Let's be honest here, the only thing you really care about with this preview of FIFA 11 is if it's any good, right? Or to be specific, does it play better than FIFA 10? The answers to both of these questions is yes.
For the four hours we got our sticky fingers on FIFA 11 we loved every second of it, so much so we can't even bear to put FIFA World Cup 2010 or any other footie game in the disc tray again. Nope, we'll be waiting patiently for preview/review code, thanks. So let us guide you through the biggest improvements and tweaks that we've experienced with the on-field action...
30 yard pile-drivers? Check. Worm-burning drilled shots across the ground? Check. More accurate chip-shots? Check. Cheap pass across the goal tap-ins? No. The ways to score goals this season have improved beautifully, making you feel ecstatic as you put one in the net, but our biggest reason to be cheerful is that the somewhat cheaty goals have been booted out.
Above: Inter Milan's Sammy Eto'o shapes up to shoot, which is more reliable than the square pass in FIFA11
Draw the keeper out and then pass across goal for an easy tap-in has been nixed. Goalie's will now leap full stretch and palm the ball away more often than not. The same fate has befallen the soft prod into the bottom corner - a goal in 2010 FIFA World Cup that has people in this office going into a sweary rage.
"We have a thing we're internally calling Iniesta touch" explains FIFA 11 producer, David Rutter "It's where technical players can get away from a defender in a few quick movements". It involves sharp cuts of the analogue stick to instantly turn away from defenders, which leaves them for dead. We'd already used this technique to devastating effect during the games we played before our interview with David Rutter, and we can safely say it redefines the dribbling in FIFA for the greater good.
Above: World Cup winning goal scorer, Andres Ineista, really benefits from now having his skills replicated in game
So rather than having to rely on the often tricky process of Right Stick skills, you can simply turn a player inside-out with deft Left Stick movements. Lovely stuff. Skipping past men has always been a grind in FIFA but with this new system it allows for a far more exciting approach to dribbling. Also, players who are little but have a good centre of gravity won't just be barged off the ball in FIFA11. Using Messi we caused all manner of problems to the opposition. We saw defenders like Sol Campbell clinging to the little Argentinean only for Messi to keep his balance and bustle his way forward. Surprisingly, it seems England's Peter Crouch, a man seemingly made from Meccano bits, is unrealistically strong and tricky on the ball, but we're sure this will be fixed by release time.
The other benefit of the 'Iniesta touch' is that gifted ball players such as Barca's main man plus the likes of Paul Scholes, can easily bring a ball under control instantly. Whereas cloggers like Fulham's strapping centre-back, Hangeland, will struggle to perform the same move.
While the attackers have a new set of dribbling animations and actions to torment defences, they don't necessarily have it all their own way. As well as defenders being more adept at sticking a foot out and poking the ball away from an opponent, or rising like a salmon from a stream to nod away crosses, the new 'doubling-up' ability is the biggest weapon in their arsenal.
Above: Powerful headers are as huge in your own box as the opponents, as the Gunner's Vermaelan demonstrates
It works the same as calling in another defender in previous FIFAs, where an AI team-mate will sprint to the ball carrier as you control a different player. But this time around, your player will go into a sort of defensive stance as he back peddles expertly, while facing the attacker. You'll know when it's happening because a tiny head and shoulders silhouette appears over your controlled-players head and another player will charge in. We're not sure whether the indicator is needed though. This positioning helps to snuff out the threat of dangerous runners like Cristiano Ronaldo as you can use it to guide them into channels where they'll be less effective.