Football is slow to embrace change, but once it does history shows it never looks back. Rattles, mullets, skin-tight shorts, spleen-puncturing belt buckles, Ron Atkinson; after putting these archaic elements out to pasture, the footballing world never once looked back over its shoulder.
And so it continues. From next season onwards we're embarking on a magical journey of goal line technology, and once everybody's aboard we'll presumably never look back. But to warble on about that would be to ignore the real sea change that will alter the face of football more than any other occurrence this year. We're not talking about Spain's radical 4-6-0 formation or the collapse of Glasgow Rangers or Mario Balotelli firing himself into the sun - we're talking about the Wii U GamePad. Once you start playing FIFA with that Micah Richards-sized slab of gaming loveliness you see, it's possible you'll never look back...
FIRST TIME FOOTBALL
FIFA 13 on Wii U uses the GamePad touchscreen in a plethora of ways, but its most significant function is also its most understated. It is in effect an ever-present touchscreen tactics board that rests comfortably between your mitts during play. Whenever you want to make a substitution, tweak your formation or even do something as mundane as telling your wingers to swap flanks, it's now as simple as tapping the relevant tab on the right hand side of the screen and making the changes. You can do all these things without interrupting play, preferably while your opponent is passing the ball ineffectually across their back four or taking a goal kick.
An obvious use of touchscreen real estate it may be, but shifting the player-manager admin clutter to the GamePad brings two tangible, game-changing benefits. Firstly, it puts an end to the common Multiplayer Scenario Of Doom, where three people are left to stare at their watches and sigh exaggerated sighs while a fourth player takes several epochs to decide whether to bring on Wayne Rooney or Bebe. There's no longer any excuse for such idle dilly-dallying on Wii U - and that goes double for online play, too.
The Wii U version will have a host of alternative control systems...
Yet the real-time system brings more to FIFA than mere convenience. It offers something that was alien to the series on Other Formats - secrecy. If you're struggling to retain the ball in the middle of the park, you can shore up your midfield by dropping to a 4-5-1 formation without broadcasting the switch to the entire Solar System. Similarly, if your titchy strikeforce are getting outmuscled to the ball every time, you can throw your opponent a curveball by chucking a Christopher Samba or a Ryan Shawcross type up front without forcing the very guy you're trying to surprise to watch you stumble clumsily through seven layers of menu screen before doing the dirty deed.