NFL Street 3 and its cover star, Chad Johnson, seem like a match made in heaven. NFL Street 3 is a fast-paced and hard-hitting game and, like the talented and outspoken Cincinnati Bengals receiver, not averse to a bit of trash talk. Unfortunately, NFL Street 3 doesn't manage to be consistently entertaining, and the new wrinkles in its gameplay don't do enough to differentiate it from previous games in the series. Unlike Ocho Cinco, Street 3 is probably a bit too safe for its own good.
The single-player respect the street mode will have you conquering the NFL, one locale at a time.
Within the EA pantheon of NFL-licensed games, the Street series is the hard-hitting, fast-moving answer to the Blitz series of old, sans the over-the-top wrestling slams and gleefully cheesy play-by-play commentary. As in previous entries in the series, NFL Street 3 is a stripped-down version of football with simplified playbooks, seven-on-seven gameplay, button-mashing simplicity, and a nice sampling of real-life NFL players to play as (or against). Where the third game in the series differs from its predecessors is with its single-player career mode, known as respect the street; a number of new twists on the standard street-football game types; and a few control tweaks for good measure.
Respect the street is the centerpiece of the single-player game and will surely keep you busy with the sheer amount of matches to compete in. Spread across a number of US locales (all of which are the homes of one or more NFL franchises, naturally), the mode has you taking on teams comprising NFL players and their fictional buddies, as well as full-fledged NFL clubs. Winning games earns you cash to buy new gear with and, more importantly, respect. As your respect piles up, you'll open up new areas to compete in and new plays in your playbook, as well as the option to cherry-pick players from other teams and spot points to your opponents (and earn more respect in the process).
Beyond the sheer quantity of matches, respect the street mode also features a number of different match types, and not all of them have to do with the number of touchdowns you score. New match types, such as time attack, play elimination, and bank are a welcome change of pace. Time attack puts a time limit on the game itself, as well as each team's possession; if you fail to score within a minute, possession switches to the other team. Play elimination is even more interesting--should you fail to gain any positive yardage with a running, passing, or trick play in your arsenal, that play is removed from your playbook. The first player to erase all the opposing player's plays is the winner. Bank is another fine addition. Here, all the gamebreaker points earned by either team are put into a common pool--the first team to score a touchdown earns the balance of the points and the first team to earn a certain level of points wins the game.
The central strategic component to these match types (as well as the more straightforward games) is the new and somewhat improved gamebreaker system. NFL Street 2 was criticized for its gamebreaker system that took much, if not all, of the control over a play away from the user. In Street 3, you can not only decide when you want to use your gamebreaker but also have some control over the plays themselves. Gamebreakers can be used on both sides of the ball; on defense you can lay a punishing hit on a ball carrier or leap up into the air for a guaranteed interception. On offense, you can use them to break open huge holes for your runner or make rocketlike passes downfield. A nice, concussive shockwave effect accompanies each gamebreaker, which is supposed to knock down surrounding opponents but doesn't always work.
Unlike in the previous game, using a gamebreaker does not necessarily guarantee a touchdown--even if you make a long pass downfield with a gamebreaker, for example, you can still be tracked down and tackled. Furthermore, the artificial intelligence in NFL Street 3 doesn't always take advantage of its gamebreakers, either choosing to use them in stupid situations--such as while running backward deep in their own backfield--or simply ignoring them altogether. Still, it won't be long before you figure out clever strategies using these power-ups, such as banking the maximum of three gamebreakers during play elimination matches and then using them in quick succession to finish off your opponent's playbook.
Other modes in the game include quick game; exhibition modes, where you can play through a number of different match types, including the aforementioned bank, playbook elimination, and time attack; and street events such as four-on-four and open-field showdown, among others. There's also smooth and lagfree online play that will almost certainly provide a stiffer challenge than the majority of matches you'll play in the single-player game.