Fun under the sun. That's probably the sort of feeling that Electronic Arts aimed at bringing out with FIFA Street 3; however, the game unfortunately doesn't completely deliver that sort of experience. At first glance, FIFA Street 3 faithfully replicates the atmosphere of outdoor street soccer with its bright arenas and upbeat soundtrack, coupled with flashy fast-paced futsal. But underneath the highly stylized appearance, there's a lack of gameplay depth which ultimately cuts down the game's longevity.

This is not to say that the game isn't fun or the gameplay is horrible; in fact the controls are great and matches are refreshingly intense. However, FIFA Street 3 lacks certain elements and game modes that make other soccer games so much fun to play for extended periods of time. The game has got a few things going for itself, but ultimately, for all its pluses there are an equal number of minuses.

FIFA Street 3's strongest asset is its vibrant visuals. The characters are quite detailed and modeled in cartoony caricature forms which exaggerate a famous footballer's most notorious facial features. Take Wayne Rooney for example, it's always a blast looking at his ugly mug. Arena environments are beautiful, but with only seven arenas in total and none to unlock, their appeal may wear off pretty quickly.

While the quantity of play venues is lacking, the in-game music tracks are an interesting mix tape of dance-inducing rhythms. The music is a perfect match to the game's play style as this soccer game is all about trick plays, juggling, and fancy footwork. The music, ranging from electronica to samba, really helps emphasize the game's style of encouraging players to dance and "flow" rhythmically with the ball. Having a good song play during a match can actually turn a regular gamer into a better player as they might find themselves working along with the music. With that said, it might've also been fun if EA had allowed the player to run music stored on the hard drive during matches.

The controls for the game are solid and intuitive; just a few minutes in practice mode, or an actual match, and you'll practically be a pro. The game also supports the DualShock 3's rumble feedback; so if you've got an imported controller or just waiting for a local release, be assured you'll be able to feel the subtle in-game vibrations.

The matches themselves are quick and aggressive due to the smaller-sized arenas. The action is back and forth and leaves gamers little time to plan out strategies, as there will always be someone in your face. The fact that there is not a single referee to be found in the game means that it's perfectly fine to make normally illegal tackles and get away with them.

There are some neat tricks that can be done with the environment; for example, players can pass the ball in an unorthodox manner by kicking it against the wall, essentially making plays more dynamic and unpredictable. Also, players can run along the walls to slip past their opponents. At times, there is a noticeable slow down during heated parts of a match, but they are considerably minor; they feel more like an intentional slow motion effect rather than a disruptive graphical hiccup, and can even be mistaken for such incidences that actually appear in the game.

Each match has a different objective. These objectives range from the regular timed matches to winning by a certain score difference. While these objectives attempt to change the gameplay experience, they don't really achieve that end since these newer matches are essentially the same game of footie with a slight twist. Instead, they only serve to modify gameplay length, as most matches are not timed and completely dependent on who reaches 'x' amount of goals first. These other objectives include: first to reach 'x' amount of goals, win by 'x' number of headers/volleys only, and win by 'x' number of gamebreaker goals.

Speaking of gamebreaker, it's a sort of hyper mode where all your teammates get a short boost raising their stats to maximum. To get into gamebreaker mode, players need to fill up their gamebreaker gauge by doing one of two things: perform drags with the right analog stick or juggles with the triangle button. When it fills up, press R1 and the team will be upgraded to gamebreaker status; however, the gauge will start to deplete and the advantage ends when the gauge fully empties. This is actually quite a smart way of rewarding players who like playing around with more advanced and flashy moves.

Another strategic element is the special icon indicating certain abilities that some soccer stars have. These icons are located at the right of a star's name on the squad selection screen. Abilities like "enforcer" mean they're exceptionally good defenders, and "finishers" are great goal scorers. Unfortunately, these abilities only subtly affect the actual gameplay since matches are so fast and relatively cramped compared to standard-sized fields; everyone on the pitch will be running out of formation anyway and will end up performing different tasks other than their assigned roles.

As for the game modes, an interesting one is "playground picks." This mode lets you and an opponent choose players one by one from the same squad. It's an interesting idea that mimics the feeling of after-school matches, giving the casual "street" feeling that FS3 is going for.

The game supports the usual fair of online content with individual rankings, leaderboards, career stats, et al. Probably the most interesting part of online gameplay is the "world challenge" mode, where national teams get ranked weekly; anyone can join in and take their national team to the top of the ranks. The only snag is that FIFA Street 3 only has eighteen national teams, which kind of makes the global aspect of "world challenge" slightly less of what it's suggesting to be.

In-game unlockables are probably the weakest part of this game. There are no new arenas or even footballs to unlock, and the only things that can be unlocked are 23 uncustomizable street teams. To unlock these teams, gamers will have to play through the "FIFA street challenge" mode -- a bare-bones mode with only nine challenges. Each challenge, however, has a certain number of rounds with different objectives; all objectives must be cleared in order to beat the challenge. If you lose one of the match rounds, you can use one out of three continues to keep on going; however, if you run out of continues ... you'll get a game over screen (imagine that, a game over screen in a sports game!), lose all your progress, and will have to start the challenge all over again from round one. Sorry cheaters, you can't start then quit a match you're losing in order to save one continue; you could probably do so by turning the PS3 off ... but we didn't try because we're not cheaters.

The disappointing unlockables raises questions to other missing features that would've gone great in this game: creating custom players and teams. Even just the ability to edit currently included players would've been welcome. A career mode would sort of be out of place, but it would've definitely given FIFA Street 3 better replayability. The single player experience is quite dry after several hours of play; however, the multi-player aspect is the real reason for getting this game. FIFA Street 3 is a party game meant to be enjoyed by many players fighting it out in short grueling matches. However, we can't really say how much fun the game will be after the party is over ...


PS3 Fanboy Score 6.5

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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