Ever since the release of NFL 2K5, Madden has been the only option in town for fans of simulation football games. This is due to EA Sports securing the exclusive third-party rights to make games featuring NFL players and teams, effectively eliminating their only real competition, the NFL 2K series, altogether. Many football gamer fans cried foul, some describing this move as unfair or dirty, but in the end Madden stands alone as the only option for players who want to enjoy new simulation football video games. One of the biggest fears of this type of monopoly is that, since they effectively have no competition, EA would get lazy and just keep rereleasing the same subpar game year after year with little more than a roster change to tell the titles apart. Thankfully this is not the case, as Madden has continued to evolve and improve year after year despite the lack of other football simulations nipping at their heels.
While not quite up to the standards of its current generation console brethren, Madden NFL 10 for the PSP still manages to be a solid football experience on the go. Still, I feel as though I should start off by mentioning some of the bigger features that haven’t carried over from the console versions of Madden NFL 10. There are no gang tackles or fighting for extra yards with the Pro-Tak system, and you can forget about playing through an online franchise or even just online co-op with a buddy. These are some fairly large omissions, especially the online ones, but that’s almost to be expected due to the reduced horsepower of the PSP and the fact that it is supposed to be a portable experience which is not always conducive to consistent online play.
Even with these few missing aspects, Madden NFL 10 for the PSP packs a serious amount of content onto its soon to be obsolete UMD. As one would expect, there are still more than enough modes present to keep portable football fans hooked to their PSPs. Players always have the option to just jump into an exhibition game with their favorite team for a quick injection of the sport, but the franchise mode is likely where much of your play time will be spent. There isn’t a ton new here, but you can still take your favorite team through several NFL seasons while trading players, signing free agents, and trying to keep out of salary cap troubles.
Before every season starts, you’ll have a chance to work with your team in order to better prepare them for the challenges ahead. But instead of just getting a better handle on your offense or defensive plays, you can actually take the various members of your team through specific mini-games in order to potentially earn some points that can be used to improve their individual skills. This was a fantastic idea as it allows players who perhaps disagreed with their favorite players’ Madden statistics to juice them up to where they think is appropriate. These mini-games range anywhere from trying to throw long distance passes to stopping a running back from getting into the end zone. The only problem here is that not all of these mini-games will actually help you to learn how to play better. In fact, many are reduced to simply just mashing away at the L and R buttons as quickly as possible. Still, each mini-game has several levels of difficulty, with the harder versions netting you more points, so at least it is possible to help give your players an extra edge.
Aside from the standard franchise mode, you’ll also find barebones online multiplayer options that allow for ranked online matches that work fairly well and mostly lag free as well as a few other new additions. One of the major new modes is called Superstar Challenge, and it is fairly similar to the Madden Moments from last year’s title. In this mode, you’ll attempt to preserve history by completing various challenges that happened during the last NFL season. For example, early on you will be tasked with helping the Dolphins upset the Patriots using their secret new Wildcat offense. However, the best part of this new mode is that now in each challenge you also have the chance to play the spoiler, which in the case of my example would have you playing as the Patriots and mounting a major come from behind victory. While this is a great addition that is fun and rewarding to play, it does have one glaring flaw. This mode allows you to spoil or relive the major moments from the last NFL season, but it has you doing so with this year’s rosters. This doesn’t completely ruin this mode, but it does make it seem horribly inaccurate and nonsensical because let’s face it, coming from behind with Matt Cassel is a completely different animal than when using Tom Brady.
I’ve saved the best new mode for last and its one that fans have been clamoring for at least as long as NFL Blitz has existed. I’m not talking about a Madden Arcade mode but instead the Play Designer mode. This mode is incredibly easy to use, allowing players to design custom formations and plays quickly after a brief tutorial. Every offensive player, minus the offensive line, can be moved about and given custom routes to run. When designing a route, one can set waypoints where your receiver will perform a move such as a juke or a slant in order to break free, or for the less experienced, premade routes are also an option.
The camera can be somewhat problematic in this mode because it pulls in too closely to the field, but it can be zoomed out by holding down a button. These custom plays can also be tested without leaving the creator, so it is very easy to tweak plays until you are completely satisfied. Once you’re done making plays, they can be saved into a playbook and even exported to the PS3 version of Madden, which is a great feature if you happen to own both versions of the game.
The game itself plays as you might expect, with fairly tight controls but also physics and animations that aren’t quite on par with the console versions of Madden NFL 10. You’ll still find yourself mashing buttons or tapping them in a specific sequence in order to recover fumbles as in the console versions. When receivers are running routes, their passing icon will appear above their heads and turn green to indicate they’re open or red if they’re covered. Also, in an intriguing move individual players can also develop momentum throughout a game that will either make them play better or worse. If a receiver misses a few passes, they’ll cool off and be less likely to make difficult grabs later on, while completing numerous passes with a QB will make them throw more accurately. Heating up is no guarantee of success, nor is cooling off an instant failure, but it does add another level of depth to the gameplay that makes you think about how you’re using all of your players.
It may not have all the features or impressive graphics of its big brothers, but Madden NFL 10 is as good a portable NFL simulation game as could be hoped for. Even without the online modes that didn’t make their way into the PSP version, there are still plenty of modes and content to keep even the most fanatical Madden player busy when they’re not near their home console. Being able to play the spoiler during the Superstar Challenges is great, and the ability to create your own plays alone makes this a must own for mobile Madden fans. So if you’re looking to play Madden somewhere other than in front of your television, you really can’t go wrong with Madden NFL 10 for the PSP.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.7 Graphics
Definitely not the most visually impressive title on the system, but there is an adequate amount of detail in the player models to keep you from getting confused about who is who. 4.0 Control
Everything works well and is responsive, although the lack of a second analog stick does make some moves more cumbersome to pull off. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Chris Collinsworth does a great job with the commentary, but Tom Hammond is pretty awful. This is also a great year for EA Trax ,with a wide variety of songs from the likes of Rage Against the Machine, System of a Down, Beastie Boys, and Nas. 4.2 Play Value
Despite the lack of the heralded online modes from the console versions of Madden NFL 10, there is still a ton of content packed into the PSP version that will keep you playing for a long time to come. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.