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PSP Review: Madden NFL 07

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After a false start on the PSP that forced a full recall, Madden 06 was a contender. Had it not been for the franchise-killing glitch that caused the PSP to lock up post-game, the handheld version of EA Sports sales juggernaut was fantastic. Madden 07 is the game 06 wanted to be, and it's on par with any version of the game currently available.

It's easy enough to pass this off as Madden 07 light. Features are missing, including the Superstar mode. It's replaced by an odd "End to End" in which players turn the PSP vertical and dodge incoming tacklers on their way to the endzone. It's definitely enjoyable and a unique way to use otherwise basic hardware. Mini-games included here are actually higher in number with eight widely varied modes to choose from. There are also two incredible NFL Channel video features, one of Madden and another on Madden's reign during the Raiders run with him on the sidelines.

Familiar features, including the ability to play your PS2 franchise on your PSP when you're on the go, don't jump out immediately. These are expected inclusions, in addition to easy-to-jump-into online play on EA's lag-free servers. The franchise mode offers the basics without becoming too complex. The PSP does struggle when simulating non-user games, taking an exuberant amount of time to complete the task.

Where this edition excels is the game play. The controls, while slightly crammed into the PSP's lacking button configuration, include the wide array of offensive and defensive maneuvers. The Hit Stick makes an appearance, activated in conjunction with the triangle button. This can make defending difficult since the jump button is also set to triangle, leading to an unintentional hit as the ball draws near. Be prepared for a few cheap pass interference calls until you can adjust.

Jukes are handled in classic form, while the ability to pull off power moves specific to your running back are handled like the hit stick. This makes it impossible to use the speed burst with the default controls, and you'll need to change the turbo button to a trigger.

Play is significantly smoother than last year. The annoying load time between plays has been trimmed almost completely (the game still gets behind on occasion), the passing game is wonderful, and fans of the running game will appreciate the tweaks made to ensure halfbacks have the advantage.

Holes in the line come easier than they did previously. Aside from zero sideline detail, the graphics engine has been updated, making everything stand out enough to be identifiable even at a distance. It's an impressive feat given the resolution of the portable.

The kicking game has been updated as well, using the analog nub for accuracy and power. Light on sensitivity, it's not difficult to ensure a straight kick every time. As long as you adjust for wind and time the power correctly, the aiming is dangerously close to being automatic.

This version does stumble slightly with a high rate of interceptions and completions. If thrown properly, a dropped pass is rare. If you're not paying attention, hungry linebackers have the uncanny ability to snag a ball out of the air if it's anyone near their zone. On the other hand, this requires the player to be aware constantly aware of their offense's positions, which is obviously a change for the better.

Given its portability and improvements all around, it's not a stretch to say this is one of the best versions of Madden this year. The lack of Superstar mode and excessive focus on the passing game is the only thing holding handheld Madden from becoming the dominant product. There's little doubt that with the issues addressed next year, this will be a nearly flawless product.

Madden NFL 07 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: GBA, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC, PS2, Xbox, and Xbox 360.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.