Madden NFL 07 REVIEW

Madden NFL 07 Review (PSP)

Four weeks into the NFL season, there have been plenty of surprises. The Bucs, Steelers and Giants are starting the season off rather slowly, while the Saints and Ravens, of all teams, have jumped out of the gates looking very impressive, who would have predicted that? David Carr, Philip Rivers, Chad Pennington and Rex Grossman lead the way in passer rating. Are you kidding me?

Well, much like the surprises in the NFL season, there are quite a few surprises in Madden NFL 07 for the Sony PSP. Are those surprises good or bad? Do we have a Houston Texans dud, or an Indianapolis Colts juggernaut? Well, read on and find out.

The standard options are available in Madden NFL 07, which include the Play Now feature, giving you the ability to jump right into an exhibition game against another team. Choose your team, stadium, uniform, offensive and defensive playbook and you're on your way. Madden NFL 07 has the same slider set as last year. So you still have the ability to change a number of things on offense, defense and special teams.

For fantasy football fans, they have a fantasy draft. It's interesting to say the least; I have Peyton Manning, T.O. and L.T. on my squad - watch out! I haven't played a game with my fantasy team yet, I just wanted to see who I could get and how the AI drafted. Surprisingly, the AI drafted fairly well for the most part. Most teams picked up a running back or quarterback in the first round, in the second round, most teams selected defensive players, mostly on the defensive line.

For the seasoned vets, the franchise mode is virtually unchanged, and unfortunately, painfully slow. It still offers up training camp to boost attributes, a full preseason, regular season and off-season. Just simming through an entire season took around 25 to 30 minutes, so get your popcorn ready.

If playing online is your thing, you can play online at EA Nation, which in my experience, was fairly lag-free. Of course there is always Ad-Hoc play available if you have a friend nearby with the game. If you have a Playstation 2, you can connect your Sony PSP to it via USB cable and download a franchise file, custom rosters, and/or user profiles. When you've finished playing on the PSP, you can upload it back to the PS2.

The graphics are pretty good for a handheld system. Not only can you see the difference between large and small players, you can also see differences between bigger and smaller offensive and defensive lineman, making the visuals stand out even more. There are only four camera angles, and you can turn the in-game banners on or off, if you wish to do so. They have added instant replay this year, but unfortunately, you can't challenge any calls. The gameplay itself is much smoother this year; the loading times killed this game for me last year. Other than a slight delay on occasion, it is much better than last year.

There are a few new exclusive features in the game, which include a mini-game called End 2 End. The first thing you'll notice when starting End 2 End, is that you will be forced to turn your PSP 90 degrees counterclockwise. It takes a little while to get used to, but it's a new and creative way to play. Kudos to EA for trying something different for the PSP owners. In End 2 End, you are basically returning a kickoff, avoiding the tackle, by pressing various directions to jump, juke and duck your way into the endzone. It's enjoyable for a while, but it's very easy, even on the higher difficulties, so it won't occupy too much of your time.

The all new running controls offer another new feature, which EA calls Run to Daylight. With this new feature, you press the circle button to select a blocker before the snap in an attempt to create a hole for your running back. After your attempt at creating that hole, you can decide whether to keep blocking and let the AI do the running for you, or hit the circle button again to control the running back and hit that hole you just created. You have the option for an impact/cut block, turning a defender left or right or to pull/hold a defender. When using the pull/hold feature however, you run the risk of actually getting called for a 10 yard holding penalty, so use it at your own risk; but the pros do it all the time, right?

This new feature is extremely fun, gratifying and aggravating all at the same time. It's fun mowing down defenders, gratifying to see the hole open up, then aggravating to see the AI running back go the opposite way. The AI doesn't always go the wrong way, but when you blow up the defensive line and then get to the next level, it's frustrating to see the AI make the wrong read. Hopefully, the team works out the kinks next year. You can always take control of the running back yourself, but sometimes I'm too wrapped up in finding the next guy to pancake.

When running the football, the new Highlight Stick lets you "Truck" or juke your way to six. To use this feature, you have to hold the triangle button and press up/down/left/right. By pressing up with a bruising back, you "Truck" your way through a defender, trying to run right over him, like Jerome Bettis and Bo Jackson used to do. The smaller, shiftier guys, on the other hand - like Warrick Dunn and Tiki Barber - will juke or spin their way out of trouble. So make sure you keep this in mind when Roy Williams and/or Sean Taylor come up to the line of scrimmage waiting to take your head off. The more agile runners can make double moves as well, by quickly pressing left and then right or vice versa. When engaged with a defender, you can also tap the X button repeatedly to break a tackle or gain a few extra yards.

As everyone is aware, there is a fatigue issue in the Xbox 360 version of Madden. After experimenting with the game, that doesn't seem to be a problem in the PSP version, at least from what I can tell. You will see players getting subbed in, after adjusting the sub in/sub out setting. After running Julius Jones four or five times in a row, Marion Barber will come in. Send Torry Holt out on a fly pattern a few times in a row and he'll need to sit down and take a breather.

While the gameplay itself hasn't really changed much, I did notice a strange bug in the game. On occasion, the CPU will get called for delay of game penalties over and over again, until you decline the penalty. After you decline the penalty, the game is back to normal, but if you accept, they'll keep getting the same penalty called, until you decline it. It has happened to me a few times, so it wasn't just some random thing.

For the Madden fans that want a good football game on the road, there isn't a better game available. Speeding up the franchise mode would help out tremendously, as well as programming the AI running backs to see - and hit - the hole better. I never thought I could enjoy playing football on a handheld device, but Madden NFL 07 has changed that.

Madden NFL 07 Score
out of 10