NFL Street 3 Hands-On

Are you going or throwing? We check out the third version of EA Sports' arcade football game.


Shaun Alexander can leap 10 feet in the air in NFL Street 3. Not only that, but when he's in midair he's liable to break into a spin or flip, all in the name of avoiding the tackle and moving the ball forward. Sure, moves like that probably aren't surprising for the NFL Street series, which has been virtually defining the arcade football genre for a few years now. What's interesting in the third NFL Street game is how much control you have over the crazy aerial moves found in the game. It's all part of EA Sports' commitment to bringing the Street series back under the control of the person playing the game. During today's EA summer press event we got a chance to see how the game is shaping up.

Take the aforementioned jump moves, for example. After you press the jump button when controlling the player with the ball, your player will leap high into the air. By flicking the right analog stick in any direction, you can pull off a number of different moves, such as flips and twists, in order to evade your pursuers. A simple jump is enough to evade a tackle, but once you toss in the special moves, you'll make real progress toward the first down line and make the defenders look silly trying to stop you. When controlling the quarterback, you'll be able to pull off crazy moves, such as bouncing off a wall, doing a flip, and then tossing the ball to an open receiver. It seems that the gameplay will let you be as creative as your fingers will allow in order to score points on the field.

Game breakers, too, are under your control in NFL Street 3. If you played NFL Street 2, you'll recall that the ultimate game breakers took control of the action on the field away from you and forced you to watch a brief cutscene that basically turned your teammates into football gods. Sure it was nice to get a guaranteed score (or defensive stop) for your hard-earned game breaker, but it also felt like you weren't in control of what was going on. That has changed for NFL Street 3. Once you've earned a game breaker token (by earning style points on the field, of course), you will be able to initiate a game breaker move. Any move your player can perform using the game's normal controls is instantly transformed into a game breaker move by mixing in the L2 modifier on the PlayStation 2 controller. A game breaker jump, for example, vaults your player high in the air, and when he comes back to earth, the shock wave flattens every defender in the area, giving you an open look toward the end zone.

Of course, game breakers aren't just for offensive players. When using a game breaker on defense, you'll have access to special moves, such as lock-on tackles, which will let you more or less instantly grab a ball carrier, and lock-on interceptions, which are exactly what they sound like. While game breakers are still certain to be deadly effective when activated, it's nice to see that they will now require a measure of skill in order to be completely effective.

In terms of game modes, NFL Street 3 will include exhibition, online, and the single-player "respect the street" mode. Exhibition games will feature a number of different game types, some of which are new for the series. One of the coolest new game modes is playbook elimination, which gives both teams 10 plays in their playbook. Each time you call a play that results in a negative outcome--a dropped pass, a sack, a stuff behind the line on a run play--that play is removed from your playbook, and you'll have one less choice when it comes time to pick your next play. Another mode, bank, will let you steal all your opponent's accumulated style points if you score on your opponent, putting you that much closer to earning another game-changing game breaker icon. "Defensive scoring" mode will award the team that plays the best defense, while time attack gives you one minute to score per possession; your team banks the remaining time, and the team with the most time at the end of the game wins. Many of the minigames found in last year's game are here in Street 3 as well, including crush the carrier, jump ball battle, and four-on-four games.

The biggest single-player mode in NFL Street 3, however, is known as "respect the street." It's a takeoff on Street 2's "own the street" mode, only this time you won't necessarily be playing for territory; instead, you'll be playing for respect. How much respect your created team earns will affect the different types of teams you face, as well as the different ways you play the game. Earn enough cred, for example, and you'll be able to set special conditions in your games--such as spotting the other team points--in order to earn even more respect for pulling out the victory. Another side effect of piling up respect is that you'll earn new plays for your playbook.

NFL Street 3 will feature 10 stadium types to play in, a blend of indoor and outdoor fields that feature a good deal more variety than in previous games in the series. We played games in an abandoned airplane hangar in Texas, for example, and other games take place on a Washington DC subway. Weather effects will also be in the game, so you'll be able to play games in rain, snow, fog, or haze, which will almost certainly have an effect on how the game plays.

Instead of kicking off after a touchdown, you'll be tossing the ball, just like you did during pickup games when you were a kid. You'll be able to throw to whichever player on the opposite team you wish by simply aiming your toss. Here's a tip: Aim for the big, bulky offensive lineman. To counter this, your opponent might mix up his formations on the return to keep things confusing for you; you'll also be able to mix up your personnel in your offensive and defensive formations to keep things fresh.

With online play and a host of real-life NFL players to compete with and against, NFL Street 3 looks to be another fast-paced arcade score-fest, with a couple of new twists. The game is coming out in November for the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable, and we'll be bringing you more in the months ahead.

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