Let's cut straight to the chase. NFL Street 2 plays almost identically to last year's offering (Issue 26, 7.0), bar a few outrageous tricks that allow you to run up walls as though auditioning for a Gene Kelly musical. It's essentially arcade American Football trying to be an extreme sports sim. Or a Nickleodeon sports-themed cartoon trying to get a recording contract on the West Coast. It has as much emphasis on spinning balls on fingers, big hair and donning oversized shades as it does nailing touchdowns.
As is the trend with most EA sports sequels, the big progression lies in its structure. You've still got reduced-size teams battling on urban sportsgrounds and taunting each other with WWE-style posing. However, to make the experience more engaging, EA has pumped up the offing with a brand new selection of challenges to test your mettle. You now get to run the NFL challenge gauntlet, or develop a team from scratch with your own customised character in Own the City, and tour the rundown parking lots and rooftops that Bay City has to offer.
The beauty of NFL Street 2 is its immediacy. Although numerous offence (running, passing and trick) and defence plays can be employed, its anarchic nature ensures it is extremely fast-paced and easy to pick up. The rules are stripped down to the basics; stringing together trick/taunt combos for a Game Breaker power-up is almost as key as swaggering into the endzone. The absurdity is also reflected in the game styles - don't expect epic Super Bowl-style trade-offs with cheerleaders wiggling their botties in the background. This is pure playground stuff, with competitive seven-aside matches co-existing alongside various exotic passing, stunt and keep-ball/tackle challenges.
However, despite its compelling new play, there isn't a great deal of improvement elsewhere. Sure, it has extra stunts to learn, like springboarding off walls to get extra distance on throws, or - our favourite - hurdling charging aggressors by running up the very same borders. The visuals are still mediocrity personified, and the soundtrack is even worse, promoting crappy nu-skool metal/rap bands you really hope split up before the inevitable development of NFL Street 3 commences.
NFL Street 2 is probably what you'd expect - great, simple fun that makes the normally turgid sport of American Football slightly more accessible to the masses. Sadly, it's also little more than a regurgitation of last year's title with slightly different modes and a couple of extra stunts. Recommended for post-pub gamers with mates definitely, but unlikely to offer a considerable deal in the long term. If you're a serious sports enthusiast, the Madden and NFL 2K games really are worth the patience. And it still doesn't have online play. We'll have to leave that to the Yank version.
Crazy-assed fun and compelling new modes, but still not enough improvements over its predecessor.