequate. Creating you and your buddies is indeed one of the game’s bright spots.

The only minor complaint with the graphics is the lack of a comprehensive Instant Replay feature. Being able to pinpoint the frame in which your buddy’s star running back fumbled as he got mauled by your linebacker, and show it to him in every possible angle, would have been a nice, albeit peripheral, touch.

Sound (8/10)
Unlike graphics, sound is indeed more of an extra than a necessity. That being said, NFL Street does a good job of capturing the “feel” of street football through the extensive use of clips of the player’s trash-talking and taunting each other. For example, after a sack, the defender will certainly have some choice words for the quarterback, and the gamer may be treated to a short cut scene of the defender saying those words. While this is interesting for a while, it eventually becomes more of an annoyance than anything.

The music of the game is predominantly rap and rock, which suit the theme well (personal tastes aside). An interesting aspect of NFL Street is that the music is played during the games themselves, as opposed to having commentators. This adds to the “street” feel, as having any kind of commentary (other than the players’ never-ending repartee) would have been foolish.

For simplicity’s sake, “gameplay” will be broken up into 2 separate categories: multiplayer and single-player.

Mutliplayer (9/10)
Call over a few friends, order a pizza, pop in NFL Street, and you’ve got yourself a good night. Like the Blitz series, NFL Street delivers on the multiplayer level, simply because it’s great fun beating your friends into submission. The short, fast-paced games allow for continuous action (as opposed to the Madden series, which can end up being like a chess match). The pick-up game feature is where the real fun is at, allowing players to choose NFL stars for their teams like kids choose teams for kickball on the playground. There’s nothing quite like drafting Barry Sanders and watching your opponent get stuck with James Stewart.

Inevitably, there will come a point when your friends will get tired of your constant taunting and refuse to play with you anymore; this is when you take your game online. NFL Street features a comprehensive online mode that allows you to pit your team against the teams of thousands of other friendless gamers from around the U.S.

The only issue I have with the multiplayer aspect of NFL Street is that there is no equivalent to “season” mode. Sure you and your friend can play against each other in dozens of individual, unrelated games, but it would have been interesting to devise some sort of system where the games would have meaning beyond your personal bragging rights (i.e. multiplayer franchise mode in Madden). Still, the multiplayer feature in NFL Street is definitely fun, and indeed the strongest aspect of the game.

Single-player (3/10)
This is where the game falls apart. There are plenty of games that are fun when you’ve got a troop of friends over (the Blitz series comes to mind, and also games like Mario Party). What NFL Street needed to do was provide a single-player mode intriguing enough to hold the gamer’s attention over a long period of time.

The NFL Challenge mode fails to do this. Admittedly, the idea of creating seven players and building a Street team from the ground up sounds very appealing, but it ends up being dull and frustrating. You start with 2 divisions open (AFC West and NFC West); to unlock more divisions you must defeat all the teams in that division, as well as an all-star team compiled of the best players you faced. Now, your team of scrubs stands nary a chance of competing with NFL Stars, so before you take on the big boys it is well-advised that you beef up your players. To do this, you must complete specific scenarios to earn “development points,” which can be distributed at will. Your goal is to unlock and defeat all the divisions in the NFL.

Sounds exciting? It isn’t. The majority of the tasks are uninspired, and involve doing either routine activities (perform 2 juke moves and beat a team to 14 points), or painstakingly long ones (beat the Colts to 100 points). One of the most frustrating aspects of the game is simply how long some of the development challenges take. For example, you might have to beat a team to 34 points just in order to unlock a basic running play, or win a game to 21 for a measly 100 development points. After a while you just get sick of doing the challenges, especially ones that require a lot of time. While NFL Street certainly made an effort to provide a more depth in the single-player game than its predecessors, it almost completely fails to do so.

Overall (6/10)
The 6 rating may seem a little harsh, considering that this is by no means a worthless game. It certainly has many, many redeeming features. However, the inability to provide lasting single-player appeal relegate NFL Street into the same category as Blitz; the cotton candy of football games. While valiant, NFL Street’s attempt to satisfy football fans in the off-season ultimately fails, proving once again the point that the XFL reinforced so strongly a few years ago: There’s simply no substitute for good, old-fashioned football.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 01/27/04

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