FIFA 08 is a much tougher FIFA game. In the hours we spent with the PS2 version (which is wholly separate from the 360 and PS3 versions) we managed to put only a handful of goals into the net, and fouled more players than Joey Barton on the training field.
There's also a radical new Be a Pro Co-Op mode, which has you and up to three others controlling individual players on the pitch. As you can imagine, this significantly changes the way you play.
During a half-time orange we sat down with PS2 and PC producer Paul Hossack, who explained what EA's up to with the last-gen version of FIFA 08.
What's been your focus for FIFA 2008 on the last gen of consoles?
Hossack: There are two main areas we've put a lot of effort into this year. The first is the gameplay and the second is the new game mode called 'Be a Pro Co-Op'.
Let me start off with gameplay, because it's the thing we've put most of our effort in. There are three areas of gameplay that we've focused on. One is defensive intelligence, two is deeper controls and three is personality.
Defensive intelligence boils down to two things. One is positioning; when you're playing football positioning is more than half of the work of actually playing proper defence. We've done a lot of work this year to make sure that all of the players on your side are positioned properly.
The big thing we did to get us there was to make sure that every single player analysed all of the threats that were around them. So even if your opponent is making a run down the far side of the pitch, the midfielder will mark him and track him all the way back until he can hand off to the defence.
This is something you'll notice; that your defence seems much tighter and they'll be making the right decisions almost all of the time, which makes a really nice side effect in something we wanted to do this year which was make the game a bit tougher to play. It's a bit harder to score now because you have to work a bit harder to get those opportunities.
The flip-side in the defensive intelligence is what you have control over. With player switching, usually you're pressing the player switch button and you're switching between the two players that are closest to the ball, but maybe it's not the defender that you want to control. This year we've added something that addresses that, which is right stick player switching.
If you have two midfielders just behind your opponent who can't really catch up, instead of just switching back and fourth between the two of them, you can just switch the right stick in the direction of a defender who's on the proper side of the attacker and you'll be controlling him right away.
The co-op feels completely different from how we expect a football game to play. How hard was that mode to put together?
Hossack: It was actually interesting how it came up, because at the start of the year we started prototyping things and said 'what happens if we can only control the midfield? What does it feel like to control only one player?' As soon as we did a couple of prototypes I realised it's really fun when to control one guy, but especially when there's another gamer controlling someone else on the pitch.
That was the genesis of the Be a Pro Co-Op mode. It's fun to play together, you and I in the same club, but you playing as the left mid-fielder and me as the right; that's a lot of fun.
It evolved over the whole year as we realised all the things we needed to include in it to make sure that it's a fun mode, because it is a very different way of playing the game. It's almost like the difference between playing football and watching football; in traditional football videogames it's akin to watching football, you care about your whole side and everyone on the team.