NFL Street 2 Unleashed
Looking for a traditional game of football? That's not what the Street series is all about, and we review its debut on the PSP.
Usually, when it comes to football excellence, EA Sports could turn to one big license - the Madden license - to show off the strength of their development. But last year, the company introduced their juiced-up arcade formula football game, NFL Street to the gaming market, with outstanding results. It brought the game of football to a whole new level with stylish moves, gritty street style, and arcade-based gameplay that included laterals and off-the-wall plays. Since then, the company's since capitalized on the license with the Christmas 2004 release of NFL Street 2, and now, a few months later, we get the handheld equivalent of NFL Street 2 Unleashed for the PSP. And football fans should love it.
The game is a basic street game of football, where teams play to the score of 36 and can complete a number of different passing and running plays, utilizing such moves as a wall-running technique to avoid a tackle or being able to lateral to a free player as they find themselves in a tackle. Defensive plays include the likes of interceptions (which can prove costly to the offense in a clinch), sacks, and strategic tackles to bring down the player with the ball. It's all rather basic, and there's no coaches involves to draw any deep strategies. Think of arcade football at its most raw, making NFL Blitz look like a warm-up.
And yet NFL Street 2 seemed somewhat like it was holding back a little something, feeling more like an expansion pack rather than a full-on sequel. The handheld version works kind of the same way- it's a fun experience in itself but it really feels a lot like a stretched out version of the first game.
The game contains style points all over the place. The graphics look pretty sweet, with detailed player animations and great field settings ranging from a mangy street court to a tropical beachside setting to pick up your yards in. The game also contains some decent facial mappings, with a number of players included- as well as rapper Xzibit, who walks you through some of the game's more elaborate modes. In terms of sound, the game contains a decent soundtrack that you can play through the EA Pocket Trax (if you wish to), as well as enough thuds and grunts to emulate the sport of football.
But the gameplay's where it's at, and it plays just as smoothly as the console editions, with the ability to complete all sorts of plays either with the analog nub or the digital control settings. It runs pretty nicely on both sides of the field, letting you run some nice defensive and offensive moves. The style element of the game has been toned down, using only one button instead of two, but it still works rather well and lets you rack up the points, helping you build into GameBreaker status to pull off the really big scoring play. It hasn't changed incredibly since its debut, aside from the wall-running techniques and some more effective jukes, but it still somewhat works.
As far as the modes that the game goes through, there's plenty. You can challenge in the Gauntlet mode, where you face all the NFL teams you can handle in your quest to become king of the streets; an "Own the CIty" mode, where Xzibit walks you through the basics of NFL Street 2 to help you dominate the game your own way; an NFL Challenge mode, where you work your team through a rigorous training schedule and then pit them against the league's finest; a basic Quick Game mode where you can just jump right into a contest; and a Multiplayer mode, where you can challenge a friend via Wi-Fi.
Unleashed also consists of several new mini-games, ranging from a dance contest that works out the motions with button memorization to a cool little Slalom competition, where you put your juking skills to the test dodging objects such as tires and other gutter trash. You can challenge friends in some of these contests also, either on one PSP or through a Wi-Fi link.
But the game's not without its problems. Aside from being nothing incredibly innovative, it also has a severe problem with loading times. Like Tiger Woods before it, it takes at least a good 20 to 30 seconds to load up the game, and that's just in-game- the pre-loading at the beginning almost takes forever. Also, the Wi-Fi seems to slow down the game just a little bit, but not to the point that it's unplayable.
I'm torn on NFL Street 2 Unleashed, really. There's so many things that work for it, like the quick-styled gameplay and the presentation, and yet it's knocked down by the loading times and the fact that not too much sets it apart from the console version. If you're a fan of the series, it's worth picking up. Otherwise, give it a rental and see if the handheld gridiron is for you.
What's Hot: A faithful rendition of the popular console sports series.
What's Not: Nothing innovative here, and the load times are up there.