If you were looking for some good old-fashioned arcade pigskin fun in the late-‘90s, you invariably turned to NFL Blitz . The hardcore fans who wanted realism and unrivaled depth flocked to Madden (in much the same way they do today), but the less serious knew Blitz would deliver the pulse-pounding, over-the-top entertainment. Now it’s back. And you know, although it isn’t as robust as I would’ve liked, the new downloadable iteration is everything old-school fans could want.
It’s not the best-looking digital title I’ve seen, but it’s quite accomplished in terms of color and animations. Best of all, it’s mighty pleasing because it reminds us of the good ol’ days, of a time when we weren’t picking at every tiny detail, movement, or effect. Even if you choose to get all anal with NFL Blitz , I doubt you’ll find much to complain about; this is a rock solid visual presentation that highlights the most appealing aspects of arcade football silliness. And I’ll leave it at that.
The audio could’ve used a more diverse soundtrack but the commentators are just plain awesome. They’re hilarious and they fit the on-screen action beautifully. The effects are appropriately jarring and, in some respects, downright bone-crunching in their totally unrealistic brutality. There’s a slight lack of balance and sophistication but again, that plays to the game’s strengths. EA Tiburon knew how to give the fans a game they recognize, and they did it without making it seem dated.
Bash the runner until he’s getting tossed in the air like a rag doll. Short screens and sweeps are for the weak. Trying to get to the end zone as fast as humanly possible, and with as much flair as humanly possible, is the order of the day when on offense. When on defense, which is almost as much fun in such games, your job is to separate the ball-carrier’s head from his shoulders. It’s not an 11-on-11 strategic, expertly timed competition; it’s a 7-on-7 cage match where players literally catch fire.
The control feels just about right, as it’s both responsive and accessible. There’s nothing overly complicated about the button setup, and you won’t have to memorize a dozen pages in your customized playbook. Some might spot a small issue with hit detection and minor clipping problems but again, that’s only for the anal. So long as we accept what type of game we’re playing and focus on the developers intentions, we’re satisfied. It’s almost too straightforward, but that's understandable.
Besides, in addition to the standard head-to-head mode, there’s also the all-new Blitz Guantlet, which is just plain addictive. The game adopts a classic arcade ladder system (seen in any fighting game), where you have to battle three opponents and then take down a particularly insane “boss.” If you can top the latter, you earn a code that can be used just before starting a game in the normal mode. Those codes include everything from changing the camera to turning the ball to chrome. So of course, you immediately want to unlock all the codes.
Overall, NFL Blitz reminds me a little of NBA Jam , which is another arcade classic that came to the digital realm this generation. It stays true to its roots while amping up the action and adding a twist to the familiar. However, as a long-time Blitz fan, I was a little annoyed to see that EA had removed one of the patented franchise features: late hits. It was always a staple of these games; when an opponent scored, you could beat the snot out of them when they celebrated.
I suppose the rest of the hectic action makes up for it, but I really have no idea why late hits disappeared. Back on the plus side, the addition of online play is lots of fun, as you can compare yourself to other players and winning earns you Blitz Bucks. That virtual cash can be spent on Elite League player card packs, new stadiums, and even extra cheats that can be used in online competition. And you won’t unlock everything too soon; between the single-player and online unlocks, there’s plenty to nab.
NFL Blitz has all the personality and appeal of installments during the franchise’s glory days. It can feel a tad thin due to a lack of options and customization – you can’t change the quarter length, for instance – but I doubt the old-school fans will be disappointed. There’s plenty to like and you’ll easily recall the days when trash talk and pounding on buttons were common. $14.99 seems about right but the more discerning and slightly skeptical might want to wait until it’s $9.99. Either way, I had a blast.
The Good: Smooth, classic visual presentation. Excellent announcers and cool sound effects. Control is simple and easy. Blitz Gauntlet is a great, addictive feature. Likely to satisfy the old-school fans.
The Bad: Lack of customization and options. Small technical defects. Game can feel a little unbalanced at times.
The Ugly: “No late hits at all? Really? Come on.”