Reviewed: September 3, 2008
This is going to be a weird football season. I’ll just let you know on the outset that I was born in Wisconsin so, as you can tell from my GBPackers68 Xbox Live gamertag, I was born a Packers fan. Though I live in another state now, the Packers are and always will be my team. So all the drama with Favre this summer was not a good experience for me. To add further insult to the situation, my local Walmart store is stocking an entire rack of NY Jets Favre jerseys and offering altered covers for Madden 09 with Favre in a Jets uniform. Blasphemy? No. I’m a Packers fan, not a Favre fan. So I’ll be keeping my cover with the Packers player on the front.
The real question for me: would Madden NFL still be fun to play with a different QB on my team?
I love my PSP. It’s just a great little system for anyone who travels. So it doesn’t take much to entertain me when I’m waiting 3 hours for a delayed airplane. Your enjoyment of Madden NFL 09 on the PSP is going to hinge on your expectations. Madden 09 on the Xbox 360 and PS3 are a big leap from last year. Madden 09 on the PSP… not so much.
The usual ‘play now’ function greets you in the opening menu. It gets you right into the game where you can pick from all the current NFL teams. Unfortunately there are no classic teams aside from the Superstar Challenge mode.
In Superstar Challenge mode you face scenarios from previous NFL seasons where you must complete certain tasks to move on to the next challenge. There are 25 challenges with varying difficulty. Most are ridiculously easy, but it does give you a good overview of the teams and skill levels available in Madden 09.
Multi-player options are available for up to 4 people in Infrastructure (internet) and Ad-hoc (local) modes. Infrastructure mode allows you to play others on the internet. Thankfully, this year EA allows you to save your account settings locally so you don’t have to go through the button maze process of inputting your account information every time you login. The EA Nation online mode is the usual structure of ranked games, a lobby, leaderboards, and the EA Locker where you can download current NFL rosters.
Additional game modes include Franchise and Mini-Camp. In Franchise mode you get to pick your team and go through the usual litany of off-season trades, contracts, and training to get your team in shape to win the Super Bowl. EA still has the slick function of “spawning” a game so you can transfer it over to your Playstation console to play on the big screen. When you are done you can transfer the results back to your PSP. It’s a nice function to have if you play during your lunch break at work. But the game on the PSP is so different from console systems it makes me wonder how many people actually use this function?
Mini-Camp mode allow you to pick from 8 different drills for various positions. Mini-Camp Competition mode has 19 different mini-games which are good for a quick competition. You can play up to 4 people on the same PSP if you want to pass it around. These games are a good introduction to the game and controls to help you succeed in online play against real opponents.
In short, there are a handful of changes to Madden 09, none of which would make it a ‘must buy’ or compel anyone to upgrade from previous years. Probably the biggest change is a “rookie mode” which gives players a very basic system of playcalling and running/passing. Instead of having to press the corresponding icon above your receiver to pass to him, you just press X to pass to the most open receiver. I suppose that is a nice feature for younger players or people who don’t really care about Singleback Slot Strong offensive plays.
There are still plenty of annoying little presentation problems. If you are expecting all the TV style presentation qualities of ESPN, you should let that one go. There is an ESPN ticker, but only when you play the game online in infrastructure mode.
Madden 09 has the usual glacially slow load times – to the point that my screen frequently goes into the darkened screen saver mode. It is the price of having good graphics on such a small system.
Madden NFL 09 has some very slight graphical improvements from last year. Certainly not enough to warrant a purchase if you already have a previous version. Overall the graphics are about PS2 quality, certainly better than what you would find on a cell phone, but not that much better. This isn’t quite up to “Tekken” or “God of War” graphical excellence.
Probably the biggest change graphically is in game view cameras. There are the usual “Madden”, “Classic”, and “Zoom” views, but Madden 09 now has a “Defensive view” so when you are on defense you are behind your team instead of getting the normal offensive view.
As with most sports games on the PSP, your focus has to be on the actual gameplay and not the peripheral graphics. Things like the crowd in the stands, touchdown celebrations and any kind of Super Bowl winning presentation are absent. Those are frills I suppose. But the core gameplay is there and for the most part it is a nice diversion if you don’t have access to a more advanced gaming system.
This is another area that hasn’t changed much from last year. While the 360 and PS3 versions have a different crew in the booth (why would they not have John Madden commentating for Madden football?), the PSP has the usual combination of John Madden and Al Michaels. Of course the commentary isn’t anything as extensive as console games, but it does work well and shouldn’t change.
EA Trax provides almost 50 songs for your listening pleasure. One of the few tie-ins that would indicate that this is EA’s 20th Anniversary of Madden, is the addition of some music from the NFL Films music archive.
As far as football games go for the PSP, you have a choice of Madden, NCAA, and Blitz. It’s just a question of what type of football you want to play. All three games offer very different experiences and content value.
Madden really doesn’t have much for extra features. In fact the menu item “EA Sports Extras” includes only the game development credits. The value is in the licensing and EA isn’t stupid. That’s why they have an exclusive license with the NFL. So if you want to play real in NFL stadiums, with NFL teams and NFL players, Madden NFL is the only game for you.
If you are looking for a portable version of the PS3 or 360 versions of Madden 09, you are going to be sorely disappointed. Madden NFL 09 on the PSP is a good game with its share of oversights and flaws. But it is the only NFL game on the PSP. So if you just have to play football with your favorite NFL team, Madden NFL 09 is the only game for you.