EA's Madden NFL franchise made its PlayStation Portable debut last year, not long after its console counterparts had launched. Though it was encumbered by some bugs, control issues, and painfully long loading times, you couldn't help but be impressed with the game. 3D football on a handheld system had never looked so good, and that EA was able to cram in just about every notable gameplay feature and game mode found in the console games was even more impressive. With that much on offer last year, it's not surprising that this year's game, Madden NFL 07, feels a lot like last year's game, but with a fresh coat of paint. There isn't much in the way of new modes or features, but some of the major issues, like the overly easy running game and the onslaught of loading times, have definitely been improved. However, the tradeoff is that now there are some new bugs and quirks to contend with, some of which are less pervasive than those in last year's game and some of which are more so.
Madden 07 on the PSP has all the gameplay highlights of the console versions, including lead blocker controls.
Madden 07 on the PSP includes just about every gameplay feature that was added to this year's console games, such as the highlight stick, a new kick meter, and lead blocking controls. The highlight stick is a new version of the truck stick used for runners on offense. Here, you can use the analog stick (while pressing triangle at the same time) to pull off the sorts of crazy jukes and steps that star running backs are so well known for, and on top of that, depending on the type of back you're playing, you can opt to use more-powerful moves or more-finesse-based maneuvers. This feels like the natural evolution of last year's truck stick, though most experienced Madden players will be able to get by just as easily using the button-based moves. Besides, the implementation of the feature on the PSP is kind of clunky. For moves that require precise timing, having to hold down a button and use the stick at the same time doesn't work particularly well for those who haven't practiced relentlessly. But if you take the time to learn how to use the stick, you can be a very hard runner to stop.
The new lead blocking controls are likely to inspire some new tactics from all types of players. While on offense, you can opt to switch your controlled player to any of the available blockers during a running play. This includes offensive linemen, tight ends, fullbacks, or whoever else might be blocking on a play. When blocking, you can do standard blocks, or you can even get dirty and do some mean-spirited cut blocks. This is an interesting mechanic, because it stops you from having to rely on CPU blockers, which, as any experienced player will tell you, are not always the most reliable players on the field. You can also quickly switch back to control the running back once you've laid down your block, which is good, because the CPU running back doesn't always manage to find the holes you're creating. At first, you may find yourself unable to effectively use this feature, because setting up the right blocks isn't always intuitive. But after some time, this control method gives the running game an interesting new perspective, and those who love finding new strategies are bound to eat this up.
The new kick meter is probably the most accurate representation of kicking available in a game thus far, though the PSP version of it is simplified compared with the console versions. With this meter, you use the typical arrow to line up your angle and then press down on the analog stick to set up your power. The meter quickly fills up, and then you press forward on the right stick to set the power as well as your accuracy. The difference between this meter and the console one is that here, you don't have to be as precise with the angle at which you press up to set the accuracy. It's not quite as realistic as on consoles, but it's perfectly suitable for the PSP, especially given how sensitive the analog stick can be.
Most of the other changes to Madden 07 involve making the game feel a bit better than it did last year. The running game is no longer the breeze it was in last year's Madden. You can't turn in a completely opposite direction right on a dime, as you could before, and there seems to be a bit more momentum to your running. The running game is still notably easier than it is on consoles, especially with the addition of the new running controls, but you can't completely slice and dice running defenses at will this time around. Loading times have also been improved in several key areas. Getting through play-calling menus and basic game menus is a quicker process than it was last year. That's not to say it's always instantaneous, but you'll generally find yourself waiting around less than you would in last year's game, especially when you're actually playing a game.