NFL Blitz: Pro – XB – Preview 2

Midway
did a survey of sports fans and came to a couple of determinations: first,
gamers love Midway’s trademark style and approach to sports titles; secondly,
game players want more authenticity in their games.

 

So how
do you take a game that is filled with over-the-top body slams and outrageous
personal injuries and incorporate more authenticity?

 

Midway
found the way, and the result is NFL Blitz Pro, a game scheduled for release in
the fall 2003 on the PlayStation2, Xbox and GameCube.

 

Step
one in making the game play more realistically was in doing away with the
seven-on-seven game. This is now full-on 11-versus-11 with complete NFL rosters
(well, maybe not totally complete because that certainly was not Drew Brees
quarterbacking the San Diego Chargers). The second step was in making certain
that the playing field was not an abbreviated version, but the full field with
full-field rules – such as 10 yard nets a first down and keeps the drive alive.

 

Then
the developers tinkered with the AI and removed the catch-up mode – a source of
frustration for gamers who saw teams overtake large leads late in the game
easily.

 

You
want more? Well, Midway is providing it with online tournament play. The game
will have a tournament rating system, and up to four can play in a tag-team
game. There will be leaderboards, as well as a challenge mode. And if you are
interested in keeping a team going, this game will also have a franchise mode,
allowing up to 32 gamers to manipulate the team of their choice through 10
seasons.  

Other features include interactive sidelines (yes, you can knock
over coaches and Gatorade containers),

a powered-up running game, a robust stat tracking system, improved controls, DVD
content, new motion capture and animations, and dynamic camera angles. 

The
game commentary has also been improved. Peter Grosz and Keegan-Michael Key, of
Chicago’s “Second City,” do the commentary and provide some ‘intuitive’
perspectives and entertaining analogies (‘the defense shut that down faster than
a Depression-era speakeasy’).

 

The
graphical quality of the game has also been stepped up a touch. Players can
still catch on fire, but the haze of heat emanating from their bodies is nicely
done. And players will only stay on fire for three downs, so using that power-up
quickly is wise. The players are still steroid-enhanced, over-muscled machines,
but they do move well, especially when performing endzone celebrations.

 

Shadow
effects are very well done, but some of the lighting seems a bit out of synch
and does not measure up to elements in some of the competitors’ games. And the
AI was a little flaky on the demonstrations at Midway’s Gamers’ Day 2003 in Las
Vegas. After scoring a touchdown, the computer AI, twice, punted instead of
going for the point-after attempt.

 

Playing
online, though, was a blast. Whether playing someone across the room, or over
the GameSpy network, this game was quick paced and had a tendency to draw
onlookers. Games played very smoothing and with few hitches.

 

The
game has also incorporated team-specific playbooks and players now have the
choice of more than 200 offensive and 100 defensive schemes.

 

NFL
Blitz was a solid title. NFL Blitz Pro is a better gridiron game. The
progression from the 5-versus-5 game to this new version has been fun, but the
game always felt more arcade like than anything else. The new version of NFL
Blitz feels more in line with the style of other top-selling football titles,
and yet retains the slight irreverence and fun that Midway is known for.

 

The
game has grown up, added a host of features that gamers were asking for, and yet
has retained all the elements that make the Blitz series a lot of fun to play.
Now there are more reasons to enjoy the experience.