The return of quite possibly the most popular non-sim sports franchise ever was certainly met with exasperated anticipation. For the last year, fans of the sub-genre have been enjoying themselves some b-ball action with NBA Jam, though the question was always ringing across the Internet: When will we get another NFL Blitz title? While we had seen rumors indicating as such, the official answer didn’t come until the final months of last year and surprisingly, we had it in our hot little hands much sooner than we expected. Now, that the game is here, is it worth returning to to field?
For those of you who came into gaming during Blitz’s hiatus, it’s football, though not of the simulation, Madden variety. Blitz takes all the standard conventions of the sport and tosses them out the door, maintaining a loose grasp on the basics just to keep it in-line with the real sport. Each quarter has been reduced to two minutes, and the clock stops with each play. First downs are 30 yards, in lieu of the standard 10. And penalties? Yeah, they don’t exist in the Blitz universe, as the primary draw is the hard hits and big plays. In today’s football, plays are a varied spread accross running and passing, maintaining a measure of strategy for the coaches as they attempt to circumvent the defense. Here, the spotlight shines brightly on the big plays only. Almost everything boils down to the always-exciting pass offense. Sure, players can try to run for a quick few yards, but with 30 yard first downs and a trunciated playbook that centers solely on passing, chucking the ball to an open receiver, and subsequently running up-field, stiff-arming and hurdling the defense, will make up 99% of your offensive action.
The goal is still to score, and score you will. A lot. The old phrase ”it isn’t over until the fat lady sings” is fully applicable, as the scoreboard is completely dynamic all the way until the final buzzer. For example, in one of my early games, I was down 34-14 by the end of the 3rd. I managed a full-scale comeback during the incredibly short 4th quarter, picking up 21 points during the two minutes of playtime. Interceptions and fumbles change the tide of the game dramatically, and often times lateral passes are just as effective in moving the ball up-field as a straight-up Hail Mary.
"Blitz is about thumbing your nose at reality and glorifying the exciting parts of football."
Assisting the on-field action is the Turbo button, which gives the player a boost of speed and facilitates the bigger hits. Turbo is finite though, and takes a little bit to recharge in order to keep players from utilizing it all the time. As a bonus, sacking the QB a few times, or completing big receptions with the same player, will lead to them “On Fire” status, making the Turbo unlimited until they get nailed. The AI is not a running box of rocks either, as they will utilize their Fire, as well as make bold decisions such as going for the 4th down instead of punting or going for the 2-point conversion after a TD.
Solo play consists of the typical exhibition mode, along with the Blitz Gauntlet, which is a tournament that runs through nine NFL teams and three “bosses”. I know, it sounds a little odd, but the bosses are just the unlockable fantasy teams, providing players with the opportunity to face off against them, and once beaten, acquire the code to access them. It’s a nifty way to extend the solo experience, though it still doesn’t hold a candle to where the game truly shines: The multiplay.
Battling for the pigskin with your buddies can happen a few different ways. Blitz Battles is the classic MP mode, letting you go head-to-head against other online opponents. The smack talk will flow, the hits will be hard, and the score will be appropriately exaggerated, just as it should be in any game of Blitz. There’s also a co-op option, providing an opportunity for you and a buddy to go at it together. On top of that, the whole card game tangent that EA has been on lately, attempting to infuse some Pokemon into the sporting realm, makes an appearance as the Elite League. Throw in the leaderboard support as well as a Blitz store that allows you to buy everything from the aforementioned fantasy characters and teams, as well as plenty of other cheats, game adjustments, and even cards for the Elite League, and you have a surprisingly robust package.
Visually, Blitz falls right in line with the previous entries in the franchise. Slightly exaggerated character models and gorgeous stadiums are the norm, although you won’t be focused on it much, as your attention will be placed solely on the solid gameplay. Sim fans will find it to be a scaled back experience since the controls amount to one or two buttons, but again, that stays true to spirit of the game. Blitz is about thumbing your nose at reality and glorifying the exciting parts of football. Even the unlockable cheats help drive that point home, as they range from the standard Big Head Mode to adding some more challenge by removing the player icons to swapping the pigskin out with a shinier chrome ball. Blitz only asks one thing of you: Win, and have a truckload of fun doing it.
According to the loading screens, Winning is Everything. Fortunately, the tools provided here makes adhering to that commandment a total blast. Even if coming out on top is the primary objective, win or lose, you will have a great time getting there. The wacky unlockables, incredibly loose rule set, and the simplified controls make this one accessible to just about anyone, regardless of how deep (or shallow) their knowledge is of the real sport. If I had any complaint at all, it’s that this reboot doesn’t quite feel as brutal or hard hitting as its predecessors. It’s as if the franchise stepped back from a PG-13 vibe into a more consumer-friendly PG role. The difference is slight, but noticeable, especially for long time fans. Don’t let that dissuade you though. Even if it doesn’t smack you around quite as hard as it used to, it will still sominate you like an aggressive bully, and provide plenty of hours of enjoyment, especially when played online with your buddies.
Release date : 2012-01-03
Publisher : EA Sports
Developer : EA Tiburon
Gameplay : Sports
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