NFL Blitz Review
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On 01/10/2012 at 11:33 PM by Rob Ottone
NFL Blitz fumbles the pigskin ...
Only for those with a buddy to play co-op sessions with.
NFL Blitz is a franchise with an interesting history. Going from being an actual NFL-licensed property with a relatively deep strategic angle, to an unlicensed product that seemed like it was truly gunning for ESPN’s highly-supported television drama, “Playmakers,” Blitz: The League (as it was re-branded) attempted to take a more “realistic” approach to the concept of video game football. This “realism” included bone-shattering and skull-destroying injuries that could be inflicted upon players. Despite these changes, Blitz: The League found its way into my heart very quickly, eclipsing the merits of both its arcade and home console predecessors.
Clearly EA was trying to design this latest incarnation of NFL Blitz just like its predecessors. Unfortunately, they've done it to a fault. Fact of the matter is, the original Blitz came out more than a decade ago and since then a variety of gameplay improvements have been made to football video games. These aren't represented here and as a result, it hurts the flow of the game.
The punting meter is a great example of this. Still moving schizophrenically back and forth, it makes punting (or kicking a field goal) an aggravating endeavor. Even worse, I can't choose a receiver to throw the ball to. While I understand simplifying things in the name of arcade style gameplay, it wouldn't have been too overwhelming to give me a choice of receiver instead of waiting for the game to light one up to throw it to.
The game feels very smooth, albeit, a bit sketchy. There were times where I was gunning to sack - I mean "push" - the quarterback, only to find my player diving headfirst to the QB's feet. I was certainly targeting the quarterback, and upon trying again (as well as my friend making multiple attempts as well), we often ended up with the same results, either diving past the quarterback or landing at his feet.
The thin playbooks don't help matters any either. While I don’t want the insanely detailed playbooks and stats of a Madden title, I would like to see an extra page of offensive plays that are exclusive to each team. I think perhaps downloadable playbooks are an interesting concept the developers may want to look into, to add a bit more depth to the game. That said, a streamlined playbook works in favor of the arcade presentation, though, as a downloadable title, some variation would be nice.
The Blitz Store offers plenty of customizable options for players who take their football experience online. By playing with others, you score points that can be traded in at the Blitz Store for various items like concept art, helmet designs, Fantasy Players (these are the Gladiators and Robots mentioned earlier), and modern-day NFL pros. As much fun as it may be to put Brian Urlacher on my fantasy team, I would prefer a mode that utilizes the legends of the NFL in a way that All-Pro Football 2K8 did. Give me Lawrence Taylor, Johnny Unitas or Earl Campbell over Tom Brady any day.
For a game that seems to adhere to the NFL’s bizarre anti-violence standards, NFL Blitz lazily re-uses animations from previous titles. Some hits that would end a character’s career just fall flat (a power bomb followed by terrible dialogue courtesy of the horrendous announcing duo), while players engage in helmet-to-helmet contact and blatantly grab one-another’s facemasks and collars.
By neutering the game of football (in both real life and in gaming), you lose the kind of playing style that football fans long for. Madden does well every year for its deep stats and playbooks, while also delivering a streamlined and TV-style presentation football fans clamor for. NFL Blitz misses the mark by not utilizing the insane, injury-inflicting fun of its previous, unlicensed titles to make a game that just plain isn’t fun in single player.
While co-op was certainly a more enjoyable experience, my mind remains unchanged, as this version NFL Blitz doesn’t sit well with me. The removal of late hits, the lack of design implementations refined in later games (Blitz: The League and its sequel), the overall reduction in strategy basically turn the game into an exercise in repetition and boredom. As enjoyable as NFL Blitz was in the arcades and original console ports, and as insane and violent as its unlicensed counterpart was, the new NFL Blitz lacks the fun and intensity that most football fans are looking for.