FIFA 08 is coming to every platform under the sun at the end of the month but it's the PS3 and 360 versions that'll tickle the fancy of football fanatics the most.
To find out how the daddy of the consoles (in terms of raw power) will propel the series forward we caught up with producer Joe Booth.
What's the biggest change to the FIFA formula in your opinion?
Joe Booth: I think to follow a formula is a bad idea, it makes us predictable and if we are predictable then there is no reason to buy the game each year. Our job is to surprise and amaze our fans, to challenge ourselves to reinvent what a football game can be.
The big challenge for FIFA 08 was to unlock the potential of our new football engine which we built from the ground up to take advantage of the Xbox 360 and PS3's multi-threaded, multi-processor hardware.
Getting to 60 frames per second on PS3 was also very challenging because this is a new complex platform and you have to spend a lot of time to adapt to its strengths.
Tell us how FIFA 08 will take advantage of this technology in terms of gameplay.
Booth: The engine was designed from the ground up to use the power of these machines for gameplay. FIFA 07 on the Xbox 360 was the first game to use this new engine and for the first time our animation system was able to dynamically adapt to the ball.
This meant it was separate from the animation and the player reacted to it in real-time depending on his attributes.
What are some of the gameplay changes to this year's game?
Booth: For this year, we have rebuilt the shooting system to use an almost infinite number of contexts to affect how the foot strikes the ball and how error is applied. So if you're off balance, using your weaker foot, turning, under pressure from a defender - all these things are taken into account along with the ball's spin and direction.
Each player's AI brain now analyses 35 different points each brain cycle -- that's over 1,000 options each player is processing per second. They use a new threat and opportunity map system which makes each player completely aware of his surroundings and allows him to study the pitch for space and danger.
Our new organic building block skill move system builds on our animation system. Skill moves are now made up from 'blocks' and can be chained together for you to create your move or reproduce your favorite stars.
So now you can combine skill moves together as you develop your own abilities. Some of the skill moves you can starting with are simple step-overs, fakes, rolls and touches, and as you become more skilled and confident with the controller you can build your repertoire to advance to more complex 360's, flip flops and rainbow kicks.
Can you give us examples of how important online is to FIFA 08?
Booth: I'm a big fan of online. Last year I built Interactive Leagues for FIFA 07 on current gen. Each week I go into a recording studio to record a podcast which is automatically played each time you boot up FIFA on PS2, Xbox or PC - we talk about the interactive leagues vs real world leagues and answer questions from the community on gameplay and the future of the game.
I think we are the only developers who do this kind of thing. That's how passionate I am about reaching out and connecting to the online community.
For FIFA 08 we are bringing Interactive Leagues to PS3 & Xbox360. We have a new feature called Online Leagues which allows groups of up to 32 friends to create their own league how they want.