As soon as it was announced that EA Sports had put the demo to FIFA 19 up, all work just stopped. Like, we didn’t do a thing. Just walked to the television in our office, loaded up the PS4 and sleepwalked our way into the new game, watching as the progress bar slowly grew. Maybe we were expecting the usual: a barely-noticeable progression of the last one with the added bonus of some nice new kits. That’s what you usually get. But this time, we got a bit more.

Here’s five things we learned from an afternoon well spent: 

PLAYERS HAVE TECHNIQUE NOW

How do you code a player so they kick a ball like Ronaldo or De Gea or Modrić or Pjanić or Pogba? It must be hard. I know they put people in those green Morph suits covered in little tennis balls—footballing Andy Serkises forced to dribble and shoot for weeks on end—but the players we know and love who have technique spilling out of them, class oozing from every touch and strike, now play like that in the game, too.

It’s obscene. The half-volleys, clean sweeping hits, and outside-the-boots spinners. Talk about reminding you why you love football, seeing Kroos switch a 60-yard turf-skimmer to Bale makes you want to call up that bloke you know from home who keeps going on about Sunday League and begging him to let you trial. You’ll have your boots out, polished and stuffed with newspaper, by morning

AND CROSSING IS ACTUALLY GOOD NOW, AS WELL

Wingers are great fun. Skill, pace, all that. But for years I’ve been telling people: don’t bother. Play narrow, in the width of the penalty area. That’s where the goal is. Always worked for me.

But now they’ve switched it up, and crossing is excellent. Responsive and intuitive, the variety of crosses on order differ from player to player, but if you get someone with a bit of composure and a decent crossing rating, you’re gonna have some fun. Big long loopers, front post earlies, driven cross-shots that cannon in off shin pads.

I might be fucked.

YOU CAN FLY INTO TACKLES LIKE YOU’RE OUT TO HURT THEM BEFORE YOU WRITE ABOUT IT IN YOUR AUTOBIOGRAPHY

In the second game I played, there was a tackle that made me physical. Khedira on Reus. Running full pelt at the Dortmund player, I launched Sami like a spear wielded by an especially pissed off Greek demigod, and the resulting tackle sounded like he’d broken his shin. It was class.

(Also, *certain* players go down holding their face at the slightest bit of contact and play just moves on without them, too. Other side of the coin—a devious bit of deception would be tails and violent retribution would be a, probably bleeding, heads—but still fun)

THE TOUCH AND CONTROL SYSTEMS HAVE COMPLETELY CHANGED

Players now control the ball with their heels, chests, shoulders, knees, thighs. I think I even saw Gareth Bale use his hip to take a pass into his run. Gone are the days of boring pass and control perfection, now players will use whatever they can to keep hold of the ball and sometimes that means take big, clogging, clanging Dirk Kuyt touches when they’re tire or have mistimed it, giving you an odd sense of affinity with whatever defender has just trapped a ball ten yards. You can even change your team’s tactics to ‘put pressure on a heavy touch’ really ruining this pixelated bloke’s day, essentially the big league equivalent of “Play it down this wing, lads. The full back is fucking shite.” Glorious.

BIG HEADERS

One thing I didn’t expect to enjoy so much was the headers. Big fucking headers. Headers from crosses, headers flying in and clattering goalkeepers (perfect for ‘classic centre forward play’ goals), headers from defenders steaming through the back of their man. Big fucking headers, man. They’re so good.

If you’re anything like us, you probably not only like FIFA, you like reading really good writing about all aspects of football culture: nostalgic odes to great shirts and bad video games, cracking interviews with cool players, features about five-a-side in Brazil and sprawling street games in Palermo, and loads more besides. You can preorder our new issue now. It’s got plenty of that stuff.