Following in the footsteps of NBA Street, NFL Street used a similar style of gameplay to take the game of football out of the stadium and into the hood. Now, less than a year later, EA has taken the same formula, tweaked it slightly, added online play, and has released NFL Street 2. It's a better game than the first, but it seems more like a NFL Street 1.5 than it does a true sequel.
NFL Street 2 pits two teams of seven players head to head, and forces each player to play both offense and defense. Since defense is a distant second when it comes to Street 2's priorities, most of your players will likely be selected based on their offensive prowess, and you'll be hoping to simply out score your opponent. The playbook is small (compared to Madden), and it's broken down into passing, running, and trick plays. If you choose a run or a pass, you can select short, medium, or long based on the amount of yards you need for a first down. There are no field goals in the game, so once you score you can run a short yardage play for one point, or a play from further out to go for two.
Matriculating the ball down the field must not only be done with substance, but style as well. Performing fancy jukes, and taunting opponents earns you points that can be turned into a "Gamebreaker." Just like NBA Street, a Gamebreaker gives your team super abilities, and almost guarantees a touchdown if you use it on offense, and should you use it on "D", you'll likely cause a turnover. You can save up your Gamebreaker for a, wait for it, Gamebreaker 2, which is a bigger and better Gamebreaker. There are more jukes and taunts this year, and you can even customize them in the player edit screen. New this year are wall moves, where you can run up the side of a wall to avoid a tackle, or open up a passing lane. If you perform one of these moves on a "hotspot" you'll earn even more points towards a Gamebreaker. The wall moves are cool, and they were missed in last year's version, but they don't hold up as the game's biggest gameplay addition.
Like last year, you can challenge all of the NFL Teams, or you can "Own the city" which pits your created player against teams from all over the city. For some reason, this mode is hosted by Xhibit, of "Pimp My Ride" fame, and he'll guide you through a training mode, and then challenge you to get your game up to his level, so you can challenge him. The actual games aren't timed, so you play up to a predetermined score, but this time around, there are stipulations to each game. You might have to beat a team by a certain score without the QB running the ball and only having 5 seconds to pass, or you might have to win a game with just running plays. This adds some challenge and mixes up the formulaic way in which you usually play, but it can make games rather long and tedious. As you win games, you can earn points to upgrade your players, and the cash you earn can be used to unlock all sorts of gear in the game's store.
In addition to normal pick-up games, there are a variety of mini-games to help pass the time. There's a game where there are three balls in the air at one time, and you have to catch as many balls as you can in a set time limit, and a schoolyard favorite, "Catch the carrier." You might know the game as "Smear the queer", but obviously, that's a bit offensive, so the familiar game got a new name. In this mode you simply get possession of the ball and run away from the people trying to tackle you. Time of possession earns you points, but you'll need to taunt your way to victory because style always counts in NFL Street 2. The new modes are fun for a while, but there's simply not enough to them to make them fun for any length of time.
The game is easy to control, but if Madden's the only football game you usually play, it will take a little while to learn the different button mapping. The game is fast paced, but it sometimes feels like the players don't respond quickly enough to your button presses, leaving you grasping at air when you try and make a diving tackle. This problem is very evident in the game's training mode, where you have to perform a move in order to move on to the next. You'll often be pounding the button furiously trying to get it to register, but the game doesn't seem to care. As a result, you've got to listen to Xhibit tell you that you're doing it wrong over and over.
New to the series this year, is online play, which adds some replay value, but unless you're crazy about the game and don't have any friends nearby, it doesn't add much. It's easy to setup and play a game, and there are even lobbies for the more skilled players, so they don't get stuck having to deal with newbies all the time. The game performed well via a cable connection, and it was relatively lag free.
NFL Street 2 is not a bad looking game, but it's not a significantly better looking game than its predecessor. The player models are large and feature a distinctive visual style, though the "hood" aspect is played up too much. There are more fields now, but if you've played any sort of "street" game the last few years, there's not much to get excited about. This holds true for the game's awful looking grass, which might be the worst of any current sports games.
There are lots of great over-the-top catches, throws, jukes, and tackles, but the taunts are lacking in variety. Too many of them are variations of flapping your arms and pointing, which is mostly what players do in real life, but being that this game has players running up walls, perhaps some more suspension of disbelief when creating taunts could be used.
On a side note, the game's visual style used for the load screens and artwork is simply horrendous. The players are mixture of extremely deformed, sub-human, and in some cases, extremely flamboyant. It's impossible to take seriously and it's amazing that it ever got the green light.
As is usually the case with "EA Trax", there are a few decent songs in the game, but far too much "crap that nobody has heard of." Special mention goes to Acidtone's "Scarred" for standing out as not only the worst song on a lousy soundtrack, but for being the worst song I've heard in a game in long time.
All of the players have their requisite bits of trash talking, but the variety of insults is underwhelming. The cut scene at the end of the game should have been tossed out with the game's artwork, as you can only hear "Man, they're not that good. You're not that good." So many times in a row before you want to scream.
While this review might lead you to believe otherwise, NFL Street 2 is a fun game – for a few hours. If you're playing the series for the first time, the game is certainly better than the first NFL Street, but it still lacks replay value. Unfortunately, for veterans of the series, there's so little new here that they might not even get a full weekend of enjoyment out of the game.