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I'm a football fanatic. I'll admit it. I love watching the games, I love reading about the latest news, and I love playing the latest and best video game depictions of the sport. The only problem is that you can't always get the TV to continue through your Madden franchise mode, and there haven't been any really great football games to be released on either of the major handheld systems. That is, until now, because Madden NFL 09 for the Sony PSP is a fantastic product that finally gives gamers a good way to satisfy their football fix on the go.
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Most of what makes the console Madden games so great is here. You have a quick play feature, a Franchise Mode for up to 32 users that allows you to enable a fantasy draft and even turn off the salary cap, minicamp and practice modes. Sadly, you can't create your own NFL player and lead him into the Hall of Fame like in the console versions, but that's understandable given the limitations of the hardware. There is a Superstar Challenge Mode that allows you to relieve great moments from the past, such as pulling off an OT win as cover-boy Brett Favre or completing a comeback as Chargers RB LaDanian Tomlinson, as well as online play via both ad-hoc and infrastructure modes.
Madden NFL 09 for the PSP also features both regular style play and a "rookie" mode that allows one-button access to some of the biggest plays in the game. On top of that, there are four difficulty levels and tons of customization options that allow you to tweak the game to your own liking. The title includes historic teams such as the 1968 Jets, the 1966 Packers and the 1972 undefeated Dolphins, among others. On the whole, its solid football action, though tackling can be unrealistically tough at times, and the loading times can be annoying. The game even tends to hesitate or freeze for a split-second at the end of each play, likely as the game reads information off of the UMD disc.
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Graphics and Sound
The game is visually impressive, although the players are a little small. Menus are crisp, clean and easy to navigate, and the inclusion of nice little touches--like the colored receiver indicator that lets you know whether or not a receiver is open--is most welcome. Al Michaels and John Madden do the commentary for the game, and it is impressive for a handheld, though it pails in comparison to its console cousins. Madden NFL 09 also features the popular EA Trax collection of licensed music, and thankfully, they are completely customizable for people like me who like to turn off all the popular music and run with just classic NFL Films tunes.
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Finally, a solid NFL-licensed football game for a handheld gaming system! Madden NFL 09 for the PSP isn't perfect, and it sure would be nice to have the NFL Superstar Hall of Fame mode in the game, but it definitely is a step in the right direction. If you're like me and you'd love to have some gridiron action while you're on the bus or waiting in the doctor's office, then by all means, check out Madden NFL 09.