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It comes as no surprise to see a Fifa related game come out during the summer months here in the UK - EA Sports did it with World Cup 98 last year and now they do it with The F.A. Premier League Stars. For those of you outside of the UK, the Premier League is one of the top football (Soccer) leagues in the world with some of the greatest players from all over the world. Obviously EA Sports has decided to take the popularity of the league and try to turn it into a game (Turn it into money more like). Here are a few of the features.
Installation & Settings
EA Sports always do simple installations with the usual Autoplay feature starting things going. Once complete it checks if you want to install the latest version of DirectX etc and then loads up the EA Sports 3D Setup check. This checks your PC for 3D Card drivers so that the game can be setup for your best 3D card. Once it completes it check you have a few options you can change (Seen below)
Once you have set your 3D Graphics card up it is on to the game. The F.A. Premier League Stars begins with the obligatory EA Sports introduction video, now that they have licensed the premier league they can now show a whole load of video footage of all the teams who play in it. The quality of the sound and music in the intro is excellent, although you are only likely to want to watch it once anyway.
Once the actual game has loaded you are greeted with the usual bulk of menus and as usual they are very flashy, but flashy doesn't mean easy to use does it? No certainly not, the majority of menus in The F.A. Premier League Stars are fiddly and annoying to use. The first menu gives you the following options:
The game certainly isn't short on options.
I went with a Friendly match first just to get the hang of the games controls and layout. I chose Manchester United Vs. Arsenal (The default main two teams) and picked Man United as the team I was controlling. The first thing Fifa 99 players will notice is a slight change around in button allocation, this isn't because of more control options (There are less in this game) its just something that EA Sports has decided to do. Next I noticed is that it is far more difficult to head the ball or do special moves such as over-head kicks or diving headers (I haven't seen one of those yet), the control over the players also doesn't feel as good as it did in Fifa 99.
It isn't all doom & gloom though as EA Sports have added one good feature that Fifa players have been asking for, the power bar. The power bar allows you to judge how far or fast you will shoot or lob the ball, this makes doing different types of shots much, much easier. There is also now an on-screen health bar showing your players energy rates, this helps you decide when or if you will drag the player off the field and replace him with another. The replays have also been improved, after you score a goal you are greeted to replays from multiple angles, not just the one view like in Fifa 99.
Now onto this "Stars" Feature. While the concept is good as it allows you to improve your teams it hasn't been done all that well as it is far too easy to gain a large amount of stars and improve all your players stats too quickly. It should have been made harder to gain large amounts of stars so that you have to work harder to get them. Perhaps the feature could be improved upon in a later release as I'm sure we'll see another version of Fifa after version 2000 gets released in November, maybe they will use the Stars feature in their next version.
Hmmm we certainly have a mixed bag here. There are a few graphical features that are better than we have seen in Fifa 99 such as the grass and the shadow effects on the pitch from the stadium, but the majority of the graphics just can't touch Fifa 99 despite the fact that it seems to be using the Fifa 99 engine. While it is nice to see the bigger stadiums, the graphics used on them don't look all that good, players are far blockier, weather effects are poor. The in-game animations used when you either score or miss a chance have not changed from Fifa 99 either which is a big disappointment.
But worst of all the game only has one resolution no matter how good your graphics card is and that resolution is 640x480. I played the game with both my G400 and my Voodoo 2 and there was little difference bar the game being faster on the G400, surely EA Sports could have at least offered higher resolutions?
Sound & Music
At last we can have a few good points. The music is excellent thanks to some great tracks from Ministry Of Sound and ATB. The commentary from the Sky Sports team (A large satellite company in the UK) is also top notch and far better than in any other Fifa game thus far but unfortunately it doesn't always go with the way the gameplay is going.
The gameplay isn't much different from Fifa 99, that to me is one of the main problems with the game, I have Fifa 99 and I'm fed up of playing it - I expect a completely new game, not one with the gameplay of Fifa 99 but the graphics of Fifa 98. There are certainly some good new features that could be used in other Fifa releases but not enough to warrant anyone paying out for yet another rehashed Fifa title with little new stuff to offer the buyer.
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