Madden NFL 08 PSP Review
Madden is huge over in America, they go crazy for the game, take sick days, and spend weeks revelling in the in-depthness of the product over there. However, the Madden spoken about in the first sentence of this write-up is not this PSP version of the game as it is the console release that results in making a whole continent go gaga. In fact, I’d dare go as far to say that the hand-held version of the game would be the least awaited. And as a result most likely the worst selling games in the series. However, regardless of how well it does in sales EA will still keep churning a new iteration of it out of its big corporate doors each and every year, and as a result of this we now have Madden 08 in our grubby mitts. Thankfully, there is some fun to be had on the UMD.
This year’s big change to the main game, a change that has been adopted throughout all versions, is the inclusion of something EA call a ‘weapon system’. This system supposedly showcases which players are best for each area of play, who the stars of defence and offence on each team are so you can play to the weakness of your foe, and to the strengths of your own team of superstars. Unfortunately, even though this system works wonders in the console versions of the game, specifically the next-gen adaptations, it does not suit the play style seen in portable Madden as the players don’t seem to be diverse enough to warrant the icon addition.
On top of this the next new addition for the PSP version is the inclusion of Superstar Challenge, and in truth it is a much more welcome addition than the other gimmick. The mode gives you small challenges with a specific task plucked from events in the NFL season to overcome. The challenges only take a few minutes to play but there is a nice selection of them to keep you interested for a while. Personally, I found myself playing through the mode in the car while waiting to pick up a friend, and then telling the person to wait for me to finish when they finally arrived as I was having so much fun. Now, I know this kind of mode is in no way new for sports games but its inclusion in this version of Madden is a great one as it lets people play little parts of the game while they’re on the move and don’t have the time for a full-blown match. All in all I believe it is huge plus for any handheld title, and definitely the perfect fit for a handheld Madden.
In terms of multiplayer, the main source of longevity for any sports title, Madden on the PSP does not fare too well. There are a few reasons for this but the ultimate blow to the title’s lasting appeal is that the online play is just a mess. Sometimes it is impossible to connect, and then at other times when you do get lucky and get into a match, the game ends up being the laggiest thing you ever witnessed. Thankfully the local (ad-hoc) mode is handled much better and should you find someone with another PSP willing to play a game with you then you should have no problems setting one up at all.
As for graphics and overall presentation, Madden does an okay job and manages to look respectable most of the time. All the menus have that official feel we’ve grown to expect from the series, and showcases all the necessary info you might need to know in an easy to see and understand way. However, on the pitch things are less exciting. The players themselves look okay and they animate well with some well orchestrated twists and turns along with crunching tackles on show, but other that that the stadium feels a bit barren with a highly pixelated crowd and no excitement happening on the sidelines at all. The commentary in the game, voiced by Al Michaels and John Madden, is also not quite up to scratch as I felt it ended up repeating many of the same phrases quite a lot, even over the course of one quarter of one game.
There is no doubt most Madden fans will opt for the console version of the game rather than hopping on the handheld bandwagon, and there is good reason for that as that is where Madden is at its best. But, if you are interested in some Madden on the move, and seeing as you are reading this review you undoubtedly are, then you could do far worse than picking up the current PSP version. However, this year’s effort does not offer a huge amount of change from the core gameplay seen in last year’s release, so if you have already got your hands on that, and are still having some fun with it, there really is no reason to update. Well, unless the few small changes in presentation really mean that much to you.
A respectable effort, but only a minuscule step up from the year before.