First and Goal on the PSP
EA really hit it out of the park this year. Madden NFL 08 is a quality piece of software for any of the big consoles, and the PSP version continues that trend for the handhelds. The controls handle smoothly, the large, bright screen captures the action remarkably well, and the amount of content packed on to the little UMD is impressive. If you’re looking for a great title to keep you busy for the rest of the summer, pick up Madden NFL 08 for your PSP.
Gameplay is nearly as complex and fun as it is on the standard consoles. Gameplay modes are varied and include: Play Now, Superstar Challenge, Multiplayer, Franchise, Mini-Camp Competition, Mini-Camp, and Practice. Superstar Challenge is new this year. This mode was a lot fun. It has you play as an NFL star in a particularly difficult situation from the 2006 season. It’s your duty to rise above the pressure and come through the adversity. There are several different stars and situations to pass and unlock. The scenarios are divided into five different tiers of difficulty. This mode made for very enjoyable content for the handheld. It’s always nice to have a multiplayer option available too, and EA gives PSP owners this option through either infrastructure or ad hoc modes. That means you can play online or challenge a friend with their own copy of the UMD. The franchise mode is fantastic with general management tools as well as position specific training mini-games. You’ll laugh at how closely the PSP version resembles the PS3 version. The Mini-Camp Competition and Mini-Camp modes have you challenge up to four friends or the A.I. in various skills competitions. The Mini-Camp Competition features 19 drills that can be played over the course of a maximum of three rounds. The player who is most skilled at the various competitions comes out on top. The Mini-Camp mode is also a skills competition, but you will be challenging yourself against the A.I. You will participate in eight different NFL mini-camps that focus on eight different skill sets. Once you pass a specific competition, you will be thrust into an actual game scenario that will put your newly acquired skills to the test. The Mini-Camp modes and the Superstar Challenge are simple diversions that work well on the PSP, and will provide variety from the sometimes monotonous Franchise mode.
The graphics look very good on the PSP’s wondrous screen. It is very easy to make out the flight of the ball, the holes in the d-line, and the oncoming pass rush. Certainly the visuals can’t touch the PS3’s, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the end result. There is no obvious glitching. The only problems I had were with spatial overlap issues. My backs on certain plays kept running into the offensive line, and I couldn’t always get past my QB. I like to maintain a balanced attack and, unfortunately, this problem has led me to depend too much on the passing game. Other than that, the menus and on-field screens all look sharp.
The controls are smooth for a handheld. Calling an audible, making line shifts, and general play calling are all easily executed. I found that the analog stick was a bit touchy and cramped my hand. I stuck to using the d-pad because it was far more comfortable. Juke moves are mapped to the left bumper and stiff arms to the right bumper. I find this to be cumbersome, but I still think it’s the best way it could have been done. The control problems are more a function of the PSP design rather than fundamental problems with the software.
The game sounds great. The track list is the same as it is on the big consoles. I didn’t like the music selection, but you can change the playback list in the audio options and save it to your memory card. Other than a poor music selection for my taste, the sound effects and commentary are clear and realistic.
EA Sports did a great job developing Madden 08 for all the platforms. The PSP version looks and feels like one of the big console versions of past years. Granted, there is decided drop off between the PS3 version and the PSP version, but the gaming experience is great nonetheless. There is a lot of fun to be had on the little UMD, so you won’t be disappointed. Even if you own the game already for your 360, PS3, or Wii, picking up the PSP version may still be worth it. Having the ability to play a deep and well-made Madden game on the road or in the doctor’s office is a thing of beauty.