Review by conkersurround5
"Brings you back to the tried and true."
This is what I've been waiting for. Year after year Madden has gradually been focused on the bells and whistles in the game, rather than good football gameplay. It's very true that every year they have to add something to the gameplay, from playmaker, to truck stick, to juke stick, etc. They have to have something that says, This is what we did to change the play of Madden this year so you're getting something different. But it had seemed that recently there was too much attention paid to the bells and whistles. In 2004 they added the stadium menu, where you can see or control what your fans are eating. In 2005 they added the newspaper and email in addition to the stadium menu. In 2006 they changed none of this, even the menu's graphics were the same, but they added Hall of Fame mode. Remember Madden 2000? It was the second year franchise mode was available, second year it was 3D polygons, much improved graphics for the time, and a good football experience. This is what I've been waiting for them to get back to.
This is a quality football game experience, assuming you get off of easy and pro difficulty, the game is challenging and fair. You shouldn't have to mess with the AI settings at all. Better players will play better, but your average or poor players can have an opportunity to improve. You will not automatically throw picks or pick off passes because a defender happened to be there. The games progress much more like real football games. Sure a good team may blow out a bad team, but you will have some great battles. The last couple of years Madden had to be played more as a video game; knowing how the programming responded to certain things enabled you to move the ball. I found myself merely going through the motions of what I had to do to move the ball. This year for PSP you get a chance to play football and move the ball down field by using football strategy and tactics. The controls feel great in the process.
You have a profile that you can use in single or multiplayer. You cannot create a playbook but the playbooks are very well made per team. If you are a football fan and know football you can see the plays that your team uses. The defensive playbooks were long overdue for a little improvement and you see it here. There are a few glitches however. One can happen randomly, after you call a hot route you may be unable to hike the ball. Also on returning a punt you don't want to call fair catch with the return man, call it with someone else and it will work, otherwise he has a good chance of muffing it.
The overall feel of the game is faster than recent versions of Madden, similar to the speed of the 2K series, so it gives you a much more realistic feel of football. The truck stick and juke stick are a little more pragmatic if you switch to advanced controls, however they are considerably difficult to pull off. That is what I docked this category a point for. It would have been perfect if they would have just stuck to the typical moves of dive, hurdle, spin, stiff-arm, and juke, but this year's whole shtick is the juke stick and that is the one flaw. It doesn't take much away from the gameplay but it adds less than having the normal moves. I don't use the new blocking controls at all I doubt you will either; they are not very practical. An option for the QB to bring the ball down to scramble and bring it back up to pass is nice but I would have also liked an option to throw it away or pump fake, which happens to be missing from this version.
The player models look great. I couldn't expect it to look any better on the PSP. I did not expect to see as many animations as are in the game, a definite plus. There are some details that can get improved upon in future releases given they don't focus all their energies on some useless bells and whistles. For example, the temperature that is given seems incorrect considering what month you are in, and the stadium crowd doesn't seem to visually change attendance, nor does it mention your attendance. I haven't noticed breath in cold weather, although I could have just not played in a game cold enough by some chance. Despite some of the kind of little details that EA is known for that are not in the game I am pleasantly surprised with the graphical detail of the helmets, pads, and equipment on the player models. There are no graphics of players sidelined, coaches, or cheerleaders but it is amazing that what is on the field looks as good as it does; that is what matters anyway.
Franchise mode is the good old tried and true franchise mode you are used to. Nothing was sacrificed for the PSP in that respect. You have assistant coaches that are exclusive to the PSP and are a nice touch. They will layout goals for each game that change or get harder as you progress through the season. As you accomplish the goals you get a number of points to increase your players' attributes. Player progression still takes place as it normally would but it does not have as much of an impact as your assistant coach points can. Exclusive PSP mini-camp drills were added. These are considerably harder than the standard drills but add a bit of excitement and challenge to your training camp. There is a new feature called end-to-end. This feature is a PSP mini-game that doesn't add anything to your franchise team but can be very addicting and is perfect for some pick-up-and-play time. It requires you to turn your PSP 90 degrees vertically, which is a unique use of the machine, and use the direction buttons to dodge would-be tacklers. As you work your way from one endzone to the other you accrue points and advance levels, increasing your speed and how many tacklers you must avoid. Doing so unlocks music and stadiums as it tracks your high score.
I only gave this category a score of nine because if it were perfect there wouldn't be anything to improve on and I think that there is plenty to add in future versions but I'm glad they didn't focus on it all in this version and focused on good football gameplay. For example you don't have an option to relocate the team or to create a player. Not a big deal but something they could add in the future. I would have liked to be able to challenge plays though.
Multiplayer is fun on the PSP, you don't have to worry about someone seeing your plays but it will give you the offensive formation then 10 seconds to finish picking a defensive play. Online mode is really quite fun. If there is one thing I'd change it would be the rank system. It does not track your total record, only the games you played that were ranked games. Someone takes this way too seriously if they can't allow your overall record to be tracked if some of the games weren't officially ranked. It does show a number of stars next to the person's reputation so you can see if they'll quit the game.
The sound of the crowd is full and game situation appropriate. The on-field effects are really cool filled with player noises and the sounds of pads colliding. The commentary from Al and John throws some unique dialogue your way and Al will even call some play-by-play as the play develops. The jukebox has a wide variety of music, which is a plus, and doesn't annoy as much as some previous soundtracks.
BUY OR RENT?
This is a must buy if you have a PSP. I like this version much more than the PS2 version. If you are only going to buy one than buy the PSP version (hey, and you can take it with you). The PS2 link is a cool feature to combine the best of each version but they really do seem like two different games.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/30/06
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