The F.A. Premier League Stars 2001
As you'd no doubt expect, the coding team behind Stars 2001 had the rights to use every club, player, kit, sponsor and stadium within the English Premier League. And as sure as eggs is eggs, they've done exactly that. Yet the fact that they've unashamedly blessed Fabien Barthez with a full head of brown hair suggests that the foolhardy bunch were either displaying a complete lack of basic football knowledge, or spending more time in the local watering hole than was strictly necessary.
In true EA tradition, however, they've ensured that the game plays very similarly to the original FA Premier League Stars. The Stars system itself, with which you can improve your squad by playing well over the course of a season, hasn't changed much either. Once Stars have been awarded to you, they can be used to upgrade a number of categories (pace, shot strength, tackling, etc) for each player in your team. Alternatively, Stars can be saved up in order to buy new players.
To add a bit of fun to each individual match, the computer even gives you the opportunity to gamble with a set number of Stars over whether you can achieve certain objectives - for example, win by three clear goals. But at the end of the day, the whole Stars idea is quite poorly fashioned, and serves only to sidetrack the inevitable tediousness of the season option.
On The Turf
Stars 200I will take a bit of getting used to if you're more familiar with the 'proper' FIFA series, with several changes having been made to the control system and the way players behave. The first obvious difference is that shots at goal have to be charged up (via a power meter) for a good second or two if you want to score anything other than tap-ins.
This is the last thing you'll want to get your head around after you've dodged the entire defence, since judging the meter wrong will result in either a weak or inaccurate shot.
And believe it or not, performing a through ball is almost guaranteed to relieve you of possession. If the ball actually manages to find the desired player before the opposition picks it up, the player in question will usually falter and surrender the ball.
There are other gripes, but to be fair, Stars 2001 does do the Premier League some justice. The football is indeed end-to-end stuff, and passing on the whole is pleasingly efficient and smooth. Quick interchanges can be played with relative ease, even in a tight area such as around the opposition penalty box, and this makes for a fairly decent match of soccer once you've mastered the game's deficiencies. However, it is far from the complete package, and chances are you won't feel like playing it for the duration of the season, especially on the hardest difficulty setting. The two-player mode provides some extra appeal but, on the whole, Stars 2001 is a tad shallow and lacking in many areas.