Reviewed: March 30, 2002
Released: March 25, 2002
Midway has the unique ability to take a great arcade hit and make it into an even better console game. They did it with Gauntlet: Dark Legacy. They definitely did it with SpyHunter, and they’ve done it again with NFL Blitz 20-02. While I never played the original Blitz in the arcades I did enjoy my fair share of extreme football with the PSX version a few years ago.
Like all of Midway’s extreme sports games, Blitz takes an existing sport; in this case football, and tosses in some unique twists that breaks it out of the traditional sports genre. Blitz never pretends to be a “serious football simulation” despite the official licensing that brings all of the players and stadiums to life on your PS2. The hard-hitting action of Blitz is an adrenalized mixture of NFL and WWF with pounding tackles that will have you groaning along with the players.
Midway has wisely chosen to not tamper with perfection. Everything you enjoyed about the original Blitz is still here along with a few new features to spice things up. You don’t even need to like football to enjoy this game. Blitz brings just enough of the rules of football to the gridiron to give you an excuse to orchestrate some of the best tackles and player collisions in NFL history.
NFL Blitz 20-02 is all about fun. Don’t expect grueling player AI, complex playbooks, or in-depth franchise modes or fantasy leagues. Most of the rules that keep the sport of football moderately civilized have been tossed out of the stadium. The game has been accelerated by slightly altering the basic rules. No more wimpy 10 yards for that first down – you now need 30. All those annoying penalties won’t be stopping the clock – they don’t even exist.
The control scheme is a model of perfection and designed to be quite intuitive. Just about anyone can pick up the controller and start having fun. As you continue to play you will begin to discover all sorts of subtle tricks and player moves that make each new game a unique experience.
This latest version in the Blitz franchise offers a few new features. The first is the new “Impact Player” mode that allows you to change a selected player’s assignment on any offensive or defensive play. This is a great new feature that lets you mix up the action and keep your opponents guessing.
Another addition to this new version is the use of audibles. These compliment the expanded playbooks that are broken down into simple formations. Pick your formation then choose from the available pages for that formation. It’s complicated at first, but once you figure it out you will find a huge variety of plays. You can even find the original Blitz playbook in the “Old School” section.
While the list of plays is impressive, Blitz shows its arcade roots with the lack of unique plays per team. All teams have unique offensive plays yet they all share the same defensive playbook. Despite the lack of unique plays, the game’s challenge lies in the actual gameplay and control of your 8-player team.
There is a disappointing lack of options in Blitz 20-02. You have Quick Play and Exhibition, which are essentially the same thing, and then there are the Season and Tournament modes. The fun stops there. One of the best parts of the original game was the challenge of taking control of your favorite team and defeating everyone else. Your stats were kept in a nice convenient list. This feature didn’t make it to the 20-02 version and it is sorely missed.
Even more surprising, or should I say disappointing, is the lack of a Fantasy mode. Midway has always had off-the-wall characters in their games dating back to the days of NBA Showtime all the way to the recently released NHL Hitz. Their absence in Blitz is particularly missed in the solo experience.
NFL Blitz 20-02 is fun and addicting, and while it makes you want to play over and over there just isn’t much variety or incentives in the single player modes. Hidden secrets, features, or play modes to unlock would have added immensely to this game.
There are plenty of football games out for home consoles and many of them look great. Realism seems to be the trend, at least in the serious sims; however, Blitz is no simulation. Midway combines a perfect mix of realism, slight exaggerations, and totally insane special effects to create a look that is totally unique to the football genre.
Charles Woodson, Pro Bowl defensive back from the Oakland Raiders, was brought into the studio for an extensive motion capture session where all of his signature moves were captured and put right into the game. Those were combined with over 1,500 additional animations from professional stuntmen resulting in some of the most insane and bone crunching tackles you will ever see. You could watch real football all your life and never see half the moves you will see in Blitz.
The players are detailed with amazing textures ranging from the fine mesh of the jerseys to actual veins in the player’s arms. The only features that are truly lacking are the player’s faces, but those are generally concealed by their helmets.
The players look even better once they start to move. The animation is outstanding and rivals that of Madden or NFL Fever 2002. The animation ranges from realistic to totally insane aerial moves that would kill a real human. With bodies flying in all directions the collision detection and physics are as painfully authentic as they are unrealistic. As with all the Midway extreme sports games, you can expect plenty of outrageous special effects such as your players bursting into flames as they perform exceptional moves.
There are a few instances where you might notice some clipping. Since the game is flying by at blistering frame rates you will only see this small glitches if you study the replays and actually look for them.
The stunning visuals and adrenaline-charged gameplay are complimented with a vast array of sound effects that sound as good as the game looks. Every tackle, punt, dropped pass, or game-winning TD is accompanied by just the right sound to enhance the emotional experience of the game. Perhaps my favorite is the “springy bionic slo-mo” effect you hear during the instant replays.
Fans of the original Blitz will note several new sound effects plus a lot more speech than the original. Players will talk smack while forming on the line and make humorous comments in the post-play animations. The quality dialog extends into the press box. The commentary is provided by a pair of announcers that are as entertaining as the game itself.
NFL Blitz 20-02 falls painfully short as a solo experience. While the game is addictive as ever, you may find yourself running out of reasons to keep going back to play the computer. Even so, it will be well over 40-50 hours before you start to tire from torturing your favorite NFL teams.
Multiplayer is where Blitz shows its true strength. Even from its early origins in the arcades, the game was designed as a multiplayer experience, so it’s no great surprise that once you trade in the computer AI for another human player the game becomes limitless in its scope and variety of gameplay opportunities.
As long as you have friends who enjoy this type of game you will be playing Blitz long after all those other serious football sims have started collecting dust.
NFL Blitz 20-02 is a solid upgrade of the original game featuring amazing next-gen graphics and tight, intuitive controls. If you loved the original or just like extreme versions of real sports then this is a must-have title. It’s a bit shallow on the single player modes, but as long as you have some friends you can challenge there is no better arcade football game currently available for your Xbox.