difficult to get overwhelmed at the prospect of another FIFA title, regardless of the continued (sometimes troubled) improvement shown in FIFA 07. (Aptly demonstrated with a 73% in XBW46... we'll discount the nasty Champions League cash-in.)
As you'd expect, it'll be bigger, brighter, prettier and more stuffed full of licenses than any other game, including several thousand more players than in Madden. But after years where they may have out-sold PES, they've never conquered their Konami rivals where it matters: on the pitch. This year though, there are several improvements which they reckon will set up a much more level playing field.
First up, the ball is truly animation-free. Last year's version went almost all the way (although there were still some artificial limits); now the ball is totally physics-driven. It's not tied to a string, it's not pre-determined in animations, it's just, to all intents and purposes, a ball. Which is great news, but lest we forget, it's exactly what we've enjoyed in PES for an age. With this in mind, EA are determined that FIFA 08 will become far more freeform. You'll have a wider range of spontaneous moves and you'll have to get player-positioning right for shots. Which, er, is all in PES. Already. Still, if they sort it, then it's undeniably great news.
The other big focus is an area in which EA have far more expertise: a massively expanded skills section. On the one hand, combined with the physics engine, you'll have more opportunity to pull off sexy football tricks from all your favourite players, doing so by holding down the left trigger and using the right analogue stick. It's designed to be more organic and fluid than 'trick sticks' of the past and easier to pull off on the fly. Cruyff turns, Ronaldo stepovers and already over a dozen other moves are all promised, after they borrowed some technology from NBA Homecourt.
And let's face it, everyone wants to pull off the good stuff to truly humiliate their mates. However, we've got to be honest and say we're unsure of how much focus we want on these sort of individual skills; after all, it's a team game and to be fair, trick stick-style gimmicks have had dubious success down the years.
That said, the sounds coming out of EA Canada are encouraging, and if they can pull it off, this could rock considerably. Well wait to go hands-on with it before we give it a full endorsement.