Reviewed: September 2, 2002
Released: August 12, 2002
Years from now when anyone asks me what I did over Labor Day weekend of 2002 I can proudly say, “I played NFL Blitz 20-03 for three days straight”. Before you all tell me to “go get a life” you really need to know just how fun this game is.
NFL Blitz has been around since 1997 when it first debuted in arcades all across the country. In 1998 the franchise made its way to the home consoles and the rest is history. Ranking right up there with death and taxes (well maybe just taxes in this case) you can expect all of your major sports franchises to release their yearly updates, and NFL Blitz is no different. Each year we get a bigger and better version of the previous year’s offering.
Since the sports themselves are unchanging what do you really get when you plop down your $40 every year? Of course you get the new players, teams, updated rosters, some new plays in the playbook, and the obligatory graphics and sound enhancements, but is that enough? Follow me on a tour through this year’s latest installment and find out.
NFL Blitz 20-03 offers these exciting features:
As with previous installments, NFL Blitz 20-03 is not a realistic football simulation. It is geared toward having fun and lots of it. This is barbarian football at its best with over-the-top action, bone-crunching tackels, and insane players. Even the basic rules have been altered to give this game an extreme edge.
Those of you that bought NFL Blitz 20-02 earlier this year may be wondering if there is enough new content to justify buying another full-price game. Arguably, NFL Blitz 20-03 is really nothing more than a minor upgrade to the existing game - what 20-02 should have been, but there are still some significant features that may have you trading in your current copy.
The first thing to note is the return of the “Create-A-Player” feature that lets you create you own custom player by assigning attribute points to various stats then see how they fare against the legendary 2003 NFL roster. All of the teams and rosters have been updated for the new season and the Houston Texans have been added to the schedule. The playbooks have been expanded to include a much better selection of plays including all of your old favorites from previous years and many new ones, giving the entire game a much broader scope.
Navigating the playbooks can become challenging at times. Each team has their custom play list, which are broken down into formations and split into multiple pages. Many of the better plays are hidden pretty deep, so you might find yourself rushing to find that perfect play before the clock runs out. You’ll figure it all out after one or two games and will be calling plays like a pro.
Many of the new plays added to this version are variations of running plays that really help to even out what has been traditionally a passing dominated game. While you still have the option of running the ball even during a passing play, having the ability to call a sweep or halfback toss is an excellent addition. Many plays were designed by actual NFL Pro Bowl players during the voice-over recording session.
As with last year’s version, the control scheme is simple and intuitive and whether you are a novice or a Blitz veteran you will be pulling off amazing plays and moves like a pro in no time. The longer you play the better you get, and you will soon discover all sorts of clever tricks and special moves that really give you a competitive edge.
My only minor complaint is the lack of configuration options. In this day and age of video games I can’t understand why developers simply can’t let me assign every single command to any button of my choosing. This isn’t to say the controls are bad in Blitz 20-03 – in fact, they are no different than 20-02, so those of you that mastered the previous version will be able to pick-up and play out of the box.
Just when I didn’t think an Xbox football game could look any better here comes Midway to prove me wrong. The changes are not earth shattering, but take the more subtle approach by offering cleaner visuals and improved details on what was already a stunning visual experience. There are also plenty of new animations and all of last year’s animations have been noticeably improved. There were a few bugs and clipping problems in 20-02, and those have all been fixed.
Players and stadiums all look amazing with updated uniforms and stadium décor. You can pick from various day and evening settings as well as rain and snow weather conditions. Inclement weather actually affects the field both visually, and in how your players function.
All of the characters are created with ample polygons to the point where you can actually see muscle definition, veins, and identifiable faces of your favorite players. The uniforms show wrinkles, dirt, and even the fine mesh detail. They all move in fluid animation that ranks right up there with any of the serious football sims.
The opening movie is worthy of a spot on MTV. The visuals and music combine for an energetic opening that really got me juiced to play this game. The menus and interface are excellent and features those famous Blitz cheerleaders that look like they were recruited from the neighborhood Hooters. The game screen looks like a typical network broadcast with all of the necessary information displayed in the corners of the screen.
Midway went to Hawaii (wow – what a tough job that was) to actually get NFL Pro Bowl players to record much of the dialog and one-liners you hear in Blitz 20-03. Most of this is good-natured trash talk that is as much fun to listen to, as the game is to play.
The commentary is equally as good with our pair of announcers doing more color commentary than actual gameplay announcing. Not only do they have a great time tearing into each other, they will offer make hilarious remarks about the players. Their library of comments has expanded since last year, but you will still hear the same phrases repeated over and over, especially if you play this game for hours on end.
The music kicks ass, plain and simple. I can’t even remember the music from 20-02, but the opening theme and music during the menus and interface screens in 20-03 has managed to make a real impression. Some of it is the same stuff from previous Blitz games, but there is some new licensed music from Qurashi that rocks the house.
You get all of your standard gameplay modes in Blitz 20-03 including; QuickPlay, Exhibition, Season, and Tournament. Exhausting all of these in solo play will take in excess of a month of constant attention. I played for nearly 8 hours on each system and only managed to get a few games into each season. Even though the gameplay has been accelerated you still play against a real-time clock, so games are as long as you set them in the options menu.
Of course the real value to Blitz is the multiplayer modes. Whether you are playing with two or four people, Blitz is the ultimate party game. There is a lot of fun to be had whether you choose a quick single game or challenge other armchair quarterbacks to a full-on tournament.
As much content as Blitz offers, it could stand to offer more. We’ve seen all this stuff for the past several versions of the game, and it’s time to move on and give us some extra goodies like maybe some mini-games like those found in Crazy Taxi, or even a Fantasy league option.
When you are tired of thinking and planning and strategizing your way into the end zone with games like Madden, Fever, and NFL 2K3, and you are ready to muscle your way down the gridiron in a flaming burst of speed, then NFL Blitz 20-03 is the game you need to be playing. As always, it’s all about the fun of football. There is nothing serious here except for the serious pure unadulterated action taken to the Nth degree.
If you already own Blitz 20-02 you may want to unload your current version or look for a software store that takes trade-ins such as Electronics Boutique. Everything in Blitz 20-02 is in this new version plus enough new material that you won’t want to miss out. This is easily the best Blitz ever...at least until the next one.