|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: EA Tiburon|
|Pub: EA Sports|
|Release: January 10, 2012|
|Players: 1 - Multi|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Comic Mischief, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Mild Violence|
by Sean Engemann
Over a decade ago, Midway created NFL Blitz, a series that took the popular pigskin sport and flipped its rules and regulations completely upside-down. It was fully an arcade experience, as opposed to the simulation style of sports gaming giant Electronic Arts. After yearly offerings, NFL licensing began to be a problem for Midway; they were forced to adhere to certain League guidelines, limiting their ability to push the envelope. When their license was finally revoked, they tried to bring back the glory days with a roster of fantasy teams in Blitz: The League, but despite the enjoyable anarchy, it simply didn't feel authentic. Midway just couldn't stay afloat as a developer, and rival EA Sports purchased the game rights. Just this past October, EA announced that NFL Blitz would be returning as a downloadable title for the Xbox 360 and PS3.
Now, the Midway faithful may be tempted to simply to trash it for being too timid, but they may want to hold their breath for now. Despite being built by the same Madden crew, it'll be hard to spot the similarities between Madden and Blitz, aside from the return of the licensed NFL teams. Improvements over past titles, such as high-definition picture quality and robust online features, may have those same purists whistling a different tune after a few hardcore matches.
The simple rules and lack of yellow flags will certainly lessen the intimidation factor for any casual fans who typically avoid Madden because of its complexity. With only twenty-seven standard offensive plays and nine defensive plays, quickly picking your formation and getting on with the action will be the focus. For a little variety, each team will have an exclusive play to add to the arsenal, but don't worry about having to learn the play-calling language. With a field of seven players on each side, thirty-yard first downs, and a lack of penalties, it's a matter of simply finding your receiver before juking and slamming through defenders, or, on the flipside, finding that poor soul holding the ball and pile driving him into the ground or stopping his forward progress with a suplex. It's all legal in Blitz.
Successive good plays bring forth the expected perks, heating up your team until they combust into high accuracy catchers with boosted running power. But the game is certainly not devoid of skill requirements, which is most apparent in Gauntlet Mode. Pit your team against nonstop waves of opponents, working your way up the ladder and through non-standard challengers—and by "non-standard," I mean you'll be taking on lions, hotdogs, zombies, sasquatches, and more. Beat them enough times and they'll be unlocked for purchase, using your steadily increasing pool of Blitz Bucks, the game's currency, which looks to be a promising addition. These digital dollars can be used in the game's trading card system, purchasing player packs to build your ultimate custom team and buying up those crazy in-game cheats like Big Head Mode.
Trash talking will again be front and center, either with friends whose butts are parked on the same couch as yours or from a distance via online multiplayer. Play cooperatively or competitively, or go it alone against the leaderboard. Also, there will be an Elite League which is regionally broken down, and further divided by skill level. This should allow for everyone to find a place, and possibly open up some interesting tournaments.
Versus mode allows you to pepper some power-ups onto the field, which are also purchased with your Blitz Bucks winnings. But it'll be your choice as to whether these handicaps are fun additions, or if you trust in your skill alone to get the job done. One element sure to keep every competitive match tense is the card gambling involved. With your deck and your opponent's laid out on the table, all will be in jeopardy. Win a game and you can riffle through the loser's pile, possibly snagging a key position you are missing in your dream lineup. However, lose and watch helplessly as you are deprived of a marquee player or a vital power-up.
What will be most interesting when NFL Blitz launches early next year is whether the core gameplay shares the same freedom and intensity as the first Midway offerings. There are plenty of extra features crammed into this newest entry from EA Sports that will appeal to the modern gamer. Perhaps that will be enough to herald in a new age for the series and rekindle the fire in fans of old. You'll have your chance to find out soon enough, as NFL Blitz hits PSN and XBL on January 10.
CCC Contributing Writer