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Monday, March 7, 2005; Page D02

Electronic Arts' trend has been to take a sport and repackage it into an over-the-top spectacle by slapping the word "Street" on it. The company did it to football and basketball by offering gamers "Street" versions to occupy the time until the release of the next installments of its widely popular "Madden NFL" and "NBA Live" series, and now it's doing the same to soccer.


Electronic Arts' FIFA series has always been the standard for soccer video games, yet now, with "FIFA Street" ($40 PlayStation2, Xbox, GameCube), the world's most popular sport gets a complete makeover and ends up resembling football more than futbol.

"FIFA Street" is fun, but it's not a soccer game. Four-man teams compete in alleys and every person in the game can do soccer-ball tricks that would make Pele envious.

The goal of "FIFA Street" isn't merely to win: It's about showboating and embarrassing the opponent while doing it. Though the tricks players can perform -- whether dribbling between an opponent's legs or being able to bicycle kick any ball in the air -- are visually cool, it's not enough to carry the game.

And defense? Just slide tackle. There are no penalties, so feel free to take out your opponent as often as you like because that's the easiest way to gain possession.

Electronic Arts always produces video games with stunning graphics, and though this one is no exception, it takes time to adjust to the game's play. Players can pass the ball off the wall and somehow unleash a powerful shot on goal no matter which way they're facing.

One of the objects of the game is to form a team and earn money by defeating the best squads in the world. The more money you have, the more gear and talented teammates you can purchase. Although the formula worked for "NBA Street V3" and "NFL Street 2," the difference is that "FIFA Street" is supposed to be a soccer game, but it doesn't feel like you're playing one.

-- Jon Gallo

© 2005 The Washington Post Company