Well, it's taken some time but it's finally happened.The oft-overlookedborough of Croydon has been represented in videogames. In this case it's the interior of a 'gritty' gym, where two teams of unknowns are clashing on the five-a-side pitch. FIFA Street is a very different beast from last generation's version.
It's not just about the Galacticos - though they are all here. Instead, it's mainly about you and your mates having a kick-about wherever you can find a space. And then, once you've won a few games on the estate, you follow the fantasy to its illogical conclusion - playing street football on the world stage against professional teams.
Fire up the world tour and you're presented with a character creation screen and a choice of region to begin in. It's not just countries either - choose London and you'll be battling in car parks in Enfield, under a fl yover in Hounslow and, yes, in a grimy gymnasium in Croydon. Filled-to-capacity stadiums, Cadillac Escalades and skinny-to-the-point-of-transparency WAGs this ain't.
The pacing of the game is completely different from FIFA proper, which instantly makes it more worthwhile than the usual summer tournament tie-ins. The emphasis is on crafty ball control, but it's all plausible rather than EA Sports Big-era stunt work. Commentary is excised for obvious reasons, replaced with shouts and bellows from your fellow players.
At this stage, it feels like background noise rather than information to take advantage of, but it makes for an atmosphere that's completely removed from the glossy, broadcast stylings of full-fat FIFA. The locations make a huge difference as well. Not only are they different sizes, the boundaries vary wildly. Some pitches will be surrounded completely by a solid boundary, others not at all.
You can bounce a pass off solid concrete, but try it against a chain-link fence and the dampening effect means it doesn't travel as far after it's deflected. Goals are different shapes and sizes depending on where you're playing and yes, you can lose the ball on a roof. It's a similar story with the balls themselves - the smaller, weightier Futsal ball is going to behave in a markedly different way from an abused, slightly flat size-five with panels of leather missing.
It's this variety that's going to make FIFA Street a tempting purchase. Every match feels unique even if it shares the same fundamental rule-set as the previous one - which it usually doesn't. On top of that, there's a ton of tricks to learn, most of them centred around making your opponent look like a tit. We dread to think how much development work went into making nutmegs look really embarrassing.
Most importantly, while it feels as slick and responsive as the main series, matches are more physical, close-quarters and more end-to-end than an 11-a-side game - there's a hint of NBA Jam immediacy to it. Expect plenty of reasons to plop this in the tray even if you're playing regular FIFA to the point of obsession.