Developer: EA Tiburon / Publisher: Electronic Arts / Played On: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 / Price: $15.00 / ESRB: Everyone 10+ [Content descriptors: Comic Mischief, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Mild Violence]
The long awaited return of the NFL Blitz franchise has finally arrived. The hugely popular arcade title of the late 90’s is repackaged in the form of a downloadable game from new publisher EA Sports. Does this version measure up to Midway’s classic over-the-top mayhem? While delivering on the spirit of older versions and producing a fun arcade style football game, some elements have been forced out of the game. If only the NFL didn’t take itself so seriously these days.
While NFL Blitz is a very fun offering that can be accessible to the casual football fan, I would argue that it is being held back the very same NFL licensing that the title made its name on. Obviously including every NFL team and player is huge for the game to connect with fans of the sport, but the league will no longer allow for many of the insane elements such as late hits and some of the more brutal tackle animations that made older versions of the game such a hit. Who doesn’t love taking a cheap shot on a wide receiver that just scorched you for a touchdown? Apparently Roger Goodell and the NFL would prefer you watch players stand around awkwardly waiting for the next play call screen. Also gone is the in-game player trash talking that made the experience so much fun from an audio standpoint.
What Blitz does offer is high definition graphics and plenty of zany powerups such as catching on fire and taking the field with a team full of giant headed players. The player models and stadiums look very sharp and full of color. I would have preferred a choice for home and road uniforms however, as you are forced into each team’s home color schemes. This leads for some very confusing matches between similarly outfitted franchises. Also very curious is that there are no left handed quarterbacks in this game, so you will have to settle for a very generic version of Denver sensation Tim Tebow as a righty. The announcers shine in this game with their ridiculous banter and often random and off-topic facts. At one point the commentators stopped to let me know that Seattle had the best Corn Dogs in the league.
When you think arcade football, high scoring games with very little defense come to mind. When NFL Blitz is played multiplayer, which is its strength, defense can and does often rule the day. There is no such thing as pass interference in this game, which means you can level an opposing receiver as he runs his route downfield. Advanced Blitz players will quickly learn that successful offensive strategy includes the use of laterals, double, and even triple passes to get receivers open downfield. A short west coast style passing attack will not get you anywhere in a game where first downs are extended to 30 yards.
Helping to reinforce the go-big-or-go-home nature of the game, powerups are still a huge part of the NFL Blitz gameplay experience. The use of “on fire” powerups will make your team much harder to stop. I already have a couple favorite tackle animations in this game, such as watching a helpless defender being dragged on the back of a strong “on fire” offensive player for 30 yards downfield. Also, if you time your hits just right on defense, you can send a receiver flying and flipping through the air.
There isn’t very much room for customization in gameplay. Quarter length is fixed at two minutes regardless of the game mode. This does help make for quick games but I am sure there are players that would prefer to have the ability to duke it out with their friends for a slightly longer amount of time.
This is the first version of Blitz that offers online play. Multiplayer games are what this title is all about, as games versus the computer AI get fairly easy and predictable in a hurry. On the single player side your choices are “Play Now” and the “Gauntlet”. Gauntlet is a ladder style tournament featuring NFL teams and strange boss battle games as you climb the ranks. You are sure to get a chuckle out of playing a team of “cheese heads” or “zombies” between matches with the established NFL franchises.
The games themselves are not any different against the “boss” teams, it’s really just a change in character appearance and attributes.
For online flavor, you can battle friends and strangers alike to climb leaderboards broken down by state as well as region. You earn “Blitz Bucks” for each online game, which are then used to buy unlockable content ranging from game cheats to team logos and banners. Blitz Bucks will also help you to build a team in my favorite of the Blitz modes: Elite League.
Elite League takes a page from the Madden series and allows you to assemble an all star team by purchasing player card packs. If you are a fan of ultimate team mode in Madden then this mode is likely right up your alley. This mode uses team card collections as well. Each NFL team has a set of 12 players. Once you collect all players from one team, you can trade them in for an Elite player. Elite players are usually the best player from the team they represent and have one or more attributes that are set at a maximum rating. Perhaps the most fun aspect of this mode is that you can play a challenge mode against an online foe with the winner taking any card of their choice from the loser’s roster.
Despite the elimination of the ability to deliver late hits and other illegal moves, NFL Blitz remains a fun arcade experience that can finally be taken online. Multiplayer games are the main event here with Elite League providing even more replay value. I would prefer to see a few more customization options regarding quarter length and uniform selection. Even so this title is worth the $15 download price and should provide a good change of pace from the simulation style offering of the Madden franchise.