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NFL Blitz

Score: 75%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Tiburon
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Arcade/ Sports/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

To the NFL Blitz crowd, football has nothing to do with smart strategizing, sound clock management, or even a running game. No. Football is all about big plays, thirty-yard first downs, and legal pass interference. After the non-NFL-affiliated Blitz: The League and its sequel took the franchise on a brief detour into a(n admittedly awesome) dark alley, Madden's evil twin is back in the hands of the National Football League. While it definitely hearkens back to the Blitz we all remember from arcades, it unfortunately feels like a giant step back for the series as a whole.

NFL Blitz looks about right for a downloadable title that lacks the big budget of a Madden game. Each and every player has an identical twin (or two, or three, or four, and so on), but who cares? This is Blitz, after all. Players are supposed to look ripped, and disproportionately so. What matters is that the football is fast and furious, and it is. Some animations are a bit slow when matched up against the overall pace of the game. Passing, for example, takes a bit longer than you might be used to in a Blitz game. Otherwise, you'll be surprised at how faithful this release is to the original. Stiff arms and spins look just like they did back in 1997. Players fly high to make catches and throw their entire bodies into tackles. Just like in the original.

NFL Blitz's commentary by Tim Kitzrow and Brian Haley is gleefully atrocious. Blatantly obvious observations fly left and right, incoherent emotional outbursts accompany each big play, and the conversation frequently veers off on wild and bizarre tangents. It's great, but after a few games, you'll have heard it all. Not all of the sound effects have made the transition, but from an audio standpoint, it's not much different from its fifteen-year-old big brother.


Gameplay:

NFL Blitz is and always has been football for people who have ADHD, or at the very least, people who are in a hurry. Need an example? Well, if you score a touchdown, the extra point is simply given out freely unless you want to try for two points. Just about every design decision in NFL Blitz is in place for the sole purpose of keeping the action fast-paced. Most offensive plays are long passes, and while the defensive arsenal is slightly more varied, it features some plays that more than live up to the name of the game.

There are lots of modes to dig into. Of course, you can set up a single game for a quick fix, but you can progress through the Blitz Gauntlet: a single-player ladder-style set of matches punctuated by often comical boss matches.

The real meat of the experience is found online. By participating in matches, you earn Ranking Points and Blitz Bucks. Over time (and with sufficient skill), you will establish your presence on the leaderboards and eventually (hopefully) land a spot in the Battle Board Hall of Fame. There's definitely an element of prestige to the online progression, and while it has its special pull, it doesn't elevate the gameplay in any meaningful ways. If you're super hardcore, you might find yourself drawn to Elite League: the card/management-based league mode that has become commonplace in several modern sports sims.

Lots of people are arguing that the absence of late hits does not cripple the game. I don't mean to come across as a petulant child, but I feel (quite strongly) that the cruel excision of what made the original game particularly special does just that. NFL Blitz (and to a greater degree The League and The League II) satirizes misconceptions and unfortunate truths about all of the excess behind professional American football. An unsettling number of NFL players seem to be (and in several cases, are) vain and unsportsmanlike. I mean, I get it -- the NFL wants to keep its reputation clean. But let's back up for a second and face facts: while the actual football in earlier Blitz games was serviceable, people stayed for the unsportsmanlike dogpiling that occurred after each and every play. It's mindless, to be sure, but it's a great way to keep a sore loser in the game. Without it, it just doesn't feel complete. End of story.


Difficulty:

As NBA Jam was before it, NFL Blitz is rubber-banded when it comes to difficulty. The game will keep track of exactly how much ass you're kicking; towards the end of a lopsided game, it will exploit every possible opportunity to turn the tables on you. That means sudden turnovers aplenty. Normal passes sent to minimal coverage tend to find their way into the hands of defenders that all of a sudden possess keener-than-keen awareness as well as inhuman reflexes. This means the game is ultimately less about player skill and more about trying to keep one leg up over your opponent. Naturally, this issue evaporates when you take your game online.

Game Mechanics:

I could classify NFL Blitz as football at its most basic, but that's really not an accurate description. It's actually much less than that. You press a button to hike the ball, you press a button to throw the ball, you move with the Left Analog Stick, and you use triggers for Turbo. That's just about all you need to know for offense, and you need even less than that for defense.

Play calling straddles the line between accessible and shallow, though it leans more heavily towards the latter. Audibles are as simple as pressing the (X) button and choosing from a few alternatives on a list, and the reassignments are instantaneous. You can choose to flip the plays with a single button press while you're parsing through the playbook. And as mentioned before, the plays featured in this game are classic Blitz; you can throw a Hail Mary and sacrifice your entire defensive line in the hopes of getting a sack -- all within a minute of play. And the kicking game is as easy as pressing the (A) button when a bouncing slider hits the sweet spot.

If you choose to buy NFL Blitz or try the demo, I strongly suggest you take a short trip to the Gameplay Settings screen and turn on Icon Passing. Otherwise, your quarterback will only throw to the receiver he's facing. Once you've got Icon Passing on, you're golden.

I have a strong feeling that your level of enjoyment regarding NFL Blitz will be proportionate to your attitude towards the original game, which I personally believe is better than this new release. Though NFL Blitz fails to advance the series, it is still a fast and fun way to get your football fix.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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