EA gave a brief, top-level overview of what to expect from FIFA 10 in our visit to its booth. The first thing David Rutter, producer at EA, pointed out was the new dribbling system. In the previous FIFA, players only had eight directional movements, but in FIFA 10, players have full 360-degree movement, which enables them to move with the ball in a much more realistic fashion. Rutter pointed out that previously you had to use limited motions to move the ball up the field and avoid defenders, but the refined control makes that unnecessary. "The cool thing about 360 dribbling is that you can push the ball anywhere you want on the pitch," he said. "Previously, you might spot a gap between two defenders, and you'd have to sort of zigzag to get there. This gives you a lot more freedom."
Seeing this in action onscreen definitely revealed more articulation with ball movement, and a quick contest from a defender on the field showed another improvement made to the game in the form of enhanced physical play where a defender can muscle out the ball with a bit more finesse. Along those same lines, slide tackling has been modified to better reflect individual player skill, as well as his position in relation to the ball.
Rutter also revealed the new urgency system, which realistically portrays a player's behavior away from the ball. "When players aren't involved in the action, they're a little more relaxed, but as soon as they see a threatening position, they'll run with a lot more urgency," he explained. "That works for both defenders and attackers." Defenders also do a better job of covering the field, thanks to some reworking of the threat analysis system--if there's a gap somewhere behind the defenders, then they won't switch out their positions. Likewise, attackers push up the field in intelligent ways, attempting to get open and spread the defense to open up passing lanes.
In addition, you'll see an all-new trapping system, which shows that players will recognize when they're not being immediately threatened by a defender. "What was happening was the ball was coming in, and the player would get into the first possible position to intercept the ball," said Rutter. "The ball usually bounced on his chest and then he would get it under control. In nonthreatening situations, you'll actually see players back off to take the ball on their feet." The goalkeeper has also been the focus of similar changes for FIFA 10. "We have some new reactions in there. He's able to tip the ball and guard more effectively on crosses," he said. "We've also added an ability to scramble back to the line and scoop the ball off the line in emergency situations, which wasn't there last year."
The Practice mode is another big aspect of the game, and it's something that fans of the game have demanded. In this mode, you can have as few as four players on the field, but if you want to have a full squad on the field, that's also possible. But the main focus of the Practice mode is what it implies--to work on your skills for certain situations so that when a real game is on the line, you don't mess up.
Another major sticking point for the fans of previous games has been the over-the-top ball where a defender launches the ball toward the opposing team's goal in the hopes of clearing the area and going back on the offensive. "We tried to adjust the frustrations with the game that fans have reported," said Rutter. "A lot of the time, we saw things like [the over-the-top ball] being too powerful, so we had to adjust not just the defensive AI, but also introduce slightly more error on those balls."
Lots of other tweaks and additions have been made to other facets of the game as well. The improved momentum system brings a greater risk-versus-reward element for being aggressive on offense or defense, essentially making it difficult for aggressive players to recover if they miss their intended target. Also, changes have been made to the Manager mode. Match simulations in this mode are now based on the skill of individual players and on a per-minute basis, so the outcomes should be a bit more realistic. Transfers now take into account the prestige of a club, as well as opportunities for player growth and opportunities for money. For example, if a star player is fielding offers from other teams, he may be less likely to join a team that already has another star player or simply doesn't have enough money. We've only scratched the surface of FIFA 10, so we hope to get a peek at some of these and other refinements in the near future before the game is released this fall.