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PSP  header logo

FIFA Street 2

For: PSP   Also on: DS, Mobile

Take the skill out of soccer and you get Wimbledon circa 1980, but what happens when you take the soccer out of skill?

Product: FIFA Street 2 | Developer: HB Studios | Publisher: Electronic Arts | Format: PSP | Genre: Action, Sports | Players: 1-2
 
FIFA Street 2 PSP, thumbnail 1
When the mighty Eric 'Kung Fu' Cantona announced he was departing football to become an actor, football fans were understandably shocked, yet they were prepared to give the collared one a chance. When he subsequently declared himself an ambassador for beach football, however, the response was much less forgiving. The prospect of Le God treading the boards rather than the turf was one thing, but hanging up his boots for a kick about on the sand just seemed too demeaning – why couldn't he play proper football?

We recognise the sentiment because it's precisely the way we felt upon encountering FIFA Street 2. Mere seconds into our first four-player match-up our inner footie fan started asking questions. What on earth had EA done to the beautiful game? Where were all our familiar teams? Where were the subtleties of strategy and intricate passing? For that matter, where were all the other players? This wasn't the game we knew and loved!

After playing for another 20 minutes we realised our initial suspicions had been spot on. Despite its gratuitous employment of some 320 pro-footballers, this isn't football as we know it; in fact, it's barely in the same stadium.

With its focus on showy skills, frequent and repetitive goal-scoring and short, sharp matches, the experience has far more in common with US sports such as basketball than our own beautiful game. Only when you begin to accept that fact (and it took us a good half-hour) are you likely to gain any real joy from FIFA Street 2. And there is definitely joy to be had for those prepared to make the leap of faith.

The control system, though far simpler than in most sports sims, is well suited to both the PSP and a playing experience that favours quick reactions and flowing rhythm over strategy. Indeed, rhythm is something of a key theme here, with matches being backed by pumping techno, jungle and samba tracks that become an integral part of the experience.

There are subtleties to be mastered, too. The shooting system, which requires simultaneous control of the shooter's movement and the picking of a spot in the net, certainly takes some getting used to and you'll increasingly want to use the analogue pad to trigger specific tricks rather than simply jab the triangle button in hope of a useful 'beat' move.

Successfully combine these elements (either by luck or judgement) and the results are some truly stunning soccer moments, with players flicking one-touch passes off back-heels and shoulders, shimmying past defenders and turning to volley a cross beyond the keeper. Despite their frequency, these moves rarely lose their ability to exhilarate, especially in close-fought matches, and are only slightly dampened by the rather bizarre lack of an action replay (instead you get a close-up of the scorer's head – hmm).

Although the action is served in short bursts, there's a good few hours' play on offer if you're up for it. Whilst one-on-one encounters, an international tourney and a host of skill-sharpening mini-games provide some tasty hors d'oeuvres, it's the 'Rule the Street' mode that forms the main course. Kicking off with a team of comparative no-hopers, including your own tailor-made avatar, your task is to trot around the globe whipping 12 progressively skilful sets of local lads and simultaneously honing or recruiting a team of world-beaters. This improvement is facilitated by the use of points awarded for your performance, which can either be invested in increasing your own stats, spent as entry fees to cup competitions, or gambled on gaining new squad members whose team you have to beat to secure their services.

Whilst there's no wi-fi infrastructure option to take on the rest of the world for real, the addition of an ad-hoc match-up mode does add a little more variety with clever combos and 'skill-cancelling' tackles coming to the fore.

FIFA Street 2 undeniably has plenty of rough edges: the AI is often bewilderingly slow to react and far too susceptible to being shoved off the ball; the player pimping options seem, frankly, a little pointless (we'd rather have had more tricks than more t-shirts), and the repetitive nature of the matches are unlikely to encourage prolonged sessions.

However, these sound-backed snatches of soccer do make perfect fodder for shorter pocket gaming breaks. So, whilst we love 'real football' as much as the next fan, we can't help feeling rather glad that there's space for this, too. What's more, we're sure a certain Frenchman would have felt the same!

FIFA Street 2 is on sale now.
 
FIFA Street 2
Reviewer photo
Chris James | 27 March 2006
It's not the beautiful game but it is pretty good fun nevertheless
 
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Aegis2006 | 06:42 - 31 October 2006
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