Sadly, it's looking unlikely you'll be able to unleash your set-pieces against the real world. "Will we let people use them online? I'll be open about that, it's up in the air at the moment," he concedes. "[With] custom team tactics last year, we didn't anticipate the levels to which some individuals would go to exploit the systems. I think I was probably a little na´ve about some of our fans. And I'm not so na´ve now. So I don't want people to exploit this feature and then ruin the game for the vast majority." Exchanging set-piece data with friends, meanwhile, is completely ruled out for this season.
That's the surprise out of the way. Now, having previously been promised improvements to Manager Mode, some details. It's the "most popular mode outside of exhibition," says Rutter, but last year was "marred by a number of authenticity issues and wasn't particularly engaging". More bashing. Take that, FIFA 09! Moreover, in private the FIFA team will tell you the one aspect of PES they fear the most is the depth of Master League. "It's about time Manager Mode got some attention, really," Rutter notes. And so it has.
Predictably, the focus has been on improving authenticity. Transfers have been overhauled to reflect a player's "ambitions", so it's no longer just a case of the bigger and richer the club, the more attractive. If a team's already cheek-by-jowl with midfielders, it's harder to buy another, however much cash there is to throw around.
Additionally, AI matches are resolved on a per-player basis for greater realism, and player development has been tweaked, so precocious youngsters aren't guaranteed stardom "just because they play for Man United". Elsewhere, you can now get a game of five-a-side going in practice mode, which is now also multiplayer should you wish to share in such fleeting larks. No loading, no fuss.
And if you're wondering about Ultimate Team, well, carry on wondering. "Not talking about it at all," insists Rutter. And then proceeds to do just that, adding: "What I will say is we were very pleased with the success of Ultimate Team this year". It'll be back, then.
The final pieces of the FIFA 10 puzzle will be revealed at Gamescom next month. "Everything will come out in Cologne. An all-singing, all-dancing FIFA show." A figure of speech rather than a new feature hint, one hopes. Which leaves time to reflect on the latest build with a few quick matches.
Rutter's right about 360-degree control. Having the full range of movement at your disposal is subtle, yes, but offers a distinct, refreshing sense of liberty. Which, yes, only truly becomes apparent when I return to 09. Critically, it just feels right. And the bulletpoint "freedom in physical play" the game is said to offer evolves from this. The ball, as Rutter explains, is "never 100 per cent under the player's control". And with players now darting in literally from all angles, it's now possible simply to take it off the player without even tackling if timed correctly.
Other changes are harder to gauge over a short playtest. Finesse shots seem tougher to pull off, and the refs are needlessly punitive, with far too many questionable fouls disrupting play. "Refs aren't fully figured out yet," Rutter reckons. Nor yet are the players, all of whom are currently undergoing final tweaking and balancing.
Berbatov, for instance, is slower in FIFA 10 than last season's game, after his impeccable turn as the can't-be-arsed striker. Ronaldo, meanwhile, is still with Man United in this build, though his greedy Judas bags are doubtless being packed by EA Canada coders as I type.
I am also delighted to report that the absurd, irritating and completely unnecessary spectacle of that monstrous EA Sports logo that exposed itself like a corporate flasher during every replay has also been toned down considerably. "There is a lot of that that goes on at EA," Rutter nods, with as much diplomacy as he can muster. "It's a little bit more tasteful."
Right now, FIFA 10 is solid, smooth, satisfying and scoring in all the right areas: an already stellar experience getting a smart makeover in all the right areas, with appetising new features and the promise of more to come in Cologne. I'm excited. Even if Dave will probably hate it this time next year.
FIFA 09 releases for all major formats on 2nd October.