Off to a slow start in the current generation of handhelds, EA’s Madden franchise just can’t find footing in the portable realm. The two DS entries were less than stellar, and now the glitchy PSP port arrives in typical, toned down fashion. It’s impressive to feel and use the physics of the series on such a small piece of hardware, but it’s not fun to deal with the multitude of other problems.
Missing most of the typical game modes, Madden ’06 arrives with a whimper. There’s no standard season mode, no deep, involving create-a-player, and the actual gameplay enhancements are minimal. Instead, exclusive to the PSP version are some quick mini-games, which add little to overall package, and even less to the NFL experience.
On the field, the vision cone passing added to the home console renditions this year is thankfully gone, both because it was needlessly complicated and there’s only one analog stick available. Precision passing remains, a nice feature that lets QBs direct passes to specific areas near the intended receiver. It’s a subtle change that will be passed over by novices, while players more familiar with the series will swear by it.
The running game is a sore spot, far too easy on most of the difficulties (with even a meager running back). You’ll need to spend a few games playing with difficulty sliders to find the proper levels suited to your style of play. Defensive backs will have no problem covering receivers, yet seem to have no vision to lock onto a rushing game.
Tackling is fine, the reasonable player models likely looking as good as they could be. Collision detection is perfect, and breaking a tackle is a great feeling. There are moments of slowdown when stepping to the line of scrimmage. It’s a small annoyance and doesn’t affect gameplay.
This can create some problems with the link mode, allowing true overly die-hard Madden fanatics to continue their franchise on their PS2 from their PSP. Simply connect a USB cable to the Playstation 2 to download the necessary data. It’s an easily explained step-by-step process. The obvious gameplay differences will either change the way your franchise was played, or mess up otherwise realistic stats.
Of special note to the PSP are the delays between selecting a play and getting back on the field. It’s brief, and it’s almost to the point of being fussy to make it an issue, but it can be noticeable, especially in a tight contest when you want to be on the field. Commentary is as bland as it can be, and turning off Madden and Michaels isn’t such a bad idea. It will alleviate some of the loading issues.
That’s hardly a major problem when the game crashes however. Countless reports, complaints, and personal experiences show that this one was severely rushed with major coding problems. Be extremely careful when exiting week two (sometimes later) of a franchise game. Madden ’06 will completely shut down your PSP; powering it off and there’s no way to stop it. There have also been sporadic reports of the game erasing memory sticks of all their data, though this hasn’t been confirmed.
It’s not the only problem to contend with either. The game will occasionally hang up during the brief between-plays loading moment. Sometimes pausing will help, as it does to the kick meter when that fails to show up during a kick-off. Other times you’ll need to exit the game completely. All of this seems random, and there’s nothing that can stop it.
That means this is full of glitches, gameplay quirks, and it’s nearly featureless compared to the other versions of Madden. What makes it worth playing? It’s the closest we’ve ever come to a true, current Madden on a handheld, not just a port from the previous generation. That alone will make this appeal to fans of the series who religiously spend $50 a year on it. How agitated they become when the game stops working for them will be the true test of their loyalty.