The upshot of all of which is that this is a game where you could conceivably hit Matt Holland's 50-yard looping volley, or heroic Xabi Alonso's 80-yard open-goal winner against a retreating Luton goalkeeper, or, for the sake of mentioning it, Lee Dixon's hilarious own-goal lob of David Seaman. And, of course, Mancini's absurd, Ronaldo-shaming stepover feint epic against Lyon, which flows from another element that FIFA 07 fans will be keen to hear about: the skill move system. Because, of course, 07 didn't bother with it. "We did that on purpose because that felt very old-fashioned," Joe Booth explains. "It was a button combination and a canned move, and we wanted something a bit more organic." So, for the sake of freedom of footballing expression, you can now hug the left trigger to move into pace-control, and then use the right-stick to perform timed, combined skill moves: a step-over is an upward gesture that turns to the right, for instance. We're shown a chart of all the skill moves you can do, and it's already dozens, with more to come. All can be initiated from a standing start, a jog, or a slow dribble. You can do reverse-stepovers, flip-flaps (Ronaldinho's one-foot misdirection), over-the-head rainbow flicks, fake shots, heel to heel, even Rebonas.
Naturally the team is giving a lot of thought to how to balance this system within the game context, because it wouldn't be much good if you could just waltz around as Ronaldinho embarrassing people after five minutes' training. "Depending on attributes and other things, like the timing of your skill moves, the defender can be fooled by the feint move or not fooled by it," Booth says. "The way we're doing them right now - although it's not finalised - is that if you're manually moving the player it's up to you to avoid being fooled, but if you're using the assisted press then you'll get fooled depending on timing and attributes." It's hard not to like their logic of gently persuading the player to learn proper defence rather than relying on the assisted press buttons. As a defender, you also have a jockeying ability that allows you to keep pace and tussle with an attacker in close quarters - a more responsive way of positioning yourself and then pressing for the ball when an opportunity presents itself. What's important about the skill moves though, says Booth, is that "it should be no more or less powerful than it is in real football, which is where we take our lead from".
Booth and company are keen that FIFA isn't pigeonholed as some sort of fantasy plaything obsessed with football's high end, either. "If you watch most football, or certainly for example Darren Huckerby [of Norwich City fame], the way he beats players is with acceleration and change of direction," Paterson points out. "Everyone can do slow dribble in football to a certain extent, and we've given the user the ability to control the speed of their player more, so they can use this to slow down and accelerate and beat players, and that's how most of football's decided." For a practical example, we return to the top flight. "I don't know if you remember Henry scored against Liverpool, he took on about four players or something and got into the box and slid it," says Paterson. Yes, I do remember that, funnily enough. It rings some bells. "We looked at that and said, this is the kind of thing we wanted people to do. He started off in slow dribble, exited to jog to beat the first guy, then he went into a sprint to get to the second person, just before he got to the second person he went into slow dribble again, and then he did a feint and turned to the left and slow dribble again, and finished it with his trademark left channel slot. All he used there was change of speed and direction." Yes, he's a predictable sod. "So that's what we've tried to achieve."
Another element of FIFA 08 is called "Be A Pro", and it's been envisaged as "a new way to play FIFA". More significantly, it's the first step towards full 11-versus-11 gameplay, which Booth believes FIFA will be able to offer in time for the 2010 World Cup. It's a mode that gives you control of one player, and one player only, following him with a camera that zooms out to frame him, the ball and the goal when he's not in possession, and that follows closely like a chase-cam when he's on the ball. So yes, someone call in the Libero Grande fanboys; their time has come. "The camera is the sexy side of this, but the feedback system is the brains of it," Booth elaborates. There's a meter that tracks how well you're doing, an arrow that shows you if you're out of position, and small icons hover over the heads of the three opposition players who are currently most relevant to your position. In other words, people you perhaps should be marking, or who are a threat to your impending possession. Your controls when you're off the ball allow you to call for it, or urge your team-mates to perform other actions.