Solid but Familiar
What is the one complaint commonly leveled at the Madden series every year? Of course, the answer is that this year’s is just like last year’s but with a roster update. While I’d like to tell all those Madden fans out there that this year is different, it is just not the case. With that in mind, anyone who has played last year’s Madden for the PSP can skip right to the scoring section of the review without fear of missing any vital information, as this is virtually the same game that was released last year but with a roster update. However, anyone who didn’t play last year’s PSP Madden should stick around for the details, as Madden NFL 11 is still a solid football experience on the go.
Similarly to last year, Madden for the PSP is just as notable for what isn’t in the package as what is. You won’t find any of the improvements made the series on the HD consoles, like the innovative and interesting GameFlow play system. You won’t find any online infrastructure, as multiplayer for this version of the game allows for local wireless play only. You won’t find accurate physics or jaw dropping visuals either. What you will get out of Madden NFL 11 is a competent football experience that you can play for countless hours no matter where you get the urge to go for a Hail Mary pass or bust a fifty yard touchdown run.
The meat of the Madden experience can be found in the game’s franchise mode. This mode allows players to choose their favorite team and play through up to thirty consecutive seasons. Along the way, you’ll also be responsible for dealing with injuries, trading for players, signing rookies, and keeping your team out of salary cap troubles. All in a day’s work for a virtual football team caretaker. You’ll also have the opportunity to develop your current players during each preseason, putting them through drills in order to sharpen their skills.
This aspect of the game is handled almost exactly as it was last year. Prior to beginning the preseason, you’ll have the chance to take some of your players through a handful of different training mini-games in order to earn points that can be used to improve their overall skills. These mini-games are position specific, meaning that you won’t be asked to try to rack up sacks with a running back, nor will you need to run a slant route with a defensive end.
Perhaps even more so than last year, these mini-games are a good way to pick up the skills required to play these positions during an actual game. For example, there is one training mini-game in particular that puts your defensive secondary skills to the test, having you trying to stop a specific number of passes from being completed to on-field dummies. While these dummies won’t move around the field as a real receiver will, this mini-game does a great job of introducing the player to the basic concepts of positioning yourself between the quarterback and the receiver, holding down the X button to remain facing the ball while moving, and the difference between holding the triangle button to try to get an interception and using the L button to simply swat the pass away.
These mini-games also form the foundation of a new mode in the game, Mini-Camp Competition mode. While it is technically a new mode, I hesitate calling it such because it is essentially just playing through several of these mini-games and trying to get a better score than your opponents. You can choose from nineteen different mini-games and compete against up to three other players, but while these mini-games can be a great learning tool for newcomers, they aren’t exactly enjoyable enough to play through many times. In fact, they can even get incredibly annoying due to their excessive load times. For instance, when it takes you between fifteen to twenty seconds to load a mini-game that takes less than ten seconds to complete, then another fifteen to twenty seconds to go back to the menu, it hardly seems worth the effort.
Much like last year, outside of the exhibition and franchise modes, the real highlight of the game has to be the Superstar Challenge mode. This mode provides the player with a series of challenges, taken from actual events that occurred in the last football season. You can then either help to relive the event by making sure it plays out the same way as it did, or you can play the part of the spoiler, controlling the other team and ensuring that history is changed.
This is a great mode that gives any fans with regrets from last season (which should be everyone but Saints fans) the chance to stick it to the opposition after the fact, with a nice rundown of how history would have changed had things not gone the way they did. However, just like last year’s Madden, this mode has one flaw that severely detracts from the experience. Instead of playing through these events with the appropriate last year’s roster, you will be forced to tackle these events with the teams’ current rosters, effectively eliminating all authenticity.
All the modes aside, once you get on the field, the gameplay is as satisfying as it has always been. Though you won’t enjoy the same level of animations or physics as you would in the console versions of the game, this version does a respectable job of making the gameplay feel realistic. Actually, the only real complaint I have with how the game plays comes from the awkwardness during some running plays. When trying to execute a running play through the middle of your offensive line, instead of finding a seam or being tackled by waiting defensive linemen, sometimes you will find yourself stuck in a massive group of teammates and adversaries, unable to move. While this does break the immersion, it eventually rectifies itself, with one of the horde eventually managing to make contact with you so that you can move on to the next play.
As always, Madden on the PSP isn’t as fully featured or graphically impressive as its console counterparts, however, it still manages to pack an enjoyable football simulation experience onto a tiny UMD that can be played anywhere. If you played or own last year’s Madden, this game may be a tough sell for you as not much has changed outside of the roster and a new mini-game mode. However, if you’ve been away from the series for awhile or are a newcomer, Madden NFL 11 for the PSP is a solid football experience that shouldn’t be missed by fans of the sport.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
While the crowd looks pasted on, the models of players show a good amount of detail. 4.0 Control
Everything works well except for powering kicks with the analog nub, which can be awkward. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Cris Collinsworth does a fine commentary job once again and the soundtrack is great if you are into music from the likes AC/DC and Ozzy Osbourne. 4.2 Play Value
Although you can’t play online and the only new mode is just a mini-game challenge, between the lengthy franchise mode and always entertaining Superstar Challenge mode, there is a ton of football enjoyment to be had. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.