NFL Blitz is back! The awesome 1997 Midway arcade hit has been updated with all the current teams and improved graphics. That little marketing blurb is true. NFL Blitz was an awesome game in 1997. I loved it in the arcade and later on my original Xbox. It was hilarious over the top football fun complete with late hits and taunting. Then in 2005, Midway couldn’t come to terms with the NFL so what we got was something else.
What we got was the dark side of football. We got Blitz: The League. There were a few (retired) NFL players involved in the game but the teams were all generic and there were steroids and all kinds of R rated things going on. While most everyone who bought the game seemed to like it, the absence of a real NFL license hurt the game a lot. After a messy bankruptcy, Midway got swallowed up by the EA overlords and now the NFL license is back with all the NFL teams and players licensed. Well, sort of. You see, NFL Blitz is a little different. You only get 7 players per team (so your favorite player might not be available), you need to go 30 yards for a 1st down, and it’s a downloaded game.
First the good news: EA for the most part has kept the things that made NFL Blitz a hit in the first place. The over-the-top hits and complete lack of penalties is a fun mix of mayhem. The game looks better than ever but it’s not quite as good as some of the other sports games out there. When you start the game you get a selection of different game modes. Play now gets you’re a quick fix. Blitz Gauntlet is a ladder style way of unlocking Fantasy Character Codes to use in other modes. Some of the characters have NFL ties – like the Cheesehead character.
Blitz Battles is an online based team game. You can play head-to-head online against other Xbox Live players or play co-op as a team to take on all comers. But there is a catch. EA knows full well that getting people to play their games online is the key to good sales and good add-on content sales. So they made a Blitz Bucks system where you get rewards for your online play and you can use your rewards to unlock various characters and cheats. Elite League is a takeoff on EA Sports’ recent push for “ultimate team” style trading card games. Granted, it’s a very simple version but it’s very similar to FIFA 12 and other EA Sports games. You can take your team online and try to beat everyone else.
Gameplay isn’t that far removed from the Blitz 2004 I played on my Xbox. As long as you remember this is an ARCADE game and not a simulation like Madden. It is still a blast trying to break tackles, steamrolling opponents, and throwing insane bombs all the way down the field. The added variety of NFL Blitz will increase some gameplay times I suppose, but really, NFL Blitz is - above all – an arcade game. It’s great for quick arcade action. Generally people will not be using Blitz to simulate the NFL season and won’t care about stats.
Make no mistake; all is not well with NFL Blitz. This version does indeed have improved graphics and fun gameplay. But casualties of the NFL’s politically correct oversensitivity are all the late hits and taunts that made the original NFL Blitz so fun. That is a big casualty. We always had fun with late hits on older versions of NFL Blitz. Then we have the announcers.
Look, I hate NBA basketball… but I love playing NBA Jam because it’s fun and the announcer is hilarious. EA was wise to get Midway’s NBA Jam announcer Tim Kitzrow to provide his signature brand of voiceover for NFL Blitz. For some reason they also decided to put a comedian I’ve never heard of (Brian Haley) in the booth with Kitzrow. Thankfully he doesn’t say much.
NFL Blitz comes in at nearly a 2 gigabyte download. That is a pretty hefty chunk of hard drive space for an arcade game. But they likely would have charged a lot more for a disc based game. The tradeoff is the issue… one of the things you’ll notice that’s missing from NFL Blitz is the announcers never use player names. Recording that many names and making it work with their commentary would be too big a download for Xbox Live standards.
Online play is pretty standard fare… there are leaderboards and you can take your Blitz team to greatness on the local leader board. I never had trouble finding someone to play and the overall gameplay was as smooth and fun as someone sitting in the same room. NFL Blitz has 20 achievements available for 200 points. EA really pushes people to play online, with half of the achievements involving online ranking boards. The rest of the achievements are standard (recover an on-side kick) to the bizarre (riding the back of an ‘on fire’ wide receiver with the zombie fantasy character).
NFL Blitz is great at being what it was originally supposed to be: an arcade football game. It has fun gameplay, good graphics and funny announcers. If you just stick to that, NFL Blitz is worth the $15 cost. If you expect classic NFL Blitz late hits or accurate gameplay you will be disappointed.