NFL Blitz Review
When EA announced it was remaking NFL Blitz, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. Here was my favorite sports game of all time being revitalized by the company that has dominated the sports industry with games that thrive on realism. Needless to say, I came into this game not expecting an exact replica of the game I knew and love, and that’s one of the best things I could have done.
For the few of you who aren’t familiar with the classic Midway franchise, NFL Blitz is the football game for people who don’t care about football. Where the Madden series is the strict step-mother who prides herself on capturing the “true football experience” NFL Blitz is the crazy uncle who tosses out the rule book and replaces it with jump passes and post-tackle wrestling moves. His purpose is to have stupid fun, and football is merely the route he chooses to channel that experience. But now this uncle is a whole lot older and can’t quite pull off the crazy moves that made him so famous during is younger years,
The first thing NFL Blitz fans are going to notice about the new Blitz is its lack of speed. For example, a common strategy in the original blitz was jump-passing the ball, which allowed you to bypass the pass animation entirely and avoid being sacked. In the new version, there’s a half second pass animation in mid-jump, making it much easier to be sacked if you’re not used to the new controls. Collision has also been added, leading to players merely bumping into the ball carrier, rather than pile-driving him into the turf immediately upon impact. I realize these complaints might seem like tedious nitpicks to someone who didn’t grow up breathing NFL Blitz, but they all add up into an experience that feels a lot slower and clunkier than the original.
Of course, I can’t entirely blame EA for implementing these changes, as internet latency issues bar the original’s snappiness and immediacy from carrying over into the remake. It’s clear that during the development cycle, it came down to a choice between making an up-res’d verson of the original game and including online play. And as much as I hate to say it, a sports game without online capabilities in this day and age might as well be dead in the water.
Fortunately Blitz’s online mode softens the blow with a plethora of peripheral elements to keep you busy. Blitz Battles consists of the standard one on one matches you’d expect from an online Blitz, though you can play team battles as well if you have an extra body on hand. There’s also the much less popular Elite league, where you can theoretically customize your football team with various NFL players to use as your main online team. I say "theoretically" because I could not get into a single game despite multiple attempts. The place might as well be a barren wasteland, so if you’re at all interested in playing with fantasy teams, you’ll need a like-minded friend or some dumb luck. Otherwise, you’re stuck with the Blitz Battle mode.
There’s also a “battle board” system that places you in various leagues based on your skill level, à la Starcraft 2. You start off in the state league as a rookie and move up to pro, veteran, and elite as you win games. After that, you enter region league as a rookie and repeat the process until you become a national elite, where you then have the option of joining the hall of fame (a.k.a. “prestige”). It’s a cool idea, but it only takes a couple wins to move up the ladder, making the whole system a lot less meaningful than it would be with a larger audience. I also didn’t get a sense there was an intricate matchmaking system during my online escapades. Oftentimes I’d face a state level rookie in one game, and a national pro in the next. It wasn’t a huge deal in the long run, but it would’ve been nice if some search filters were included in online matchmaking.
As you win online matches, you’ll earn “Blitz Bucks” the game’s currency system which is used to unlock various gameplay cheats, silly aesthetic changes like “Big Head Mode”, and cards that unlock players for your Elite League fantasy team. It’s worth noting that you only get Blitz Bucks through online matches, so you’ll need to battle fellow players if you want to unlock everything in the game.
While the online modes bring back fond memories, everything from the gameplay to the presentation just feels static. There were several instances I convinced myself I was playing the original Blitz, only to be jarred back to reality when my brutal, post-tackle, body slam was replaced with idling players. Consequently, I have no clue who this game was made for, as it’s too serious for Blitz fans, and too crazy for Madden fans.
In the end, I suppose NFL Blitz is a fine football game. It’s just not a very good Blitz game.