What is the concept? Much like Electronic Art’s 2010 reboot of NBA Jam, the recent revitalization of NFL Blitz preserves the majority of the classic title’s hyperkinetic action. Jettisoning any football tenet which might slow the game down, Blitz boils the sport down to its most basic elements, adjusting any rule to accommodate a frantic pace. From a streamlined playbook, tackles which catapult players high into the air, to securing a first down after earning thirty yards- the title is a far cry from the staunch simulation which drives EA’s Madden NFL series.
Extracting inspiration from the original seven-man teams of the coin-op and early console versions, (Blitz 2002 had eight athletes per side, while 2003’s NFL Blitz Pro and 2006’s Blitz: The League aped reality with eleven-man squads), shuns the grittiness which permeated later franchise entries. So while authentic NFL teams, logos, and players abound, the brutal bone-snapping x-rays, juicing, and prostitutes have all been excised, resulting in a laudable tradeoff. For better or worse, passing is still the main method of securing yardage. While the sporadic quarterback run or handoff can catch a human opponent off-guard and produce a small gain, gunning the ball downfield consistently yields the best results. While faithful to its heritage, some players will undoubtedly bemoan the constraint to their offensive arsenal.
What are the game’s strengths? Between the capably rendered athletes that flaunt an abundance of over-the-top animation routines and a nearly unblemished 60 frames-per-second delivery, NFL Blitz is certainly eye pleasing. Visual flourishes like gargantuan team names which drop into the endzone during team entrances and flashy transition graphics seamlessly complement the hyperbolic action. Although there are gaps between returning announcer Tim Kitzrow’s aural zingers, it’s comforting not having to hear the same remark incessantly through a game.
Although the game’s aesthetics are diverting, NFL Blitz’s array of play modes is the title’s most palpable virtue. Beyond exhibition matches, players can embark on the Blitz Gauntlet, which provides the intermittent fanciful rival between bouts with human contenders. Inexplicably, scoring a touchdown against a group of hot dogs, zombies, or robots is even more thrilling that trumping Bear, Lions, and Panthers, especially once players are rewarded with codes which can modify the main game with superfluities like big-head mode. Jumping online permits access to the Elite League, which grants players the ability to cultivate their own fantasy squad. Commencing with a starter pack, successive wins reward players with additional cards which offer additional players and field power-ups.
What are the game’s weaknesses? While players can customize their control options to say, change Blitz’s stick-based receiver selection to a contemporary Madden-style icon indicator, there are a scant number of selections to the game itself. As such, players are forced to compete in two minute quarters with obligatory seven man teams. Yet, the title’s adherence to legacy isn’t seamless- nostalgic players will surely notice the elimination of late hits from the game. Even if German suplexes and elbow drops rarely affected gameplay, these after-the-whistle shenanigans certainly contributed to Blitz’s mischievous vibe.
As well-conceived as NFL Blitz’s Elite League is, a few flaws exists. Since the in-game currency used to purchase cards in the Elite League mode is restricted to online play, gamers who normally eschew internet match-ups won’t have to chance to see the title’s most immersive element. Even those who venture on-line will be frustrated by the high-frequency of fourth-quarter quitters, as dropped connections pay no dividends. Hopefully, EA can patch in some type of partial payment, as playing a twenty minute match for naught can sap Elite League of its vitality.
Would I enjoy the game? As anyone who played NBA Ballers: The Chosen One can corroborate, recreating treasured franchises can be tricky thing. Prudently, EA Tiburon went back to the series’ high-spirited roots to revitalize NFL Blitz, upholding the game’s gratifying elements while adding requisite high-def polish and online connectivity. Although solitary gamers might extract enough enjoyment from Blitz to warrant the title’s fifteen-dollar purchase price, players that are part of an active online community will want to rush XBLA or PSN with the determination of one of the game’s marauding defensemen.