"So that was why you could only turn 45 degrees," FIFA producer Dave Rutter tells me, brow furrowed, while sliding two mobile phones around a table. He's trying to explain - aided by whatever was in his pockets - how the animation system had to change to accommodate the introduction of 360-degree control.
"It was a limit in our own animation engine, so we rewrote all of it for this year. When we say we're going to do something we do it," he adds, somewhat unnecessarily. But this sums up the mentality of the FIFA team. Desperate to impress, reeling off figures, bullet points, feature lists, improvements almost apologetically, in the hope that we'll like their game a little bit more this year.
Dave, old chap, do calm down. We love FIFA 09. It's the best footy game of this generation. Not that you'd think so listening to the man in charge. "It's horrid," he cries, describing his experience of going back to it from FIFA 10. "If you play it and you go back, it's horrid." I did. It really isn't.
But, yes, what he's getting at of course is: when you first play FIFA 10, 360-degree control may not smack you around the face with a stick of obvious. It's only when you go back that you notice. "It's like getting a good haircut," Rutter suggests. I wouldn't know. "If people haven't noticed, great."
Anyway, back to FIFA 09 slamming. What else wasn't good enough, Dave? Manager Mode, set-pieces, lofted through balls, goalkeepers and more, apparently. There's a serious point here. Having overtaken PES in both critical and sales success, the biggest threat to the continuation of FIFA's hegemony is complacency. You can argue that complacency is what's done for PES so far this generation. But there's not a shred of it in evidence here; nor cockiness; nor arrogance. Just a desire, tinged with possibly hard-wired paranoia, to be better.
This is Eurogamer's second kickabout with FIFA 10, having been treated to a practice match at the Emirates a few months back. The code is more advanced now, naturally (75 per cent complete), but most notably there's a New Feature Announcement: Create A Set-Piece, an editor that allows you, amazingly enough, to design your own free-kicks and corners for use in-game.
The inspiration for this, apparently, came from Tomas Brolin's sneaky goal for Sweden against Romania in the quarter-final of the 1994 World Cup. Sweden's move was straight from the training ground. But it was impossible to replicate in FIFA 09. So they've built an editor to do just that and more.
Accessed in the current build by hitting the back button during the pre-match practice sequence, the editor splits the final third of the pitch into a number of square zones, covering the corners, and the outskirts of the 18-yard area. You can create set-pieces for each zone (up to four), with a maximum of 32 that can be saved to your profile.
It works like this. Highlight a player you want to move with the right stick, hit record, and then manoeuvre him in real-time exactly where you want him to go during the move. His motion is tracked by a thick bluey-white line as a visual aid. You can repeat this with as many players as you like, slowly building up the set-piece to your exact specifications. All the while you can test it out against an AI defence at the push of a button, easily delete and re-record anything that's wrong, then save it to the d-pad for easy access in-game.
You can, of course, still take free kicks the regular way, but for the perfectionist, the tools are now in place to create elaborate works of choreography. Or, as I discovered within moments of trying it out, a giant white-line pair-of-testicles-and-penis shape in the penalty area (two players performing a mirrored semi-circle then parallel charging towards goal. Completely ineffective, but delightfully immature).
"Well done. I applaud your creativity," Rutter deadpans at my creative flourish. Well, he brought up nob-drawing in his presentation, I suggest. "I said you could draw funny pictures, I didn't say that!" Nevertheless, it's official: FIFA 10 lets you draw massive nobs. I digress.
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