Game Rant's Anthony Taormina reviews NFL Blitz
There was a time and a place when NFL Blitz was a force to be reckoned with. A powerhouse of the late 90s arcade scene, Blitz enjoyed a luxurious career due in no small part to its combination of arcade style football and high-flying acrobatics.
It’s been a long time since the brands NFL and Blitz have been uttered in the same breath (we try to forget Blitz: The League), but they're back together and once again following in the footsteps of the game's NBA predecessor — on the downloadable stores of the Xbox 360 and the PS3.
There are of course some key changes made to the formula, EA Sports has taken over development duties from the now defunct Midway, and the post-play hits have been eliminated to keep the NFL happy, but aside from that, this is Blitz in its purest form. Unfortunately, that may not be as exciting as it sounds, or at least after playing more than a handful of games.
Though the look and feel of Blitz is updated well, and carries with it more opportunities for carnage than a single quick play mode, its on-the-field play has grown a bit stale - at least comported to what it was back in arcades. The combination of an extremely rubber bandy and predictive AI and a lack of depth on offensive or defensive is, on the one hand, true to the Blitz experience - but on the other, less polished when compared to similar sports games today.
All the key ingredients are there, from the pre-game code entry to Tim Kitzrow’s commentary, but there’s something about the way the AI reacts to the zaniness of it all that makes the gameplay as a complete package somewhat empty. The first couple games or so are exciting, and multiplayer play (either online or head-to-head) is the most true to Blitz’s spirit, but get past the two hour mark and it all starts to wear really thin.
The Gauntlet, Blitz’s version of a “season mode,” allows players to feel that important sense of progression, but it gets so brutal towards the end that the unlocks (Blitz staples like mascot teams, cheat codes, etc…) aren’t worth the headache. Certain matches feature on-the-field power-ups like instant fire but, once again, those usually assist an AI opponent's comeback rather than keep the player's team out in front.
Gamers might start out feeling like they are in control of their own fate, but eventually Blitz starts throwing happenstance into the equation to give that illusion of challenge. If a player has the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and improve - that's one thing, but if a fumble or a costly turnover occurs just to keep the game tied, that’s not challenge, that’s cheap.
As mentioned, it’s really only online or head-to-head play that allows for Blitz to feel like it should, and for players looking for that type of experience - it’s worth every penny. But anyone looking for a more Madden-esque version of Blitz, this just isn’t it.
One would think that, with EA Sports at the helm, some of the key ingredients that go into making a long lasting (or at least annualized) sports experience would be on hand but, as a downloadable title, those aspirations must have been left in the dust. I can’t imagine anyone beyond die hard Blitz fans wanting to play more than a couple hours of single player games before feeling like they've seen enough.
NFL Blitz started out being exactly what players would have wanted out of a downloadable update of an 90s arcade classic — it is over-the-top, exciting, and fast-paced -- but then, after a couple of close games, a vicious pattern started to reel its head that indicated Blitz wasn’t as fun as it used to be, and was actually a game where skill isn’t a necessity, but an afterthought.
Online play, or simply going head-to-head with a friend, kept the playing field even and was the most enjoyable, but even then it was less a battle of skill and rather a case of whoever scores last wins. All in all it might still carry the makings of the Blitz gamers know and love, but without the arcade setting, and compared to today’s offerings, it falls a little short of the goal line.
Have you had a chance to check out NFL Blitz? What are your thoughts on EA Sports downloadable update?
NFL Blitz is available now on the PSN and Xbox Live Marketplace. Game Rant played the XBLA version for this review.