Review by Eric43

"Add a few things, beat it with an ugly stick, and poof, NFL Street 2."

NFL Street was EA Big's science experiment—a little American football game with fast-paced action, aloof physics, big hits, and a cool attitude. If you like previous arcade games like NFL Blitz or Tecmo Bowl, you will love the original NFL Street, which plays like a exaggerated, hip-hop version of Madden. And like every decent sports game, you gotta have a sequel, and a year later, you get NFL Street 2. The gameplay remains largely the same but with some changes, some good, some mindboggling stupid.

NFL Street 2 plays arcade football like this. It's seven-on-seven football with real NFL teams and players with some traditional rules. You pick from seven players from a variety of positions who must play BOTH sides of the ball, which lead to exploitable strengths and weaknesses. You can call run or pass and score first downs and get to the end zone. Special teams is absent as you must go for it on fourth down—field goals and punts are out of the question. Touchdowns earn six points, then you must try for one or two points by putting the ball in the end zone again for the extra point. Time is not an issue as the first team to reach a set score wins the game. Players don't wear the traditional uniform and pads, but dress in everyday hip clothes, such as t-shirts, baggy pants, and headbands. Gameplay is fast-paced, you have a NFL Blitz turbo-meter, and big hits are commonplace, although there are no injuries whatsoever.

The game plays quite similarly to the first, which is a very good thing. NFL Street 2 balances ridiculously addicting gameplay with balance—there's a layer of strategy in your playcalling and in execution. Call run and you can gain big yards against past defense. Pick some monster linebackers and stuff the run but sacrifice pass protection in the process. This is a very engrossing game. One big change in the sequel is that the gameplay feels a slight drop in pace, making powerbacks less exploitable and opening up the pass a little more. The playbook has almost doubled in size, going from a ballpark of 100 plays in NFL Street to about 200 in NFL Street 2. Also, for extra points off of touchdowns, instead of the “run in for 1, pass for 2” point business, it's now replaced with “score from 5 yards out for 1, score from 10 yards out for 2” which seems more fair. These are arguably the best changes in the game.

Of course there are two new features which look great at first but are just pointless. The first feature would be wall-jumps. Along the edges of the playing field are fences that can send your player airborne Super Mario-style--nearly double the height as if jumped off level ground alone. You can use the walls to hurdle, pass, or catch a lob with an additional command on the controller. Visually, these moves are spectacular and they liven up the gameplay somewhat. The problem is that wall jumps are highly exploitable—a good player can run an abstract and effectively guarantee yards if he can anticipate when defenders move in on him. You have to use plenty of outside blitzes and hope that you can take down the ball holder before he gets nearby. And with walls everywhere now, it feels more like Arena Football League than ever.

The second feature would be the new Gamebreaker system. Like in NFL Street, you can perform a wide variety of “style” moves in conjunction with other tasks to fill up a bar. Fill up the bar and you can unleash a Gamebreaker, which makes your team unstoppable for one drive, essentially guaranteeing a touchdown or a turnover. Now there's two bars to fill up—the second lets you execute a Gamebreaker 2 (I'm not making this up) which cues a cute little cutscene that will automatically give you the ball/touchdown and some extra Gamebreaker power thereafter. Personally, I thought that Gamebreaker 2 was a useless extra that felt tacked on just for the hell of it. However, this would hardly be a complaint if it weren't for hotspots, which are billboards scattered along the walls which will give you ridiculously unfair boosts to your Gamebreaker meter if you perform stunts off them. Because of the hotspots, you essentially have to run along the fence and perform wall-jumps on them to keep up your “race to the Gamebreaker.” It's as if you must run abstract runs and stay away from the middle of the field. Doing the old moves, such as doing taunts (which may result in a nasty fumble) aren't even worth it compared to doing one or two wall-hotspots. Seriously, what were they thinking?

The game has a handful of few extra features—the most popular the Pickup Mode, where you can choose from a pool of NFL Players and handpick a team to your liking. You can also play in a “career” mode called NFL Challenge where you create your own team and complete tasks, such as “Make 2 sacks and beat the Panthers to a game of 14” to earn stat points and extra gear. You can also play Own the Street, where you create a lone player and play against some generic teams including Xbizit himself (the rapper and the guy from Pimp My Ride) and complete some arbitrary tasks. A few minigames exist, such as Crush the Carrier (hold the ball as long as possible and run from the other players), Ball Jump Battle (QB throws a lob pass into a crowd of three WR's trying to catch it), and even four-on-four football. Most of these features aren't in NFL Street, which is a welcoming sign, but most, even the engrossing four-on-four play, don't stack up to the fun of the standard game.

Even though the game suffers from the abuseable wall hotspots and Gamebreaker 2, the game's presentation has taken a dip as well. The menus from NFL Street were rather gritty but easy to understand and rather acceptable considering the game's theme. In 2, they decided to slick down the interface to a bland, generic looking piece of junk. For starters, when selecting from different players to put on your team, it's much more difficult to tell how “good” a player is at a certain stat. For instance, if you were to decide between Eric Moulds and Joe Horn, you'd have to swap back an infinite amount of times to see who's really the better player. You get to look at an ugly, digitalized mugshot of the player rather than a full body shot, which means you can check out Michael Strahan's teeth (or lack thereof) before the game. The transition for the Gamebreaker 1/2 is laughably bad as if someone at EA Tiburon photoshopped the words “Gamebreaker(hard return)2” on a lousy orange backdrop. Not to mention all the font looks dopey and boring for some reason.

Graphically, this game isn't that bad, however. The game looks a bit more glossy but the framerate is smoother as a result. Player models and animations are exaggerated as usual, which does the original justice. Some new clothing items (including the ability to go shirtless, thankfully there's no “sweat” in this game) and animations give you a few new things to check out. Some of the new fields of play are more realistic but lack the “oomph” of playing in a frozen mud pit in New York or a Spanish courtyard in Houston, a la NFL Street. Instead, you get to play in a baseball field, a bright-green park, an aqueduct, and a convenience store parking lot. I'd take the fields from the original in a heart beat.

As for the sound, well, a large part of it is recycled from the original. No NFL commentators are present, instead, a bunch of NFL players make hokey commentary in jest of each other (G-rated, of course). Generally, the voices don't match the player (listening to a steriod-laden Peyton Manning, for instance, makes no sense) but it's acceptable due to the game's charm. The music, however, is just one final straw that breaks the camel's back. The X-Ecutioners instrumental rap from the original may have been monotone over a while but it was definitely more "intense" and apt for the gameplay than the Xbizit/Little John/generic punk band music that plays during the games. If you enjoy classics such as “Stand Up and Get Crunk” and “Tear It Up,” you will probably like the soundtrack, but other music just got on my nerves, leading me to turn off the music, making the game sound awfully quiet. Granted, it's just a soundtrack, but I'd prefer background music from the original any day.

Overall, NFL Street 2 implements a few base changes to the gameplay which serve to make the gameplay a little more balanced, but a handful of stupid changes, like the wall hotspots, the Gamebreaker 2, and the soundtrack are questionably bad changes to what was a nearly flawless game to begin with. My advice—buy this if you have the original if you want to add some spice to the original. However, turn off the Gamebreakers, turn off the music, and pump up the X-Ecutioners rap if you do. Regardless, I'd take NFL Street over this any day.

Presentation: 5/10 – If it weren't for the silly menus, this would be free points, hands down.
Gameplay: 7/10 – Classic NFL Street gameplay, but with mandatory wall hotspots. If you don't hit them, you will probably lose. Sound fun?
Graphics: 8/10 – Despite a little glossy effect, graphics are smooth and apt for the game's theme.
Sound: 6/10 – Same old silly voice acting. Game soundtrack is rather lackluster, though.
Replay Value: 8/10 – Thankfully, a handful of new features, as well as traditional two-player modes, will inject life into this bargain bin game.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 07/24/08, Updated 07/25/08

Game Release: NFL Street 2 (US, 12/22/04)

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