NFL Street

NFL Street

Written by Charles Husemann on 2/16/2004 for Xbox  

Before I get into the review, I need to tell you that I’m an old school football guy. I’m not a fan of all this crap with cell phones, sharpies, and pre-printed signs in the end zone. I’m a “toss the ball to the ref and pretend that I’ve been there” kind of guy. Sack dances? Please, you don’t see the lineman getting up and doing a pancake dance do you? With that out of the way, I will admit I’m a big fan of big bone-crushing hits, jukes that leave defenders staring into space, and blinding speed. When EA Big announced NFL Street, I was interested to see how much different this game would be from Midway’s classic NFL Hitz series. While the there are some similarities, NFL Street brings some new concepts to the table.

NFL Street is not your standard football game. It’s a seven on seven affair where all of the players play offense and defense. The game leaves out special teams play so you don’t have to worry about being held back by having a kicker on your team (there are certainly times I wish the NFL had this setup…seriously, don’t you hate it when a hard-fought game is determined by a kicker?). The other big change is how first downs are handled. Rather than gaining a first down and then only having to go another ten yards, there are specific first down markers on each field. So if you complete a long pass down the field, you could run past two first down markers and end up with only four downs to put it in the end zone. If you’ve ever played adult flag football, you know what I’m talking about. This took a bit of time getting used to and certainly adds something of a strategic element to the game. This combined with the clack of special teams is a double-edged sword though as you’re hosed if you don’t get that first, first down. Between this and how first downs are handled (more on that later), the battle for field position is critical to the game.

The main emphasis is style. The game reeks of it and in order to succeed at the game you’ll have to swallow your old school roots and embrace the culture of the game. Style points are earned by pulling off style moves. These moves range from taunting your opponents to pulling off offensive style moves on runs, passes, and laterals. You can also earn style points on defense by making big defensive plays (sacks, interceptions, stopping a runner for a loss). The style points fill up your GameBreaker meter and once you’ve filled it (around 100,000 style points) you’ll earn a GameBreaker. GameBreakers turn your selected player into an unstoppable football maniac. You will retain your GameBreaker until the possession changes. If you’re on offense, you’re going to score and if you’re on defense you’re probably going to get a turnover or stop your opponent. Another option is to hold onto your GameBreaker and use it to nullify a GameBreaker that your opponent earns. This is helpful if you’re beating a team and want to ensure that they don’t switch momentum in the latter stages of a game. It’s also a great way to annoy the person you’re playing, as it creates a bit of suspension as to when you’re going to use it.

The only downside to the focus on style is that it creates some awkward moments. Sure you expect to see Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Joe Horn styling down the side line but it’s a bit much to see Jeff Garcia and Jon Kitna taunting you when they pull off a big play. I actually managed to unlock Walter Payton and I could hear him spinning in his grave when I performed a taunt before scoring a touchdown. There are some not quite as showy moves, which should help those who, like me, aren’t big on this side of the game.NFL Street offers you a few different game play modes to strut your stuff in. The first is a quick play mode where you pick an NFL team and face another team on the field of your choosing. The second mode is a pickup mode where you are offered a random selection of NFL players and you and your opponent pick your players from that selection. It’s a bit of a crap shoot as sometimes you get some really good players and other times you get stuck having to choose between Kelly Holcomb and Jay Fielder for your quarterback. A nice touch is that you have the option of playing for style points or playing for who scores the most points. When you score a touchdown, you have the option of passing for two points or running the ball for one (kind of the anti-Cyberball). The defense can return

However, the core of the game is the NFL Challenge mode where you create your own team to go up against NFL teams in a series of challenges and tournaments. You start off with a basic set of players and some development points to improve your players. The key is to remember that since all players play both sides of the game you have to have players with both skill sets equally developed. The skill sets are broken out into various categories (passing, speed, running strength, catching, tacking, coverage) so you can customize your team to your style of game play. You can also alter the weight and height of your players. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t really explain how the three are linked. I’m assuming that heavier players are harder to tackle but I can’t tell you for sure if it is true.

Once you have your team assembled, you can try and earn more development points by trying out some of the challenges. Each challenge costs you a certain amount of team points and the more points you spend the higher the reward. Rewards come in the form of development points, specialized gear (some of which amplifies a specific player attribute), new offensive/defensive plays, and NFL players. Some of the challenges are easy, such as beating a team to 24 points but some of them are very difficult, such as having to stop a team with a GameBreaker from scoring. There are a decent variety of challenges but once you get towards the end you will start to feel like you’ve played some of them before.

Once you’ve exhausted all of your team points, it’s time to try the NFL Ladders. The ladders force you to play all of the teams for one division in the NFL. When you beat all of the teams, you have to play a division all star team composed of the best players from the division. What’s the point of this? The first thing is you’ll earn 800 team points for challenges and the second is you can unlock another division full of challenges and another ladder. It’s a pretty decent system where the challenges feed the ladder and vice versa. This creates kind of a just one more game thing and I caught myself staying up to about 2 a.m. on a number of occasions to try and beat a team to earn more points. Upon beating all of the divisions, you’ll play the NFL All-star team which features such NFL greats as Barry Sanders, Walter Payton, Ronnie Lot and a few others. When you beat them, you get to choose one of the players for you team which is pretty cool but forces a tough decision about which player to take.The graphics in NFL Street are excellent and provide the right level of pseudo-realism to match the game play. Players are a bit out of proportion but it matches the feel of the game very well. You also have the option to customize the appearance of your player right down to the tattoo's on their arms. I guess I would question the need to play dress up with my football team but that's just me. An option to sync all of the players on your team up to the same gear setup would have been nice but that's just my anal-retentive side showing.

Football isn't much of a game without a place to play and the 8 stadiums (XX Verify XX) are very well done. You play on everything from a sandy beach to the top of a building. Each stadium usually has a few items that you can interact with (there are barrels in the warehouse stadium and gulls and beach balls on the beach field.

The game animations are tight. I never had the game drop any frames even when there was a lot of action on screen. The player movement is fluid and the developers did a great job with the various style moves. The animations are perfect. They even did a great job with the offensive and defensive line animations (I loved the hop move where your player pushes the other player down and hops over them to go after the QB).

I did have a few small problems with the graphics. The first is that at times it was hard to figure out where the ball was (especially in some of the scrums around a fumble). While this is realistic, it would have been nice to have a circle or something around the ball to make it a little easier to find when it was on the ground. The second is that the game lowers the level of detail on the players when you zoom the camera all the way back. It's small and petty but it annoyed me to no end since it seemed unnecessary (there's no movement since you can only zoom back pre-snap). My final gripe is that when you use your GameBreaker the screen darkens a bit (like the sky darkening for a thunderstorm). This works great for the daylight stadiums but it makes things a bit difficult to see when you are playing in one of the night stadiums.

Whether you like the music or not in NFL Street largely depends on what kind of music you like. If you like rap music, then you'll probably dig the majority of the menu music in the game (which also feature some songs exclusive to the game as well as a few decent rock tunes). The game allows you to de-select, which tunes are played in the menus and you can use music that you've copied over to your Xbox.

The in game sounds are solid. There are good visceral crunches and hitting noises in the game and the constant trash talk doesn't get old right away (but it does get old eventually, you can only hear "I've got internet stocks in better shape than you" so many times). The trash talk in the game is a nice touch and further enhances the street football concept of the game. For the most part, it's also situation specific (recognizing Gamebreakers, down and distance, previous plays, and game winning drives) but there were times it was a bit out of place (I shouldn't hear comments on my inability to run the ball after running it down the throat of the team on the last play). The "chatter" also breaks down the fourth wall a bit ("It's not me it's the guy controlling me" or "You know there's a turbo button"). The only negative with the chatter is that the game will occasionally play two or more sequences at the same time and that all of the dialog sounds like it comes from three, maybe four different people. I left it on because every time I was about to turn it off I would hear a new comment that I got a chuckle out of. It would be cool to get some banter going back and forth between the players during a game but that's something for the next version.The controls in NFL Street are tight and intuitive. You control your player with the left thumbstick, while the left trigger controls the style moves and the right handles turbo. The rest of the buttons depend on which side of the ball you are on. On offense, the A button snaps the ball, passes to a receiver (for pass plays) or performs a stiff arm (if you are running the ball). When you're running the ball, the X button handles hurdling and diving (when combined with the left trigger) while the B button handles the juke moves. Both are used as receiver buttons when you are passing the ball. The Y button is used to pump fake a pass (when successful earns you "Chump fell for the Pump" style points). Pre-snap (on offense and defense) you can pull the left trigger to call an audible and then press any direction on the D-pad to switch routes/defensive coverage. On defense, the A button allows you to perform a defensive move (which allows you to get around a offensive block). The X button allows you to perform a diving tackle and when coupled with the left trigger allows you to run at the player and tackle which increases the chance of knocking the ball loose (the downside is that your player moves in a straight line and if you miss the guy that is probably going to take it to the house). The only thing I really had a problem with figuring out was how to recover fumbles (the X button does this). It’s not covered in the manual and it took a bit of trial and error to figure out.

All in all NFL Street is a pretty solid football game that will provide many hours of entertainment. The big downer for Xbox owners is that there is no Xbox live support so unless you’ve got a girlfriend who plays or live with some buddies your multiplayer options are really limited. Cyril has the PS2 version and reports that the online play for the game is great and really adds a lot to the game. I did enjoy my time with the game and if you like arcade football games you owe it to yourself to at least rent this game.
A solid arcade football game that provides decent bang for the buck. The single player game is solid but Xbox owners will have to wonder what could have been if EA had provided Xbox Live support.

Rating: 8.3 Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Hi, my name is Charles Husemann and I've been gaming for longer than I care to admit. For me it's always been about competing and a burning off stress. It started off simply enough with Choplifter and Lode Runner on the Apple //e, then it was the curse of Tank and Yars Revenge on the 2600. The addiction subsided somewhat until I went to college where dramatic decreases in my GPA could be traced to the release of X:Com and Doom.   I have been a Microsoft Xbox MVP since 2009.
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