When it comes to analyzing a game, few if any games would allow me to do a better job than EA Sports Big’s NFL Street 2. The game is highly regarded by my peers and I, and often thought to be the single best game of our childhood. Regardless of age, we still square off on the virtual gridiron. I thought an article in gamespot.com did a good job of defining the game by saying “The football offering combines an over-the-top mix of hard-hitting arcade gameplay with a hip, urban flare”.
The game has a side benefit that is easily overlooked by someone unfamiliar with the program. All of the characters in the game are players that played in the mid-2000s, so they are all the players that me and my peers watched and idolized growing up. In this game, you only have 7 players on your team, who will play both offense and defense. This is different from real life football which is of course 11 players on offense and 11 players on defense.
The limitations of only having seven players adds an additional element to the “football video game” that EA Sport’s powerhouse franchise MADDEN, cannot bring to the table, a single game draft. In NFL Street 2 you literally have a slate of every single player in the NFL and you choose seven, accommodating for the fact that both teams players have to play both sides of the ball.
The games ability to stress the importance of strategy when picking your team was unseen by it’s competitors. Suddenly you were held responsible for making sure your quarterback can not only complete passes, but disrupt them as well. Other factors, like do you want two defensive backs or two wide receivers, or one of each, are extremely common. These types of dilemmas often lead to long, drawn out drafts that take much longer than they should. Certain trends are picked up on by recurring players such as the idea that in order to win your team must possess a mobile quarterback; as the importance of running the ball is typical in every contest. This is yet another inconsistency with MADDEN, which is largely dependent on your ability to pass the ball. But enough about the pregame features.
Once you get in to the gameplay it is like a cartoon fantasy world with most fields being set in a park type area usually in an urban community. Each one of my friends would choose their own “stadium” to call their “home field”, mine is the Sportsplex seen in the photo below. Even the settings in this game are unique. As you may be able to see in the image, the end zone isn’t quite a perfect rectangle. The dimensions of a football field are 120 yards by 53 yards, in NFL street, many of the fields are not regulation length and width. Those fields that do abide by the standard rules have some other element that comes with playing at that site, such as a darkened screen or in some cases, there is a roof over the field where if you throw the ball too high it just gets knocked down and possibly intercepted.
All these things I mentioned make the the game unique but one specific feature puts it above all the other sports video games. The GameBreaker function is a tool used to measure the amount of showing off your squad puts in to the games. If you hold down one of the left shoulder buttons while your player has the football, he will instantly begin to strut, wave his arms, bounce the ball between his legs and all kinds of things which rack up gamebreaker points. The more you “show your stuff” the more valuable your team’s gamebreaker becomes. Be careful though, while your player is taunting it increases your character’s vulnerability and thus creating a much greater chance of fumbling the ball and turning it over to the other team. Additionally if you were to get caught and fumble while celebrating, all the gamebreaker points you have amassed to that point go away.
Video: (fast forward to 4:30, watch until 5:10) Gives you a pretty good idea of what it means to have both Gamebreaker 1 and Gamebreaker 2
One upgrade that was made from the original version of this game to the sequel was the introduction of Gamebreaker 2. In the original version of NFL Street, when you had gamebreaker you were basically unstoppable. With gamebreaker 2 you are actually unstoppable. When you achieve GB1 on offense, your player will glow and vibrate which makes him almost impossible to tackle, on defense the same thing happens but instead of durability your player has the ability to cause a fumble on contact. There are a few strategies to beating a player who has gamebreaker 1 that only regular players know, they are often unsuccessful but when they are the benefits are tremendous in your efforts to win, and more importantly that is the greatest bragging right in the game. Then we have GB2 which is an automatic regaining of possession if activated on defense, and an automatic touchdown if used on offense.
The greatest game ever also offers a variety of mini games, including a two v two mode and crush the carrier which is a staple of backyard football and involves on guy running around with the ball while all others try to tackle him. There are many more of these mini games within the game that conjure up memories of recess football and hold a firm spot in our childhood.
Overall the game just does an amazing job of blending whats great about traditional football with new, hip culture and the fast pace, hard hitting theme of the new era of football.