January 12, 2012 by Paul Curtin
Apart from the Duke Nukem series, no other gaming franchise better sums up the late ’90s / early ’00s than NFL Blitz. It was a time when steroids were running rampant amongst all of professional sports and fans could care less (because this is Americuh, damn it!) and the bigger the athletes and plays, the better. While American football wasn’t that much different than it is today, Midway’s NFL Blitz catered to a generation that wanted more excitement than what the more realistic Madden football games from EA Games had to offer and surely exceeded beyond what anyone ever thought it could be by becoming one of the most popular arcade games of all time.
Now that the original developer, Midway, is no longer around, EA has taken over with hopes of revitalizing the series. Like Duke, Blitz tries its best to fit in with the changing times and while it still manages to play close to as well as the original, it comes up short when playing against its former self.
The first thing you’ll notice about the new NFL Blitz is the changes to the visuals. Gone are the nostalgic low quality boxy player models, replaced by upgraded character models that look smooth and polished to somewhat fit today’s graphics standards. And while the game’s upgraded graphics can be appreciated, the art direction reflects changes for the worse and is the first sign that this ain’t your childhood Blitz, which is ironic since this Blitz is geared towards a younger audience but the original was the game most of us grew up on, playing in arcades, restaurants, and eventually consoles. If this was the same Blitz that debuted in arcades back in 1998, there might not have ever been a sequel. Player character models are still unrealistic, but not to the extreme like the freakish mini-Hulks that once were used for every player model; even the kicker back in the day needed his steroids to kick those 60-yard Blitz field goals — but then again, who kicks or punts in Blitz?
While slimming the players down isn’t anything that would ruin the game and EA should have made Blitz with a similar art style of the recent WWE All Stars, the manner in which the players act is where the game truly shows its emptiness. Besides its fast-paced arcade playstyle, what was most fun about the old NFL Blitz was how over-the-top and charismatic players on the field acted. Not only would players on the field celebrate after every play, but gamers were given the ability to turn each post-play moment into a WrestleMania brawl through the use of late hits and never have to worry about being penalized. There was never a dull moment even after the whistle was blown and I can honestly say that spearing and jumping on players after plays never gets old.
Sad to say, the new NFL Blitz does not feature late hits, the staple of the series. Once a play is over, players on the field immediately come to a halt and players at home have their controls disabled in order to make sure they can’t come in to contact with others. Players still make brutal tackles and use some of the same animations as previous games, but a lot of the more violent hits have been removed, which almost succeeds in castrating the Blitz franchise.
The majority of the changes to a wimpier Blitz can be attributed to the return of the NFL license to the series. Back in the late ’90s the NFL didn’t care about their likeness being used in a game that promoted silly unrealistic violence; now they’ve gone soft and it’s a shocker that there’s still pictures of sexy cheerleaders used in-between quarters and no penalties added for helmet-to-helmet tackles. It’s clear that EA tried to make the Blitz we all know and love, but they had their hands tied and the only way they could bring real NFL teams and players back to the franchise that direly needed it was to play by the NFL’s lame rules.
Besides the lack of late hits, everything else for the most part is back in terms of gameplay, menus, and plays. The same 5-on-5 style is used and controls work close to as well as they did before; however, there seems to be a slight delay in player actions like throwing the ball as the quarterback where it’s not as instant and fast as the original, which can at times be very stressful when relying on tight controls on an important play. Players also tend to run slower (even when using turbo) and animations like the spin move don’t work nearly as well. So even though all your old plays are back, you might not be able to use them as effectively as back in the day.
New modes like Blitz Gauntlet let players take their favorite NFL team and play through a ladder of opponents similar to Mortal Kombat (R.I.P. Midway). The Gauntlet also challenges players to take on “boss” teams with rosters made up entirely of pirates, zombies, and other random goofy characters. The new modes are nice, but multiplayer co-op is where the game is at its best. Just like in the old arcade and console days, now you can play 5-on-5 with two real people playing together on each team, taking turns picking the plays on offense and defense. Blitz Bucks are also tallied up after each game and awarded to players for achieving better stats and can be used for unlocking all the classic cheats and even some new features like legendary Hall of Fame players and comedic characters like a hot-dog-in-a bun-mascot or Bigfoot. No late hits and the lack of a playmaker is upsetting, but seeing a full team of hot dogs is pretty hilarious and almost makes up for it, especially when they’re laying the smackdown on Hall of Famers.
It’s sad when a developer can’t just give the fans what they want. All anybody has ever asked for is for the old NFL Blitz with better graphics and online capabilities. Hell, I think most wouldn’t even care if there were better graphics as long as the old Blitz could be played online with friends via Xbox Live or PlayStation Network. NFL Blitz is a step in the right direction for revitalizing the series, but NFL Blitz was never about taking small steps (it’s about making big plays, baby!) and its lack of classic features like late hits is a massive personal foul.
If you can get by the removal of late hits, then you’ll be left with a great arcade football game that plays like the classic NFL Blitz and is better than anything since. The comeback might fall a little short on fourth and goal but it’s better than any of the non-NFL Blitz games released over the past decade and thankfully only costs 1/6 of the price at 1200 Microsoft points or $14.99. At its core NFL Blitz is NFL Blitz; we just wish it didn’t get rid of all its attitude. NFL Blitz gets 3.5 out of 5 stars (Very Good).
- Great gameplay that plays almost identically to the original
- Multiplayer allows four players to play online at once
- Tons of unlockables like cheats, goofy characters, and Hall of Famers
- Updated graphics
- Only costs $14.99 on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live
- No Late Hits
- New art direction is a little too childish
- Game plays a tad slower than the original
- No Playmaker