In 2008, something strange happened. EA released a Monopoly game for the Xbox 360 and — not only was it pretty good — I actually liked it. A lot. I still play it from time to time, in fact. So I was eager to tear into the next Monopoly installment, Streets, and see how they improved upon the last, hoping to God that those crappy mini-games didn’t make the cut.
Instead of staring down from a bird’s-eye view, the Monopoly board is now a fully-realized 3D city. The iconic shoe, race car, and cruise ship now have goofy characters to pilot them and talk in annoying Simlish when it’s their turn, but after a few dozen turns all I wanted was to skip everything and just get down to business. You can also play as your avatar, but it’s proportioned too large compared to the others and isn’t allowed to wear some of the avatar outfits available on the Marketplace.
The new city view does allow for some cool effects, such as building houses or hotels which you can see happen before your very eyes. Many hotels even have gimmicks, such as a giant flamingo on the side or the like. It’s a nice touch and keeps things at least visually stimulating, as your character will be doing anywhere from 5-50 laps around the city per game, and there are no options to speed up the AI’s turns. There are only two 3D boards, however, which is a disappointment.
Sadly, despite Streets’ interesting presentation, the developers have inexplicably gouged out much of what was likable about the original. The “Richest” modes are all absent this year, and are instead replaced by a few rule variations that allow up to three die to be rolled per turn and a school bus bonus that wouldn’t be missed if it had been left out. Considering this game was meant to celebrate Monopoly’s 75th anniversary, it’s decidedly bare-bones in terms of content. Games can be customized considerably, such as how much income tax is owed, if free parking grants a money bonus, what passing GO gives you, and so on, but there’s nothing that truly shakes things up.
Credit must be given for the inclusion of online multiplayer for up to four players. Even though many would argue that this is a game best played locally with friends or family, many others don’t have that luxury and it’s nice to see EA catering to them. This sole addition may be the deciding factor in which Monopoly you buy, virtual or otherwise, but I still prefer the previous version.
Achievement hunters will appreciate a relatively quick and painless 750, but the final batch of gamerscore will demand some medium grinding. As Monopoly is a game relying primarily on the luck of the draw, some achievements can take a few turns or as many as 100, in my case. Those requiring players to build 500 houses or win 50 online auctions require far more time than a game of this caliber warrants.
Richest modes from 2008 were not perfect, but I would have liked to have seen this follow-up addressing their issues rather than discarding them altogether and moving on. There have been so many variations and different editions of Monopoly released over the decades that you’d expect the 75th anniversary game to act as an aggregate collection, yet Streets is about as anemic as a retail game can legally be.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]