The F.A. Premier League Stars
Windows - 1999
Description of The F.A. Premier League Stars
An ass out of you and me
There is an assumption that every UK football fan looks to the FA Premier League with awe. I, personally, couldn't care less about the Premier League. Although it will be a different story when the club I support, Birmingham City, is playing in the Premiership next season.
Supporters of current Premier League clubs probably feel differently. You can certainly count the designers of EA Sports' FA Premier League Stars amongst this group. They've targeted this obvious FIFA expansion (knockoff?) at the hardcore UK football audience that lives and dies with the likes of Man U., Arsenal, and Newcastle. Well, this year, anyhow...
While I dislike some aspects of the title, the gameplay is truly excellent. Premier League fans and neutrals won't be disappointed with what they find here. Fans of other leagues should decide for themselves if there's any Premiership side they can take to glory without retching. The only real drawback is the limited focus. While I personally find playing Stars to be a more rewarding experience than playing FIFA 99, the reduced competition and options leaves me thinking that many football fans would be better off waiting for FIFA 2000 to arrive this fall.
When I first began to use the Stars menu system, I thought it seemed ugly and not easy to navigate. After some time, however, I managed to get used to the slight awkwardness. You have the option of playing the game at home and away, thanks to the ability to put your customized team on a floppy disk and then install it on a friend's PC. Standard solo gaming modes are supplemented by internet and LAN multiplayer options.
Music is provided by the Ministry of Sound label and features the instant trance classic by ATB, "9pm ('Til I Come)." Tunes from Electrique Boutique, Aptness, and Rhythmatic Junkies are also included.
Before launching into a season, I decided to do some training. I kept the default teams, Manchester United and Arsenal, while deciding which team was going to be taken to glory. EA Sports recommends that you use a gamepad so I did. Although you can use a keyboard, it is quite difficult. The choice of controls was at first bewildering. Getting the hang of the pass and shoot moves was easy enough, but remembering that I had through ball and lob options took awhile. The sprint button comes in useful for tearing down the wing to put a cross in -- although as in real life, the longer you run flat out the more tired you become.
Power bars have been introduced, and although generally useful, can be annoying. You see, if I keep the button pressed for a long time for a more powerful shot the ball goes off target. I know how to keep a ball down in real life, but the game assumes that I am always off balance or a donkey. It's not a major problem, although I'd love to have the ability to thunder in free kicks from 30 yards. You also have access to special techniques like the foot roll, the drag 'n' roll, the stepover, and dropping a shoulder. Of course, Fancy Dan tricks are all well and good only when you don't have a crucial match to win.
I should point out that although this game bears the EA Sports stamp it, wasn't made by the same team as FIFA 99. The game was produced in the UK rather than Canada. This means that although the controls are basically the same, there are some variations. If you have played recent editions of the FIFA series, you may be a bit confused for a while. After some experience, however, I came to find the Stars controls more intuitive.
The default camera positions imitate television coverage. This is good, but as a result you don't get as wide a view of the pitch when your players are at the near touchline. This restricted angle can cause a problem, albeit a minor one, because you temporarily can't see all of your passing options. In line with the television presentation, there are replays of goals shown from three different angles that are very well done. Replays can also be shown of any moment in a match using the in-game menu.
Commentary is from the Sky Sports team of presenter Richard Keys, commentator Martin Tyler, and analyser Andy Gray. I do prefer Martin Tyler to the bizarrely venerated John 'Motty' Motson...although I defy anyone to go through a full season with the commentary on. The 'archer' joke is mildly amusing at first, but hearing it every single time someone shoots off-target is beyond annoying. How difficult would it be to have five or six different 'player misses target' comments? The play-by-play generally keeps up with the action and works well, barring the occasional stutter.
The player animation and stadia are gorgeous. Stars, dare I say, looks better and more realistic than FIFA 99. There is no proper face modelling, but you can still tell the players apart. The one thing I do prefer from last year's FIFA model is the player spacing; at times it seems like the players in Stars are line-dancing but that doesn't detract from the gameplay too much. Just pretend your team is particularly dozy and can't always find some decent space to take a pass.
Gratuitous insulting of Aston Villa
I didn't need to pretend my team was dozy because I chose Aston Villa. What greater test to see if it is possible for the most unlikely team in the Premier League to do well? The problem I had was trying to copy Villa's style. Now, rightly or wrongly, the use of wing-backs is fairly important to the team but. That is difficult, though, if the players don't get into position and you can only pass to the nearest player. No problem. You can adjust the players' attacking tendency so Watson and Wright push up more and the powered-through ball, if aimed right, can reach them on the wings.
Now obviously Aston Villa is not good enough to win the league. It is, however, possible to improve your players so that success becomes more likely. A winning club is allocated stars for each aspect of play, from scoring to fair play. The team gets bonus stars for having the Man of the Match. These stars are accumulated in the Star Bank, which is used to buy players from the transfer market. Unfortunately, at the start of the season there are not many players left, so it is best to wait until things begin to wind down. You can also use stars to improve your players. There are several categories of player attributes, including control, heading, passing, shooting, speed, and stamina. Depending on how good the player is, they will already have between zero and five stars against those attributes.
The first game of the season was against Sheffield Wednesday (it's a little known fact, but naming clubs after days of the week is the primary reason why soccer has never really caught on in North America - Ed.) and Villa lost to an own goal. Gareth Barry tried a pass back to the keeper and David James missed it completely. The goal was credited, however, to Alexandersson, who happened to be the nearest Sheffield Wednesday player to the ball but was still nowhere near. That was the only time that bug occured but I suppose EA Sports could argue that goalkeepers do mess up simple pass backs and referees do credit goals wrongly.
But I hear you asking: "Hold on, I see games I play are reflected in the league but how on earth do they decide the other games?" Good question. This goes back to the star rating system. The league matches don't correspond with the real league matches, although the usual suspects are at the top and bottom.
For the next game, Villa beat Arsenal away with David James pulling off some fine saves. Now that I had accumulated quite a few stars, I could ensure him doing even better in the future. Because I don't control the goalie in open play, I felt it important to give him five stars where necessary. Once that was done, my tactic was to give each player with no stars in a category at least one.
Next up was a European Cup qualifier against Midland rivals Leicester. Dublin scored a great goal at the far post to take Villa through to the next round against Athletic Bilbao. By the way, if you get knocked out of a cup match you can always play the game again as long as you don't save and continue. But that would be cheating and against the spirit of the game -- something I would never do, of course.
Next up was Bradford. Their equalizer came by way of a penalty. Goalkeepers are now allowed to move along the line during penalties and so it was a bit odd that I couldn't nudge my keeper until the penalty was taken.
Villa were next at home, struggling against Wimbledon. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Lee Hendrie dribbled past four players and sent the keeper the wrong way to score Villa's last minute winner. Martin Tyler commented, "Not the prettiest of goals," despite that marker being the besy of the season for sure. Now I knew how hurt and upset players must get when commentators don't appreciate their skills.
The dead ball animations are very good, although a little variation would have been nice. Players whinge about fouls and free-kicks just like their real life counterparts. However, would Spurs players really be so deliriously happy with a draw at home? Well, probably.
As you would expect, matches against clubs with a higher star rating are harder than against clubs on a level pegging or with fewer stars. The European Cup tie against Manchester United was difficult. Scholes got sent off in the first leg but Villa still couldn't score with the extra man. For the return leg, for which you get exactly the same introductory commentary as the first leg, Beckham's equaliser sneaked in at the near post, but Villa went through on away goals. Even I yelled some naughty words at traitors Bosnich and Yorke. If you win the European Cup, you get to play against world clubs. Finish in the top two of the Premiership and you get to play world teams in a summer competition.
At this stage of the season, I had taken Villa to the last 16 of the European Cup, beating the triple-winners along the way. I had also kept them in the running for the Premiership. But that is where I had to stop. Not because Stars isn't fun. It's great fun and recommended. No, I had to stop because I was having impure thoughts. Like maybe I could watch Birmingham City one week and Aston Villa the following week. Like maybe I could see Villa versus Wimbledon and see if Lee Hendrie scores a wonder goal for real. The game has now been destroyed.
Despite the challenge that FA Premier League Stars made to my Birmingham City allegiances, I've really had a lot of fun with this game. While it does lack certain options that football fans have come to expect thanks to the excellent quality of recent FIFA series titles, it still delivers a lot of bang for the buck. It's a nice way to pass the time while waiting for the autumn arrival of FIFA 2000, at the very least.
Review By GamesDomain
Comments and reviews
nazreen 2021-09-13 0 point
This is the only working no-cd fix for this game,ripped by me,please download it n extract replacing Stars.exe,for both rip/iso,working for win10x64,supposely working with winxp/7/8.1 too
Gastón Watson 2021-03-08 0 point
Tengo el CD original del juego. Encontré la forma de instalarlo pero no puedo ejecutarlo con Windows 10. Alguien puede ayudar?
I have the original game CD. I found a way to install it but I can't run it with Windows 10. Can anyone help?
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