FIFA 14 is officially loud and proud, ladies and gentlemen, and you'll read all about it in issue 99 of OXM, on sale 10th May. That's positively ages away, isn't it? Fear not - intrepid previewer Richard Meade has rounded up a few of the most important details below.
Long story short, it's the usual mammoth array of nips, tucks, tweaks and rejigs, with certain of the bigger additions (e.g. the new and improved Career Mode) still to be divulged in full. In particular, there's precious little mention of the game's vaunted connected features. Have a read, and let us know what you think.
With a reworking of the ball physics to add movement and power, shooting should be more realistic and more satisfying than ever. You can hit the ball harder, dipping and low-rising shots are now possible, and players will take different types of shot according to the situation they are in. Strikers may have to dig a ball out of their feet, rush their shot or open up their body to get a better angle. It's a new level of depth that we hope will make shooting more exciting whether you're bagging goals as Higuain or Holt.
"Protect the ball"
Not a system for holding your player's unmentionables during freekicks, instead "Protect the ball" is actually FIFA's buzzword for a feature that sees you use strength and shielding to take and keep possession. Hold the left trigger to take advantage of your player's power to keep the ball and fight for loose balls, or tap it while dribbling to hold off defenders' physical challenges. It could give you plenty of incentive to have a Fellaini in your squad.
"Variable first touch"
Speed demons beware: "variable first touch" means the ball won't move a set distance away from your sprinting player's feet. Skilled dribblers like Bale and Suarez will be better at keeping hold of the ball at pace, but others may take more inconsistent or heavier touches as they fly forward, giving defenders a chance to end their run. Along with "protect the ball" it gives us confidence that EA is reining in the effectiveness of speed and putting attacking variety at the core of FIFA 14. We're all for that.
An end to cheap goals
If this works it'll be a godsend. Better defensive AI will see defenders marking tighter, applying pressure as a team, and tracking the improved attacking runs more effectively. Second chance tackles will give them the opportunity to throw out a leg (not in a wild Joey Barton way) at a passing player if they've already committed to a tackle. EA says this, along with other new features, are all about making the game more varied and taking away the number of cheap goals from quick counter attacks, long lofted through balls and pacey strikers. Please work. Please. For the sake of our rage-damaged controllers.
New Skill games
More than 2.2 billion skills games have been played on FIFA 13 since it was released. These are back in FIFA 14, with new ones added and others refreshed. I was shown a striking game where players hit a line of balls at the goal one at a time, and a classic "keep the ball" game where seven players attempted to hold on to the ball against four defenders in a small section of the pitch.
New defensive options
EA has tightened up the marking system and given the AI the ability to track runs better. It's also introduced second-chance tackles, which will give defending players a small window of opportunity to stick out a leg after they've already committed to a tackle. Lastly there's "dynamic defensive pressure" which we're told will see teammates recognising when to apply and relax pressure to their markers.
Remember - the new issue's out on 10th May. While you wait, by all means post and respond to blatherings of a footballish nature.