Elsewhere, the physicality that had grown to prominence since FIFA's 07 rebirth has been ratcheted up yet again, and it can be jarring to observe players like Lionel Messi, with his low centre of gravity, shrugged so easily off the ball by a lumbering centre-half. With that said, while a strong player can knock a smaller one almost completely out of contention, going in too hard is penalised by the referee, and the 'drag' on a fast player caused by someone at his side can now be mitigated by angling the analogue stick a few degrees further away - something that would have surrendered any advantage and perhaps even angled the ball into touch 12 months ago.
Despite its love of simulation, FIFA 10 is also sensible about where to draw the line, continuing to ignore handballs, inadvertent back-passes and other things for which the player can't be held responsible. It's even more lenient in some areas, like free-kicks given away by players sliding in after the ball has been played, which happened all the time in FIFA 09. In FIFA 10, the referee may play advantage, but play is rarely stopped completely unless the late tackle has a dramatic impact on the side in possession. There are some nice tweaks to the interface too, like the option to change kicker on dead balls using a drop-down menu. There are also quick free-kicks, although quick throw-ins would be a nice addition for FIFA 11.
Visually, FIFA 10's probably less of an upgrade than we're used to, but with the console lifecycle going deeper than ever, and the game already handsome, it's not too surprising to discover that spare processing cycles have been fed back into things like off-the-ball movement AI. As it stands, the likenesses are generally strong for anybody in the prestige leagues - Spanish, Italian and English - with Rooney particularly convincing, and weaker the further afield you go, albeit with some impressive howlers in the icing (Luka Modric, for example, looks like a Scream mask).
Otherwise, production values are typically high. There are more licences in place than ever (including the elusive Dutch national team one), and the menuing's very slick and a bit more responsive. Commentary seems less repetitive than ever (put that on the back of the box), although allowing Martin Tyler and Andy Gray to improvise their rambling banter has mixed results.
Off the pitch, the one big new idea is Virtual Pro, not to be confused with Be A Pro. You design a player (who can even have your "Game Face", if you've uploaded one to EA's servers), as you would in Be A Pro, but rather than limiting him to one area of the game he's available in any offline mode, and Pro Club and ranked matches online. So, if you fancy blooding him a bit in random Exhibition matches, you can do that, and you can even gain experience in the Arena - the third-person perspective kickabout area that masks FIFA's loading screens. It's a long, hard road from a 65-rated nobody to top of your profession, but if Be A Pro: Seasons proved anything it was that these modes can work, and Virtual Pro is a thoughtful progression.