Not only are the centres better but so is the shooting. Our games have been filled with goals, with our chosen teams proving to be a tad leaky. And that's largely down to the new shooting mechanic. The scourge of any footy game is discovering that certain shots always go in. The last FIFA had areas where it wasn't ever worth shooting from as you'd never score from there. Now you can ping shots into the goal from anywhere. We've seen far more long shots fly in as well as all manner of volleys and lobs. You'll really notice players sidefooting the ball home or curling it around the keeper with the outside of the foot.
And married up to that, like an England International and an orange-skinned WAG, is the way keepers react to shots and crosses. They now parry and punch crosses and shots a lot more, as happens in real matches. And more rebounds equals more goals.
The set-pieces have been reworked too. There's a lot more variety to corners and your keeper won't claim everything that arrives in the six-yard box, while you can also use two men on free kicks just like in PES. The way that players nudge each other out of the way is just like watching proper footballers jostle. When your striker manages to wriggle free and get in front of his marker to plant a header into the far corner, it feels extremely satisfying.
However, possibly the most improved aspect of the game is the player collisions. When you launch into a sliding tackle you'll send the other player flying, while shoulder-to-shoulder challenges will see you bumped off the ball. The way that the players are knocked around has a real impact on how cleanly they connect with the ball, meaning that finally you can play long ball football that would have Sam Allardyce weeping tears of joy. You might get annoyed as lightweight players often hit the deck, but hey, that's football and they'll make up for it with their close control and nippy-ness.
So are we talking title challenger or midtable obscurity for this FIFA? This is the next-gen footy game that we should have seen last year. Rather than a drab early season 1-1 draw, this is a 4-3 thriller with end-to-end footy and two goal-of-the-season contenders. The bad points? Well, the referees are still a little quick to whistle and the advantage rule isn't always implemented. (Where are the quick free-kicks, EA?) We also noticed a tiny bit of slowdown in multiplayer games - especially on long goal kicks where lots of players collided. But it certainly didn't spoil our games.
Despite these niggles, EA have delivered a beautiful take on the beautiful game. The players look and play better than ever - this is the finest footy videogame yet in terms of realism. Disappointed because your favourite team is already out of the cup and displaying worrying relegation form? Pick yourself up with a copy of FIFA 09 and rewrite the season. It's a guaranteed 3-points winner.
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