Monday, January 9, 2012

Hands-On First Impressions: NFL Blitz

Chris spent some time with the new downloadable version of NFL Blitz from EA Sports. Does it live up the the nostalgia it induces? Almost certainly not, of course! But still, here are his thoughts after a few hours with it!

I played a lot of NFL Blitz in the late 1990s. I can still vividly recall the new multiplex in the local mall having a huge grand opening celebration, my favorite part of which was the new NFL Blitz 99 machine. I spent a lot of quarters in Midway's arcade classic, although I was a mediocre player at best. Winning wasn't important to me, the exaggerated carnage on the field was what brought my friends and I to keep coming back to the game. It was a natural progression from NBA Jam, and Blitz remained a favorite series of mine for years, until Midway lost the NFL license.

In the mid-2000s, EA Sports locked up the NFL license exclusively, leading to the end of the line for competitors such as the 2K series, and relegating Blitz to using fictional teams in an over-the-top, M-rated disaster. After Midway's collapse, the future of the Blitz series seemed to be stuck in limbo, and it was only recently that EA announced they were working on a modern update.

He's on fire! Stop, Drop, and Roll!

Following the somewhat lukewarm reception to the new version of NBA Jam, I was cautiously optimistic about the new Blitz game. This isn't the first time that EA Sports has tried their hand at arcade style football. The NFL Street series was a major hit on the PS2 and XBox consoles, and the company recently released Madden NFL Arcade for XBLA just a few years ago. Madden Arcade didn't exactly set the world on fire, though, and unfortunately, Blitz doesn't stray far enough from that game to return to its former glory.

In fact, there is really very little different from NFL Blitz to Madden NFL Arcade. Both games feature stripped-down rosters and playbooks to achieve fast-paced shootouts. The new Blitz tries to recapture the magic of the old titles, but several omissions, and changes to the old formula work to hinder the game, rather than refine it.

Boss teams take on some surprising forms.

Gone are the late hits, a signature of the old games. The brutal clothelines and powerbombs after the whistle were a favorite of mine in the old days, and I can still hear my middle school friends laughing their asses off as the hulked out versions of our favorite NFL players tossed each other around. Unfortunately, the increased focus on dirty hits and concussions in the real NFL has led to the new Blitz being sterilized, and players now simply meander around after the play, and all control is taken away from the player.

The playbook is straight out of past Blitz games, but there have been some changes to the way they work. Spinning has a much different animation, and jump passing leads to being sacked far more often, as the game seems to occasionally get confused and cancel the pass input.

The game sounds great, bringing back the original Blitz announcer, and the tackles sound nice and brutal. I really don't like the art style, though. It seems to be stuck somewhere between a cartoon and realistic style, with awkward results. Players are muscled-up, but they don't seem to take up enough space on the field. The field looks bland, and the lighting isn't much to get excited about. Players catch on fire with a satisfying flame animation, but overall, meh.

Everything about NFL Blitz just feels very...purposeful? It's like EA went down a checklist of things to include in the new game, but forgot to add any soul. The new game is satisfying and features a great amount of online content, but I can't bring myself to get excited about any of it. I think I'll stick with my PSOne copy of Blitz 99.

Christopher Linendoll might be on HGH. He can be reached via Twitter, or found in the hummus section of your local grocery store.


  1. Sadly they stripped out a lot of what fans loved about the original Blitz... even I loved that game!

  2. The whole experience felt neutered. I actually played some PSOne Blitz after this, and the experience wasn't even comparable.

  3. So the Blitz does not deliever the Hitz.

  4. AGTurbo, ladies and gentleman.

  5. NHL Hitz was the hockey version of Blitz. Came out in the late 90s/ early 2000s.

    True story.