Xbox One, PS4, PC,
August 25, 2020
Given the chaos of this year, it’s not surprising that a lot of my time has gone into playing games. It’s only just September, but I’ve played more games this year than in all of 2019. There have been all kinds of experiences. Some games I have adored, others have been perplexing in their execution. But Street Power Football has delivered me something I’m yet to experience this year. Amongst all the games I have played so far, Street Power Football is unique. It is the first game that, with few caveats, I truly dislike immensely.
If Street Power Football does one thing right it would have to be its representation. This game does seem to have a bunch of heart in it. I’m not much of a sports fan typically, and street soccer is no exception. Although having said that, I do appreciated the intent to bring real world street soccer players into this game. Moreover, the players are explicitly street footballers. It’s worth comparing to the likes of FIFA’s street or volta modes, which merely import stadium footballers into a street setting. There’s a real sense that Street Power Football is trying to promote the sport itself. It serves as somewhat of an introduction to the sport and its variants. Although admittedly, it does fall a bit short on the explanation front from time to time.
Street Power Football’s other good quality is its visual style. The most obvious comparison here would be to NBA Jam’s arcadey, big-headed models. The game’s various locales also serve as interesting and diverse settings for the game. A lot of love has gone into the aesthetic. Unfortunately, all the style and all the heart can’t distract from the gameplay of this title.
In theory, I loved Street Power Football’s decision to split mechanics across four game types. As much as I love sports games, the lack of variety is always going to dampen the experience. Many sports games can only hold my attention for so long. Even the games that bring in multiple modes often only feel like small iterations on the core formula. The same mechanics and the same rhythm will always eventually become a tad repetitive. SPF’s four modes attempt to combat this. The game’s multiple game modes are distinctly different and felt like a great opportunity to have some variety. In practice however, it just meant the talent and the resources got spread thin across each game type. Each game mode felt rather lacking, with each presenting at least one rather unsightly flaw.
“The game’s multiple game modes are distinctly different and felt like a great opportunity to have some variety. In practice however, it just meant the talent and the resources got spread thin.”
Let’s start with Street Power as it’s kind of the “default” experience. Here’s a ball, pass it around, kick it into the net – that old chestnut. To add a little flavour the game introduces tricks, consumables, and superpowers. It feels like a lighter, more arcadey version of the standard soccer game you’d expect from a FIFA or the likes. The win condition here is “first to five”. Being easily comparable to other soccer games is perhaps in part what made me upset with this mode. There are other games doing similar stuff but way better. The main issue here is the AI can be a bit of a mess. Far too often I would pass to a teammate, they would run to receive and then just stop, watching as the ball sails straight past them for the opposing team to scoop up. It’s pretty galling. Your teammates aren’t really great defensively either. It’s a bit of a wash on the AI teamwork front really.
Panna Mode is smaller than Street Power which mitigates some of its issues. Firstly it’s 1v1 so there’s no internal teamwork drama. It’s also a much smaller arena-size, so camera angle problems that are found in other modes don’t come as much into play here. So, what’s this game mode about? Well, it’s about Pannas. I had no idea what a “Panna” was which is a bit awkward because the game assumes you do. “It’s all about doing Pannas to get points to win” is the game’s explanation. This is tossed around in the opening tutorial of the mode with zero context of what a Panna is (turns out it’s kicking the ball between the legs of an opponent). I suppose the main issue I have with this game mode is that it just isn’t satisfying to play, at least in single player. In this mode a basic goal is 1 point and a Panna is 2, first to five wins. A Panna can be scored during a super slo-mo, anime-like moment with a little QTE competition. The AI is far too easy to beat here to feel any sense of triumph for winning a Panna contest. It just isn’t very exciting.
The first of the two more free form modes is Trick Shot. It works in a similar way to a standard free kick in most soccer games. Take some time, line up a shot, pick the height, give it some optional curve, set the power, and let it rip. Scoring is about hitting targets and kicking into objects. Bonus points are awarded for add-ons like curving the ball or hitting on a ricochet, and sticking to the time limit. It would be a nice little mode but it has one utterly baffling drawback: The camera is positioned off to the side. Perhaps this is supposed to let you see the character and the ball properly. Maybe it’s supposed to help give you some depth perception. Regardless of the reasoning, it truly shoots the mode in its foot. It’s hard to line up the shot without knowing how far left or right to turn. The game does let you change camera angles, but you can’t manually correct for the off-line viewpoint. Instead, it gives you two additional cameras bound to the trigger buttons. These additional camera angles are suppose to exist to let you peer around walls for the really technical challenges. Although rather than using them as intended, I instead found myself nudging a trigger to get a glimpse at a usable camera angle for a fraction of a second. The camera in this mode is bloody stupid. Another instance of the challenge in this game coming from battling with the game’s odd design choices.
The final mode is Freestyle which is possibly my favourite. The game is simple: input some combos to start a trick, press buttons to the beat to execute the trick. I really like how the challenge naturally escalates. To keep a streak of tricks you have to input combos along with the beat. There’s a coordination challenge to do combos and adhere to the timing of the whole thing. The mode’s not without its drawbacks. It took a while to get into the groove. I didn’t really understand what was happening and why for quite some time. The other drawback is the combos themselves. The game only really gives you three. Maybe there are more, but I can attest that randomly mashing buttons got me nowhere. Furthermore, routinely at least one of the three would seemingly fail to trigger for no good reason. Let’s be frank, you’re being scored on a variety of tricks here, yet the game is not adequately prepared to actually give you the options necessary to pull that off.
The only other single-player mode is Become King, the rather anemic “career” mode. Traditionally a career mode involves increasing the difficulty of opponents and such throughout the campaign. Conversely, Become King feels like a series of ever-tightening hoops to jump through. Each game will have certain win conditions that must be met to progress. For example, the one that made me quit in disgust was “Win a game of Street Power and use one superpower”. Maybe I’m just bad at accruing “mana” or whatever. Either way, I’d constantly be winning 4-2 and have to play keepings off until my bar could charge up fully so I could actually perform that completely unnecessary superpower. Invariably though the AI and/or the camera would screw up, so I would lose the game. Conversely, I could just plow through and forget the superpower and “lose” because I failed to meet the criteria. Hell, call me conspiratorial, but I wonder if variable AI difficulty is even a thing in this game. Maybe they didn’t have the resources or the dev team to actually implement it. Perhaps the hoop-jumping is used as the game’s difficulty modulation. It could be a smokescreen to cover the lack of AI difficulty. Either way, their alternative doesn’t stack up to scrutiny.
I touched on this previously, but it’s worth talking about the tutorials in this mode. It’s another inherent flaw of running four separate modes. The tutorials themselves are competent enough, the problem is they rush the process to get players on board. The tutorials run one after another after another. This meant that while I was on top of all the modes individually, by the time the real game started I was a bit lost as to what I was doing. It was easy enough to pick up, but inevitably some information was lost. Some of it was controls, easy enough to find in the pause screen. Other parts felt a bit more esoteric. What is the point of “strafing”? Which buttons guard the ball, and which ones do tricks? For the last damn time, what is a Panna? Invariably these are the details that are left out from a simple controller map. Ideally the game would space these tutorials out, leave some room to get comfortable with the mode as it actually plays out. Doing one tutorial after another is like learning how to ask someone for directions in four separate languages. Invariably you’ll learn some things, but you’re also going to get all kinds of confused.
Maybe all this exists as a side project to the real meat, the multiplayer. Truth be told I wouldn’t really know since it’s releasing at a time that I can’t exactly play with friends. By the looks of things, it’s populated mostly with modes from single player. The exception is Elimination, based on Street Power. Each team starts with three players with every goal eliminating a losing player and subbing in another from the team. When an entire team is eliminated, they lose. Sounds like a fun mode, but given my issues with Street Power, I’m not terribly confident.
“I find the concept of “Advanced Settings” holding any actual customisable settings wryly amusing. A grand total of 4 options to change within the Advanced Settings however is significantly less funny.”
You know one thing that could have helped this game? Options. Sure there are some settings but it’s pretty underwhelming. The pause menu was the first red flag. Of all the games I enjoy, they generally have more than two buttons. The pause menu boasts only a controller map, “resume” and “quit” buttons. The settings section of the main menu isn’t much better. It does have a help section where you can check the controls and it also explains general gameplay elements. it would have been nice to bring a bit of that information into the pause menu. The settings have two other elements, the credits, and “Advanced Settings”. I find the concept of “Advanced Settings” holding any actual customisable settings wryly amusing. A grand total of 4 options to change within the Advanced Settings however is significantly less funny. There are two volume sliders for the SFX and music (to be honest I’d recommend just muting the music, not a fan) and there are audio and subtitle language settings. That’s it. No camera settings, so that’s upsetting. Hell, you don’t even get a chance to alter the controller mapping. That is rather disappointing too.
- Passion and dedication to celebrating the sport of street football
- Cool presentation
- All modes have at least one big flaw making them frustrating or just not fun to play
- Become King Mode is full of anti fun hurdles
- Woefully inadequate options
Let’s not mince words, Street Power Football is just not up to scratch. Sure I love the representation and I love that recognition of actual members of the sport. But that doesn’t really sway me if the game isn’t up to par. Every element of this game has at least one major flaw that makes the game frustrating to wrestle with and takes the fun out of a certain moment. This game has a real arcadey feel to it. It’s cartoonish and colourful. But it’s also arcadey in how cheap and disposable the experience feels.