After a nearly two-year hiatus, EA Tiburon is bringing the NFL Street series back with NFL Street 3, currently in development for both the PlayStation 2 and the PlayStation Portable. We were able to spend some time with a nearly complete build of the PlayStation 2 version, and from what we've seen, EA has focused on improving the little things, rather than making any sweeping changes that could alienate fans of the series.
A common complaint about NFL Street 2 was that gamebreakers were almost guaranteed touchdowns, leaving you as a spectator during what was supposed to be the most exciting part of the game. No longer is that the case. The six offensive and two defensive gamebreakers have been totally redone, and while they still provide an immediate, tangible boost, their effectiveness has been toned down, and they'll require some skill if you're to make it to the end zone. On the offensive side of the ball we got to check out a bullet pass, which knocks anyone in the ball's path out of the way, and the double-jump, where the ball carrier leaps high into the air and slams to the ground, knocking over everyone in the immediate area. On defense we witnessed the lock-on gamebreaker, where the defensive player took off like a guided missile toward the quarterback as soon as the ball was snapped. There's also an increased focus on aerial moves. You can jump off of walls at any point, use on-field obstacles as leverage to leap an opponent, and even pull off style moves while in the air by using the right stick.
One of the coolest new play modes is playbook elimination. The game begins like any other, but with a slight twist. You and your opponent each have a limited amount of plays, and these plays can be lost for good if you throw an incompletion or gain negative yardage. This makes for some intense action at the end of the game, when your only play left is a wide receiver reverse and your opponent knows what's coming.
Chad Johnson and Clinton Portis host the single-player respect the street mode. They give you a quick speech about earning respect, and then it's off to California, where you'll start out with a team of scrubs. As you win, your players will improve and you'll earn respect, which opens up new plays. Eventually you will take on new teams in Colorado, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, New York, Washington, DC, Georgia, and Florida. Each field has distinguishing features based on its location. Washington, DC's level is underground in the subway, and Illinois' takes place under the tracks of the El train, which rumbles past overhead. New weather effects come into play in New York, where it's snowing, and in Florida, where you'll find yourself in the midst of a rainstorm. The weather isn't just for show, either. Players will slip and slide in the elements, making an already unpredictable game even more so.
We have seen only a handful of the new celebrations and taunts, but so far, they're great. We witnessed one player reeling in another like a fish, a player lying on the ground making snow angels after a big play, and another player pretending the ball was a chainsaw, pulling the starter cord, and "cutting" another player down like a tree. Other than the new weather effects and the slightly more realistic-looking players, the rest of the visuals appear to be largely unchanged. We did get to take a look at the final soundtrack, which is a fitting mix of 15 hip-hop and hark rock tunes from Rob Zombie, Megadeth, Sam Rhansum, Korn, Hatebreed, BG, Fong Sai U, and more.
EA doesn't appear to be making any sweeping changes to the NFL Street formula; rather, it has spent its time refining the gameplay that has proven so popular in the first two games. We'll find out for sure on November 15, when the game hits stores. For more on how NFL Street 3 is shaping up, see our previous hands-on coverage.