- 1-2 Players
- 2-4 Players Multiplayer Same Console
- 2-4 Players Multiplayer Online
- Also available on XBLA
It seems like only yesterday that I was playing some knock em‘ down drag em’ out NFL Blitz battles with my buddies on the original Xbox. Those were certainly good times and it led to some of my most entertaining moments on my old ‘tank-like’ original Xbox console. It is hard to believe it has been almost 10-years since I last sat down with an NFL licensed Blitz game. Sure I have dabbled with the non-licensed Blitz games here and there, but there is something special about playing an arcade football game with real NFL teams and real NFL players. So when EA Sports announced NFL Blitz was coming back in the form of a downloadable game on both XBLA and PSN, I have to admit I was pumped to see how the HD version to one of my favourite arcade style sports games on the original Xbox would turn out. We were given a PSN version to review, and after several hours of some crazy NFL Blitz games, I have to say I am reasonably satisfied with this latest instalment in the franchise. Yet there is a big part of me that feels a little more could have been done to improve the overall NFL Blitz package.
Much like previous NFL Blitz games, the core Blitz gameplay remains the same. On offence, you have your QB, Tailback, a couple of Wide Receivers (one may be a Tight End depending on your team), and three Offensive Linemen. On the other side of the ball, there are 3 Defensive Linemen, a couple of Linebackers, a couple of Defensive Backs and a Safety. Sure there are some variations depending on your team’s strengths, but in a nutshell NFL Blitz is a 7-on-7 game and plays very similar to previous versions. There are wild hits, 2-minute quarters, 30-yards to a first down, over the top steroid induced looking players, no penalties, players on fire and other crazy over the top moments that many have always associated with Blitz games. It is all certainly a blast but many of the features that made the original Blitz game great remain somewhat dated. I will explain.
I have to admit I am a big EA Sports NFL Madden fan. I love stats, having a plethora of customizable options at my fingertips, and I simply enjoy the depth that the Madden game delivers year after year. Do not get me wrong, I did not expect NFL Blitz to deliver the same amount of content as EA Sports’ Madden game does; however, I did expect a few basics considering it is 2012 and the NFL has come a long way in the last 10-years. For instance, NFL Blitz features no scoring summary following a game and there are no individual player stats after a game is completed. Instead you get a screen with your total passing yards, rushing yards, fumbles, interceptions, score, etc. In this day in age when nearly every football fan plays fantasy sports, and Madden fans pay attention to the NFL player’s statistics, I just expected a little more from the Blitz in terms of its stats department. Sure the online portion of the game has leaderboards and areas where you can track your team’s progress, but if you want to know how many receptions and yards Andre Johnson had on a game, well you better take your own notes.
Another issue I had with the game is the lack of customizable options. For instance, with NFL Blitz you are stuck with 2-minute quarters. Believe it or not even 2-minute quarters can drag at times as the clock never runs after the play. Yes, NFL Blitz features a stopped clock after every play. I found most plays took anywhere from 7-15 seconds. So you can do the math as NFL Blitz games perhaps take a little longer at times then I expected. Granted, 2-minutes can be a perfect length for many games but I just wish we had the ability to modify the length of the quarters. Our Editor-in-Chief was talking about his experiences on the PSone with Blitz back in the day, and he remembers playing longer games for some really high scoring affairs, so there has been this type of option before.
Much like previous NFL Blitz games the big over the top hits are back. They are as crazy as ever and the animations are certainly impressive. Gone however are hit’s that occur after the whistle. Here is where the game loses some of its charm. I still recall the days when my buddy and I would be in stitches when a player would make a great play for a first down and then get tattooed into the turf well after the whistle had blown. I understand the NFL has stepped in and does not wish for that element to be included in the game. Unfortunately, NFL Blitz looses some of its entertainment value and charm without this feature as it is indeed part of what made the original game fun.
As far as game modes are concerned, NFL Blitz has online and offline modes. You can jump into a game right away playing either the CPU or a human opponent. You can also trudge your way through the NFL Blitz Gauntlet. The Gauntlet is the NFL Blitz equivalent of a single player progression mode. You battle your way through a multi-tiered Gauntlet of NFL teams. You take on three NFL teams in sequential fashion. After you have defeated all three teams then you are ready to take on an exclusive fantasy character team in the Blitz Coliseum. If you beat the fantasy team you unlock them for use in all modes. For example, you will take on a team full of Bigfoots or a team full of wrangling Cowboys (not Jerry Jones’ team). It is a nice little twist and enjoyable. I do admit that I would have preferred to have play through an entire NFL season, but alas NFL Blitz wanted to maintain the arcade feel and they have certainly accomplished that with NFL Blitz Gauntlet.
NFL Blitz also includes Blitz Battles where you can challenge others online in head-to-head matches or team up (on a single console or online) to play some 2-on-2. You can join the Elite League and work towards creating the perfect squad of ultimate players. You can purchase card packs using Blitz Bucks earned through online games to collect players and customize your lineup. You can collect an entire NFL team of players to unlock powerful Pro and Ultimate players that give your team a competitive edge. You can also change the game in some unique ways. For example, one way of doing so is by acquiring and using Power Ups to further your advantage on the field. Heck you can even wager one of your valuable players in a winner-takes-all Risk and Reward game. Needless to say, I was impressed with the many ways you and your friends can play the core NFL Blitz game.
I was also impressed with the amount of unlockables that are found in the game. In addition to unlocking the fantasy teams and characters, you can use your accumulated Blitz Bucks for quite a bit of other stuff. You can use them to purchase virtual cheerleader cards, buy logos, banners, cheats and concept art. The amount of unlockables is impressive; especially when you consider you are playing a downloadable title. If NFL Blitz has anything going for it, it is the amount of content and the replay value.
In terms of playing online my experiences with the game are somewhat mixed. On one hand, I noticed the game runs incredibly smooth and lag free. Kicking, passing and diving towards ball carriers are a seamless process. On the other hand, some exploits, which many would argue are inevitable, already exist and this can lead to some frustrating online experiences. Between bunny hoping QB’s and teams running the same plays over and over, I found that in order to compete online I had to resort to some of the same tactics. Playing against a buddy who is more interested in mixing up the playbook and playing with a little more integrity is far more of an enjoyable experience then playing with some random idiot who insists on cheapening out the online gameplay.
Control wise, NFL Blitz is easy to pick up. Snapping the ball, throwing, hitting turbo, diving and using straight-arms are easy to pick up. The game does a nice job at introducing you to the game’s basic controls with some pop-up screens right at the onset of the game. As far as advanced moves are concerned, you will have to turn to the game’s control menu or just simply learn them on the fly. The only difficulty I encountered with the controls was figuring out how to select a receiver to throw to. There were times I would point the left stick in the direction I wanted to throw the ball but on many occasions my QB would launch the ball to another receiver. Eventually, I learned to master this, but it did take me some time to get this aspect down pat. So in the end the controls are easy to pick up but it is a little more difficult to master some of the more advanced moves.
Visually, NFL Blitz is a solid looking game (Editors Note: Gameplay screenshots are from PS3 version while menu and Classic/New comparison screenshots (last 5 screenshots) are from Xbox 360 version). In terms of the positives, the players look great. Each player has a Gears of War, Marcus Fenix, over-the-top look, but even with that each player also varies in terms of size. For instance, Steven Jackson of the Rams is much wider and muscular than his teammate Brandon Lloyd. Likewise, the defensive lineman run around with big bellies and the defensive backs tend to be on the smaller size. Regardless, they all look great and the way the lights reflect off the helmets is something else. Additionally, the game’s presentation is top notch. Giant team logos slam down in the end zone when players are introduced onto the field and fighter jets soar above just before kick-off. The game’s menus are also slick looking and are easy to navigate.
As far as the negatives are concerned, once the game starts, the fans appear like cardboard cutouts. I also found that there is nothing happening on the sidelines and I mean absolutely nothing. There are no coaches, trainers, players, or reporters on the sidelines at all. It looks odd and somewhat out of place. Sure NFL Blitz stays true to previous Blitz games, but again I just expected a little more. I also noted that the player’s names on the back of the jerseys are almost impossible to see. The player’s numbers are easy to spot but the names are only visible when the camera pans up close when the player is celebrating a touchdown. So if you don’t know whose number belongs to what player, you may be in for a bit of a tough time in this aspect.
Technically speaking, the game’s on-field play is smooth as silk. Even when there are a ton of crazy gang tackles with players flying everywhere I noticed no major slow-down or framerate issues. Not to mention I did not notice any significant clipping issues when I played the game. I was impressed with how the games rosters were completely up-to-date too. For instance, Ponder was the Vikings starting QB and the Rams had Brandon Lloyd as one of their starting Wide Receivers. This was not the case at the beginning of the NFL season. So kudos to EA Sports for including up-to-date NFL rosters and having the on-field action and visuals matching that of the current NFL season.
Much like the games visuals, the sound is equally solid. That being said, the announcing is not quite on par with the announcing you get in EA Sports’ NBA Jam. Sure, they are two different games but NFL Blitz simply does not have the charm NBA Jam does. The cheesy commentating is back and does provide some comical moments, but comments like “the defender was riding him like a John Deere” or “Sundays and Football for me is like Chocolate Milk and Bacon” just don’t cut it. Those might not be direct quotes but you get the point, as many of the game’s comments will leave you groaning. Finally, the music is fast paced and perfectly suited for the game and the game’s sound effects are very good. Every hit, tackle and straight-arm delivers some solid sound effects and can give your speakers a pretty good workout.
Overall, EA Sports NFL Blitz is a solid game for football fans looking to play an inexpensive over-the-top PSN arcade football game. The core Blitz game is back with all the over-the-top hits and frantic gameplay we have come to love about the game. This being said, NFL Blitz appears to have lost some of the charm from years past and I expected a little more this time around; yet at the end of the day, NFL Blitz still delivers a lot of thrills and highly enjoyable moments and most football fans will have fun with this game.