NFL Street 2 Hands-On
Find out what's so "off-the-wall" about EA Sports Big's newest street football title.
What do you get when you put Randy Moss, Brian Urlacher, and Xzibit all in the same game? NFL Street 2, of course. The football offering combines an over-the-top mix of hard-hitting arcade gameplay with a hip, urban flare. We recently sat down with the latest build of NFL Street 2, which is due for release almost one year after its predecessor NFL Street, to both take a look at the game's features and get a feel for how the back-alley seven-on-seven action is progressing. With around two months to go before its release, the game looks to build on the success of the first offering in the series.
The game's hip, inner-city feel permeates every aspect of the title, from the gear worn by the players, to the urban playing fields on which the games take place, to the soundtrack's volatile mix of hip-hop and driving rock, to the ever-present smack talk. It's all designed to further the style first perfected in the NBA Street basketball series. NFL Street 2's environments accurately convey that "pickup game" feel that's so important to the Street series, where games take place anywhere there's enough room to play, regardless of location.
While the stadiums, such as they are, have a fairly realistic look to them, NFL Street's player models pretty much throw realism out the window in favor of a more exaggerated superdeformed look that's designed to make the players appear as imposing as possible. Players such as LaDanian Tomlinson and Priest Holmes appear as hulking beasts in NFL Street 2. Even the more lithe players in the game, such as Randy Moss, have a menacing appearance to them, with massive muscles and severely shaped heads. Another fun graphical touch involves the players' clothing choices. Some players are geared up in their actual team jerseys, while others might be shirtless, with only a pair of team-colored shorts on. Allowing for each player's individuality, while still paying homage to the team he plays on, is a nice touch.
It's all about controlling turf in NFL Street 2 through its own the city mode. Here you'll be asked to create a custom character and then lead a team of fellow extreme footballers in a series of matches against rival teams in a particular city block. Win this series of challenges and you gain control of that area of town. Then you move on to your next set of opponents, with the ultimate goal of commanding football supremacy of the entire city. After choosing a name, logo, and team colors for your created team, you move on to your created character. Here you can choose attributes, such as face and hairstyle, as well as physical characteristics, such as height, speed, throwing, strength, catching, and more. Furthermore, you can hook your player up with some much-needed football gear. Each physical attribute costs points to improve, including height and weight, which means that to create an effective wide receiver, you'll need to forgo some catching and speed ability for some important height improvements. The game also has a wide variety of gear choices for your team members, which you can purchase in the store using credits earned from wins.
The challenges found in a particular city zone range from traditional games against rival opponents to some newly introduced game styles, including an addictive variation on the old playground classic "Kill the Man With the Ball." The idea is simple. You rack up points by maintaining possession of the ball while avoiding everyone else who's intent on tackling you and grabbing the rock for himself. Running around the playing field with multiple guys chasing you, avoiding tackles, and liberally mashing the turbo button is an enjoyable diversion from the main form of football found in the game.
Success in the game's own the street mode not only pays off in the form of credits for use in the NFL Street 2 store, but also in additional teammates to choose from. You'll be able to choose from a number of available players to both boost your total roster and give you a wider variety of choices when it comes to picking who will take the field with you come game time.
A New Twist on a Familiar Formula
Other variations on the tried-and-true football formula include the jump ball battle, the open-field showdown, the two-minute challenge, four-on-four football, and quick strike. In the jump ball battle, the goal is to grab the most passes from NFL quarterbacks. The receiver with the lowest reception total in each round is eliminated, leading ultimately to a one-on-one matchup. The open-field showdown pits your created player against another NFL star in a one-on-one possession matchup, which is similar to the rushing attack minigame found in Madden NFL 2005. Each player gets the ball once per round and attempts to reach the end zone. Your goal is to score touchdowns and prevent your opponent from doing the same. At the end of five rounds, the player with the most touchdowns wins. The four-on-four game mode and the two-minute challenge are self-explanatory, while the quick strike mode is similar to the overtime rules in college football, where both sides get a chance to put the ball in the end zone. The game ends when one team both racks up a touchdown and prevents the opponent from scoring.
On the field, the game plays much the same as its predecessor, so huge air passes, miraculous under-the-leg catches, and bull-rush runs are the order of the day. A simplified playbook makes choosing plays a snap, because offensive options are clearly divided between run plays, passes, and trick plays (which include reverses and play-action passes). On the other side of the ball, you can choose to defend your opponent with tactics designed to stop running plays, short passes, or long passes. Those familiar with the standard running controls in Madden will be right at home with NFL Street 2, because the spin and hurdle controls are similar to those found in the NFL simulation.
In NFL Street 2, just as in the original, there's more to winning than simply scoring more points than your opponent. You've also got to win with style. In addition to the points you rack up with touchdowns and extra points, you'll also want to collect plenty of style points. These style points are earned in a variety of ways, from scoring touchdowns, to making big tackles, to running or catching the ball with flair, which is usually accomplished by pressing the corresponding "style" button during play. One particularly effective style technique involves the newly introduced wall jump technique, which has you stepping off walls to leapfrog over your opponents on your way to the end zone. Perform a wall jump (or tackle) in one of the designated "hot spot" wall zones and you'll earn even more points.
As you collect style points, you'll fill up a pair of status bars. Fill a bar completely and you'll earn a gamebreaker option, which can give your team a brief performance boost with the press of a button. Fill up both status bars, and gain the newly introduced gamebreaker 2, which is essentially a gamebreaker on steroids. Unlike a typical gamebreaker play, where you have control over your amped-up player, gamebreaker 2 plays unfold in preset animations, over which you have no control. However, they do always work well in your favor. Use a gamebreaker 2 on defense, for example, and you'll watch as your linebacker nails a running back in stride, wrestles the ball away from him, and heads down the field for a fumble-recovered touchdown. It takes a while to earn enough style points for a gamebreaker 2 play, but the rewards are usually well worth it.
Two other modes make appearances in the game with NFL challenge and NFL gauntlet. The NFL challenge has you completing a number of different objectives, in game situations, to earn development points for your team. These challenges include things like scoring while using only running plays, preventing your opponent from scoring during a game, or scoring a certain amount of style points in a single play. The NFL gauntlet mode has you challenging each team in the NFL to a street game, with unlockable extras rewarded for wins. Other extras include the appearances of classic NFL stars, such as Randall Cunningham, who become available to you as you play the game.
The game's music soundtrack includes a typically in-your-face mix of hip-hop and alternative offerings that feature such artists as Mase, Drowning Pool, The Explosion, Planet Asia, and the game's tutorial host, Xzibit. Smack talk is plentiful on the field, and the hits sound punchy and painful.
NFL Street 2 looks to be a nice evolution of the popular formula that drove the first game in the series. With dynamic character models, fast-paced, over-the-top plays, and a sense of style all its own, the game's "don't fix what isn't broken" concept seems to be shaping into another solid entry in the series. We'll have more coverage of NFL Street 2 when it is released early next year.
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