Here, at EA's Guildford HQ, Humber is finally taking the lid off of all of the game's new features. Parts of his presentation runs through features we learned at the Stamford Bridge reveal event in February, but most of it throws up juicy new info relating to everything from little tweaks here and there to big gameplay changes and brand new modes. When you score a goal, for example, the camera zooms in quicker than it did in FIFA 10, revealing the emotion in the player's face up close and personal. The audio's been overhauled to give the game more of an international football sound than FIFA 10's Premier League-heavy audio, with new commentary (some of it completely unique to scenarios, as described above), the trademark South African "Vuvuzela" blowing horn, which sounds like a huge swarm of bees (thankfully you can turn it off), and even the ping of the ball hitting the post as the frame of the goal lifts ever so slightly out of the grass.
Supplementing the online-enabled World Cup mode is a brand new World League Ladder that sorts players into ten divisions. You play a season of ten league games - get 16 or more points and you'll be promoted, less than nine gets you relegated - then the top four in each division enter a cup competition. Your performance in the league and the cup is then calculated and end of season ranking points are dished out. This, Humber says, gives the game a long term appeal beyond this summer.
Over a hundred gameplay improvements have been made. We ran through the important ones during our previous preview, but there are a few others worth mentioning here. Now, playing home or away affects the stats of your players, and altitude affects player stamina; any match played above 1500 feet will take its toll. Shooting has been tweaked so that players don't strike the ball as well as they do in FIFA 10. This is a curious one, but Humber says real life players rarely hit the ball dead centre, instead hitting to the left or right of centre as they curl or hit across the ball while on the run. There's a new instant control and chip animation, which looks lovely. Players attack headers more aggressively, and find space for crosses more often. There are new chest and move animations designed to make the game play more fluidly - there's an illusion of a faster game speed despite it being exactly the same. There are chest passes, driven aerial passes (great for cross field long balls) and loads of new flicks and skills.
Penalty kicks have been completely reworked to make them more skill based. Now, as the kicker, you need to stop an oscillating needle in the correct zone, hold the shoot button down, release when the power bar is at the desired point, then move a targeting reticule with the thumb stick. The power determines the size of the reticule; maximum power makes it huge, minimum power makes the shot precise. All the factors come into play when the shot is finally taken, and, hopefully, goes in. From the keeper's point of view, there's a risk reward system at play: you can dive early, which will allow you to reach the extremities of the goal, or you can bide your time and perhaps get a better idea of where the shot will go. The idea is to try and simulate the real world pressure of taking a penalty that matters. We had a go, and it's much better than before. It's even tricky, although you get used to it. I'm not sure video games will ever come close to simulating the pressure of a real life penalty, but World Cup does perhaps the best job of it yet.
One of the more interesting gameplay changes is the introduction of the "Dad Pad" two-button control scheme. That's right, we said the "Dad Pad". It's EA's horribly-named effort that aims to make FIFA playable by everyone, not just you and me. One button passes, the other shoots. Movement is still governed by the left thumb stick, but everything else is context sensitive. So, players will sprint when the computer thinks they should. The computer will play a short pass, or a long pass, when it reckons each is appropriate. Shooting is handled for you, so you don't have to worry about it. Everything's still stat-based, so Shaun Wright-Phillips will lose out on headers when up against England and Chelsea legend John Terry, but you get the idea.
So, why's it called the "Dad Pad"? Because EA hopes the two-button control scheme will enable cross generations to play together. You, who knows how to play FIFA, and your dad, who is so intimidated by an Xbox 360 or PS3 controller that they send him running out of the house screaming, "The Horror!". All jokes aside, it's a lovely idea, and it's not game-breaking. If you're good at FIFA, you'll beat someone who isn't, no matter what control scheme they're using. But, rather than win 8-0, you may only win 4-0. Or something like that. As Humber insists, it allows participation, not mastery.
For schooled FIFA players, the "Dad Pad" will go unused. For them, more important questions remain: who are the best players, what are the best teams, and, isn't 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa nothing more than just FIFA 10 with an annoying mascot and FIFA.com-styled menus? We can't answer the first two questions… yet (although Emile Heskey is amazing), but we can suggest an answer to the last one. After Humber's presentation, we flicked through our notes and found 11 pages worth of new gubbins. That's a lot. A helluvalot. And we also notice a hastily scrawled sentence stuck somewhere in the margin: "Story of Qualifying may prove popular in Ireland". Quite.
2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa is due out on all major platforms on April 30.