It’s popular and easy to hate EA right now. Between buying 20% of Ubisoft, locking up exclusive rights to the NFL for the next couple of years and purchasing the rights to the ESPN logo for the next 15 years EA’s a hard company to love. So it’s with a bit of trepidation that I review one of their latest games and admit that I like it.
Last year EA released the first version of NFL Street
, it was a solid, fun game that lacked some depth and a replay feature. For the sequel, EA has added a ton of new game play modes, an instant replay mode, and a new set of plays and moves for gamers to master.
If you didn’t play the first game here’s a quick primer on NFL Street football. The game itself is closer to regulation flag football rather than traditional American football. Rather than eleven players a side each team is composed of seven players. It’s a nice setup and you really don’t miss the extra offensive lineman and the field is a lot smaller.
The first thing you’ll notice when you fire the game up is that the game searches your Xbox hard drive for Madden save games. Why? Because if you have a Madden save games you get extra points added to your account to start off with. I guess this is a nice little bonus for gamers to encourage people to buy other franchise but it still feels a bit creepy. The second thing that you’ll notice is that EA has added a lot of new game modes to the game. In the original game there were only three game play modes which while deep, didn’t really provide a lot of replay value once you beat the core of the game. EA corrected this problem by adding several new game modes.
The first is “Own the City” where you create a player and then play through games to “Own” that part of the city. These games consist of standard NFL street games, 4 on 4 games, and a few of the other mini-games. After each event you win (and you have to win to progress) you’ll be able to select a new teammate. This is critical as you’ll need to add teammates to compete in some of the event further on in the series. Winning events will also reward you with development points and credits which can be used to increase the stats of your player and increase the style of your player respectively. Of course EA took this opportunity to “allow” you to purchase branded merchandise so you’ll be able to shop at the Reebok store as well as a host of other branded shops. Nothing like being beaten over the head with it but if you want to customize your players with real life gear it’s all there for you. The one thing that I didn’t like was that you can only increase the skills of the player you create and not those of the players you pickup.
The NFL Challenge mode has you trying to assemble a seven man team to play against at touring group of NFL players. This mode is a little similar to the Own the City mode but it’s nice to play the names you know and love/hate.
The final big mode will be familiar to players of the first game. In the NFL Gauntlet mode you select one NFL team and then use them to take on every other NFL team out there. Depending on what team you take this could be pretty easy (Patriots/Eagles) or very hard (Browns/49’ers). This is a nice mode if you want to play with the superstars of the league (and since this is an EA title it’s the only place you’ll see them).
The game does a great job of getting you into the game with a fantastic tutorial hosted by “Pimp My Ride” host Xzibit (is this guy everywhere or what?). It's pretty good at walking you through the ins and outs of the running and passing game as well as showing you how to use all of the new moves. A nice feature of the tutorials is that you don’t have to complete them to move on. After a few times through one of the tutorials the game gives you the option to continue. This helps as I ran into a few interesting quirks with some of the tutorials which prevented me from successfully completing them. Well they were more bugs than quirks but it’s nice to be able to skip some of the items none-the-less.
The two new modes also complement a host of new mini-games such as the open field game where you can go one on one or two on two with another team. The two on two variant is especially nice since you can lateral the back and forth. Another cool mini-game has you fighting against several other players for control of one football. Players score points while they hold or when they tackle the player with the ball. Bonus points can be earned by pulling off style moves while you have the ball and for getting a turbo tackle on the ball carrier. This can be a little frantic but it’s a nice little party game.
In addition to the new mini-games and modes EA has added a ton of cool new moves for players to pull off during the game. While the wall walking moves are a little derivative (*cough*Prince of Persia*cough) they do add a lot to the game. Besides walking on the walls you can also use the walls to hurdle over tackles, jump off them to make catches and even use them as a way to jump into the end zone. I was a little skeptical of these at first but after pulling in an a catch while airborne over a defender I was hooked. The moves actually make sense within the context of the game and add a lot of fun and excitement. The controls are setup so that it’s just hard enough to pull off to not completely ruin the flow of the game.NFL Street Vol 2
also updates the Game breaker system. For those who didn’t play the original, you earn points by pulling off style moves and for certain defensive actions (such as sacking the QB or intercepting a pass). These points fill up your Game breaker meter which when full allows you to unleash a Game breaker. Game breakers are near impossible to stop on offense and nearly impossible to score on when they are playing defense. This year EA has added a second Game breaker bar so that if you want to unleash an uber move on offense or defense you can save up for a completely unstoppable play. It’s a nice incentive to save up but unfortunately you’re stuck with the same play and cut-scene every time you reach the double Game breaker.
Another adjustment to the Game breaker system is that meter goes down while the gamebreaker is being used, this means that skilled players may actually be able to play around the Game breaker and drain it away rather than just waiting for the ball to change hands. It’s a nice tweak and helps balance out the game a bit.
EA also added hotspots to the field, when you hit one of the hot spots you earn Gamebreaker points or unlock new players depending on the mode. It’s a nice touch and since they are all on the walls of the stadiums you’ll be forced to use your new moves to hit them.
The graphics haven’t been upgraded too much but they still look snazzy. The level of detail popping from the first game is gone and there’s an extra polish to all of the levels. The levels all look a lot better than the first game and there’s a lot more going on in the background.
A lot of the sounds from the first game are back as well as some new ones. The trash talking isn’t as prevalent as the first game which is a welcome change. Not that it was bad but it got repetitive quickly.
The sound track for the game is excellent and EA has done a great job of putting together a very listenable collection of music. If you don’t like something you can always remove it from the playlist which is a nice feature carried over from last year. NFL Streets 2
is exactly what you would expect from a sequel. It addresses the deficiencies of the first game and evolves the game play to the next level. By my rough count EA doubled the depth of the game and is still charging you the same price. Now that they have a monopoly on NFL rights it will be interesting to see if they rest on their laurels next year or if they actually add more innovation to the title.
The game is everything a sequel should be, an extension of the original with a heaping of new game play modes.