The NFL Blitz series is known as an in-your-face, arcade style smash ’em up that has always held the rulebook in blatant disregard, and this newest installment is no different. I mean that in the best way possible, of course.
The latest release returns to its true NFL roots in name only, and sticks to the old school style of arcade play. Don’t be looking for zebras on the field, unless they are unlockable fantasy characters. The announcers stick to old school Blitz commentary that range from tacky to down right funny. The players use real names, jerseys and numbers, and there is a striking similarity to their real NFL counterparts. That similarity ends once you look at the body build of each player. All of them are basically body building beasts with cartoonish body ratios. Tony Romo looks like he hit the juice and the gym and worked only on his upper body. Everyone is freakishly the same, and all can toss a ball carrier 10 yards on a whim. The gameplay is very entertaining, albeit cartoonish. This is by no means Madden, and it never tries to be, but it does do a great job at being an arcade style football game.
Each team has its own stadium, and some stadiums look similar to their real counterparts. You can see Minnesota’s inflatable ceiling and you can see the open ends of the stadium in the House That Jerry Built. The surroundings really aren’t all that important in an arcade style game, but they did attempt to give each team their own stadium. They all look vaguely similar, but then again your focus will be on that the gridiron and not on the fans in the stands. The stadium graphics are never hard on the eyes, they just may not look exactly like the real thing.
Those that have played Blitz games in the past will find the gameplay familiar. It’s a 7-on-7 match up that is both fast paced and flag free. There are no rules, so there are no referees. First and 10 has become first and 30, and that seems like a big task until you start throwing the ball around. Completions of 25 yards aren’t exceptional, they are expected. Your running game will be non-existent but a 600 yard passing game will more than make up for it. One thing to remember, there are no refs so there’s no such thing as pass interference. That one aspect is what will keep you from having a 900 yard passing game. Your receiver will start to reach up for a catch and the defender will level him. The ball will fly on by and end up, hopefully, on the turf. No flag, no foul. The beauty of this is that it’s a two-way street.
Tackling animations look painfully life threatening at times, but are usually fun to watch. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a few tackles that would be considered legal wrestling takedowns in a WWE game. There are no injuries to worry about, but you will see players getting up limping, shaking their heads, or holding body parts. Tackling can also help your guys on offense because the ball is placed where you land, and when some guy is swinging your receiver around like a rag doll, he might just land in the end zone. Forward progress is also used, so while knocking a guy backwards 15 yards might be fun, it isn’t really rewarded.
There is a turbo button that can give your player a boost of speed, but it runs out pretty quickly unless your team is On Fire. When you’re on ‘F-I- er’ your boost is unlimited and your team is almost unstoppable. Once on fire, your players will move faster and hit harder. Being on fire adds a great aspect to the arcade style, and the commentary can be quite entertaining.
NFL Blitz can be played online or off. Offline, you can jump into a quick game against the CPU or a friend with a 2nd controller, or you can try to run the Blitz Gauntlet, a tier-based mode similar to Mortal Kombat. You’ll face off against 3 separate teams, then go up against a boss in Blitz Stadium. Blitz stadium is the only one that has power-ups on the field that you can turbo through and pick up. These power-ups can freeze time or instantly put you on fire. Once you defeat a boss, you can then use them in-game either as an individual or an entire team. You’ll have to run the gauntlet at least 6 times in order to beat all of the bosses. The Gauntlet can get a little repetitive, and having to run the gauntlet 6 separate times to unlock all of the bosses is a bit much.
While playing offline can be a little weak, online is where this game shines. Online modes for NFL Blitz consist of head-to-head match-ups and Blitz Teams. Head-to-head will pit you against either someone on your friends list or a random opponent. You can also play online co-op with a friend sitting beside you or an online friend. Online co-op is also used for Blitz Teams. You can create and customize your co-op teams with logos and banners. You can then work together to win games and earn points. Leaderboards for each state and region, called Battle Boards, track your progress. Reaching the top of a Battle Board, either as an individual or a Blitz Team, gives you the option to defend your title or retire to the Hall of Fame. I could see the online community for this game sticking around for some time.
For those that enjoy card based style of game play, Elite League is available. You are given a random basic set of cards and can earn Blitz Bucks by playing online against other players across all online modes. These bucks can then be used to purchase more card packs to build a better team with. You can play head to head with your card team for points and bucks, or play Risk and Reward to try to earn a rare card from your opponent. This is basically a wager match where the winner keeps the card risked. Wagers matches like this aren’t usually found in online sports games, and are a welcome addition. Your win-loss record might not mean all that much, but a Barry Sanders or Joe Montana player’s card might make you try considerably harder.
NFL Blitz returns to its true arcade roots almost completely. The game isn’t looking to replace the Madden series, its creators are only out to give gamers another option for playing NFL football. The offline mode can get tiresome, but the online modes are enough to keep arcade gamers busy for some time. If you are looking for some fast paced, almost arena football style of game play, check this title out. At only $14.99, it provides good over-the-top fun at a price that won’t empty your wallet.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
+/- Real NFL Players, but they all feel the same
– Offline mode is weak