Same Football, Same Format, Same Features
The Madden franchise celebrates its 20th anniversary and its fourth appearance on the PlayStation Portable; it’s a somewhat unfortunate and unmemorable one. While still offering a solid football experience and lots of re-playability for those new to the series, it’s as if EA makes little effort to offer much for loyal Madden fans. Those who already own 08 or even 07 may find little reason to purchase 09, depending on how eager they are to tinker around with one new mode that simplifies the game greatly and play with (somewhat) updated rosters.
Whereas current-gen versions of Madden NFL 09 come packed with a bunch of new features including Madden Test, Madden IQ and more, the PSP seems to have been left in the dark. Of course, you can’t expect a handheld game to pack the same punch as the same title on a PS3, for example, but improved graphics, new animations, and at least some new features isn’t asking too much. And while last year’s offering was a great game for the PSP, it would be logical to say that because it hasn’t changed much, this year’s installment is also great. But by offering little reason to do away with 08 and replace it with 09, this title loses points for innovation.
The newest feature to the game on PSP is the introduction to what EA calls Rookie Mode, which is similar to Freshman Mode on its NCAA Football 09 title released last month. Essentially, it’s an overly simplified version of the game that greatly reduces the amount of buttons you’ll need to play, making winning easy for children and people new to the series and extremely simple for anyone who has played any type of football game before. It’s so easy in fact that experienced gamers and fans of the Madden series will probably have little use for Rookie Mode whatsoever. Passing is simplified by simply tapping X as the computer decides which receiver is most open, usually enabling you to complete any pass with ease to gain yardage every time. Both offense and defense play setups are simplified for you to choose the best one, and controls are condensed to Circle, Square, and X to perform things such as dives, spins, tackles, and kicks.
While those familiar with Madden will probably never play this mode after their first time trying it, newcomers to the series won’t benefit much either. While it is definitely a simplified version of the real thing, it doesn’t prepare you much to get into a quick game because the button setup is so different. It won’t help your quarterback skills a whole lot considering in a real game you need to use all of your buttons to pass to the most open man, and it won’t help you learn about proper play setups. It doesn’t help you to learn how to punt or nail field goals, which require you to line up your shot and swing the nub back and forth in an actual game. For those just learning how to play, jumping into a quick game or taking part in the Mini-Camp challenges are definitely the best ways to get used to the actual controls you’ll need in a real game. In all, Rookie Mode seems like less of a fun and necessary addition and more of a tacked-on feature to make the game appear to have a completely new mode. Really, it’s the same exact mode as a standard quick game with controls that have been so overly simplified, they become something that will rarely get used by Madden fans.
But for those who don’t already own a recent Madden title on their PSP, 09 does offer lots of re-playability that will keep you occupied in the car, on the plane, bus, work, church, or wherever it is you use your handheld. There are plenty of modes that make a return from last year as well as mini-games that offer a variety of ways to play. The Superstar Challenge has gone under a small makeover, allowing you to recreate games from last season including the historic Packers and Favre overtime victory over the Broncos, the Dophins vs. Ravens match, and the Giants Super Bowl win over the Patriots. It’s a nice addition to keep the mode up-to-date, though it is definitely not enough reason to purchase the title unless you absolutely need this feature.
As far as the other modes, Franchise is completely unchanged from last year, as you build your team up and create your dynasty. Mini-Camp challenges add a bit of variety in fun competitions that will have you competing against the computer or other players offline, completing different challenges and drills. Multiplayer is also available through either Ad Hoc or Infrastructure, allowing for a game no matter where you happen to roam with your handheld.
For those familiar with the last couple years of Madden, graphically you may not be as impressed with 09 as someone new to the series. However, the graphics really look good on the PSP.
Animations look fluid and stadiums are well detailed as the camera pans over the field and the crowd, and if you were looking at the screen from a distance, you might actually think it was a television broadcast. Looking closer, there is some stuttering and skipping during some between-play animations and it seems to lag somewhat as lines setup. Still, it’s a visually pleasing game and definitely one that any football fan will have fun playing.
For those who have taken a hiatus from the Madden series during the past couple of years, the PSP version of NFL 09 is the perfect opportunity to jump back into all the excitement and variety of game modes the franchise has to offer on the handheld version. If you already own last year’s installment, Madden 07, or even the latest NCAA Football title and don’t absolutely need to own every single EA football title on the market, you may want to skip this year and wait until something really groundbreaking comes out. It’s disappointing to give a somewhat negative review to an otherwise good game.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.6 Graphics
Not much has changed since last year, and while player models and environments look great, there has been little in the way of improvement. 3.3 Control
Simplified controls introduced by Rookie Mode are an unnecessary addition to the PSP, though standard controls work well in the transition from a console game to a handheld. 3.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Excellent soundtrack and stadium ambience, somewhat dull and choppy commentating becomes repetitive. 2.8 Play Value
With the biggest new feature being Rookie Mode and the lack of new features that are available on current-gen versions of the game, those who own recent Madden title on the PSP won’t find much new here. 3.3 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.