NFL Blitz Review (Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network)
Football games are way too damn serious these days. Sure, they’re entertaining, but some players may not be prepared for the onslaught of statistics and simulation rules that both Madden NFL 12 and NCAA Football 12 bring. So it’s nice to see EA Sports lighten up a bit and bring back a gridiron game that refuses to take itself seriously – NFL Blitz.
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Midway originally released Blitz in the arcades back in the 90’s, including such over-the-top antics as players catching on fire and ridiculous hits that would send a normal person to the hospital. As it did with NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, EA Sports retains most of the energy that made the original game click, while adding some new features that are sure to spark an interest in the football community, even though we’re in the playoffs.
Most of the features of the original Blitz remain intact for the remake. Offensively, you’ve got to gain 30 yards within four downs to head downfield, eventually shooting for the end zone on run and pass plays. Defensively, you’ll need to use your utter strength to stop the other team from gaining yards. Do enough on either end and you’ll earn turbo energy. Reach capacity and you’ll be “on fire”, with unlimited energy for a few seconds.
When it comes to gameplay, EA Sports keeps it simple, and it works so fundamentally well The pass plays are solid, as your highlighted receiver automatically lights up so you can see if they’re surrounded or not, and the offensive moves during runs, like spins and shoves, are ideally inputted. Defensively, the hits are excellent to pull off, as your guy goes diving across the field like a cougar pouncing on its prey. The tackles are outstanding, as players are driven to the ground with a great deal of ferocity. The only thing missing is the late hits, namely the leg drops and flying elbows that you could perform on a guy after you bring him down. Apparently, the NFL can’t completely shake the idea of sportsmanship, despite the fact this is an arcade title.
Along with quick match-ups, both online and off, NFL Blitz also retains the cool code entry system before match-ups, so you can activate cool power-ups such as a chrome-colored ball or cosmetic changes to your players, including the return of the Big Head. If you don’t know the codes, don’t worry; playing through Elite League gives you the chance to earn them through career match-ups, along with other bonuses, such as the Ultimate Team-like card packs and other goodies. (Your progress is tracked through online leaderboards, so you can see how you’re doing compared to your buddies. Great feature.)
If you’re in the mood to unlock NFL Blitz’s best bonuses, check out Blitz Gauntlet. Here, you’ll face off three with three particular teams before facing a Boss Team, comprised of a fantasy style player, such as lions (no, we mean actual lions, not the Detroit Lions) and zombies. Conquer them and you unlock the team for use in the game. Though they don’t all have the best stats, some of these teams are worth checking out. Ever see a zombie Tebow look-alike?
Visually, NFL Blitz maintains the status quo when it comes to rough-and-tumble football. Though it’s hard to tell one authentic stadium from another (they mostly look the same), the animations are fantastic, with players flying everywhere and celebrating after intercepting or scoring in the end zone. The menus are clean and easy to navigate, and old-school players will recognize some of their favorite plays from the original game, including the all-too-easy-to-use Da Bomb.
As for the audio, the music leaves a slight bit to be desired, though it is tuned to what worked with the original Blitz, so we don’t mind it too much. The sound effects are fun, with lots of “thuds” and “oofs” to make the aura of arcade football come to life. Last but not least, Tim Kitzrow deserves praise for returning to the commentator’s booth, providing upbeat feedback as you play through your match alongside an equally enjoyable cohort.
There are two minor problems we need to mention with NFL Blitz. First, some key plays are too easy to turn to, as they almost always guarantee results each time you use them. Da Bomb, for instance, is key for third down plays, and the only way you can screw them up is if you dilly dally with the quarterback too long. It’s something to keep your eye on if you’re playing against folks online – if they use one play too often, they need to work on their skills.
Secondly, you can’t change the length of time of the quarters. Two minutes seems ideal for a quick match-up, but what if you’re in the mood to play a full-on game? Sadly, you cannot. Maybe EA Sports can fix this with a patch.
So, yes, you can’t leg drop anymore (sigh, NFL), and there are some missing options that would’ve made this feel like the total package of arcade football. However, the fact that NFL Blitz came back at all – with new modes and an affordable $15 price tag – makes us smile. The arcade elements remain mostly intact, the presentation is energetic and fun, and the online features are just begging for a community. And who are you to deny Kitzrow? Really? Grab the pigskin and get to Blitzin’.
[Reviewed on PlayStation 3]