Say, for example, you're 1-0 up with 10 minutes to go. You're probably not going to want to pump players forward, so will instead want to concentrate on keeping possession and controlling the game. Here, quickly switching to the short passing attacking build up style should, assuming you're good enough, carry your team over the finishing line. Your players will position themselves closer when supporting and players further away from the ball will be less likely to make runs. The reward is that you always have close options and can keep the ball on the ground, Arsenal style. But with every tactic there's an associated risk. Here, you must advance the ball with the entire team, and you need a good deal of patience.
The custom team tactics system makes a hell of a difference to advanced FIFA 09 play. The more you play the better you'll get at identifying what tactic your opponent is using, and at deciding which tactic is best to counter that system given the kind of players you've got. It amounts to an easy to use layer of tactics we've yet to see beaten in the genre.
So, like we said, think before you shoot. If all this sounds too much like hard work, then know that you don't have to use custom team tactics to enjoy the game. In fact we suspect most players won't use them, just like most players use default formations when playing.
The custom team tactics system is by far the biggest innovation this year, even more so than the 10 versus 10 online play, which we have yet to test (and fear could end up being total school playground chaos, we'll have to wait and see). All the other new features are tweaks or refinements that don't fundamentally affect the way the game plays. One is the new heading system, which forces you to time when you press the button so that the player times his jump properly, rather than simply press the button at any time and wait for the animations to kick in. Players' weight and momentum is all taken into account here - so expect some meaty collisions. The heading will take a few matches to get used to - you'll jump too early and too late initially - but you'll soon get used to it, and enjoy the added satisfaction it brings to a headed goal or a flick on. And it might even have some surprising benefits - in one game I played against Tom, I positioned Chelsea winger Joe 'there's a bee hive in my hair' Cole in the box hoping for him to nod in a cross, but instead he spectacularly overhead kicked it into the bottom right hand corner of the goal. I jumped out of the VideoGamer.com sofa for that one I can tell you.
Bar this, it's as you were, at least in comparison to EA's last footie game - the summer's excellent UEFA EURO 2008. The goal celebrations make it in (watching Michael Ballack, for example, do 'The Robot' is as hilarious as it is ridiculous). The Be A Pro mode will keep players who like to go it alone entertained across four seasons (a tad short for our liking), with the ultimate goal of getting called up for your national team. You can of course, take your created player online and test your skills against the rest of the world. The commentary is solid. The graphics are stunning, when it's in wide view and in-game. During replays and close ups it's not so good. EA still hasn't managed to nail football players on the head - most look like hulking apes just as they did in the last game, with low foreheads and beady eyes. At least now they don't look fat though - one of our main graphical gripes with 2008's effort. And EA was clearly staying up late with the rest of the football world on transfer deadline day. Robinho's at Manchester City and Berbatov is at Manchester United.
We've hardly a complaint to make. But we do have them, and most are age old FIFA annoyances. Players will still hilariously fall over themselves for no apparent reason, falling victim it seems to the game's excellent physics. Crossing is a bit ropey, as it has been for a while. Yellow cards can sometimes feel like they're dished out too long after the offending foul. And to get a free kick in the first place you need to be physically assaulted, rather than fouled. But apart from those minor issues, we can't help but be incredibly impressed by FIFA 09.
We had worried that FIFA 09 was going to end up like EURO 08 with a Premiership skin. Luckily for us, we were wrong. Like we said, the best FIFA game ever made. Over to you Konami.