The NFL playoffs may have kicked off this past weekend, but I barely even noticed because I was too busy reliving my childhood thanks to EA Sports’ reboot of NFL Blitz. I have fond memories of playing football where pass interference and choke slams weren’t met with yellow flags thrown on the field. With NFL Blitz, EA Sports and developer Tiburon have recaptured the magic of the original Blitz titles, choosing to focus on what made the franchise easy to grasp and fun to play instead of adding lame gimmicks like being able to juice up your players to get them back on the field quicker after an injury (Man, as a sidebar, Blitz: The League was not very good, amirite?).
As the game’s title implies, NFL Blitz brings with it the full licensing of the National Football League. You’ll find all 32 NFL teams, with their respective stadiums, in Blitz. The game also features marquee players from each club, although the Blitz series has never been one that really takes the time to distinguish individual player traits when everyone is capable of bounding 15 yards in the air and throwing bombs exceeding 75 yards (running backs included). Therefore, Joe Flacco and Payton Manning are pretty interchangeable outside the fact one plays for the Ravens while the other throws for the Colts. But it’s nice to see this latest Blitz title really use the NFL license for all it’s worth within the context of the franchise's limit.
However, said license also leads to probably the biggest polarizing aspect of this new Blitz title: late hits are completely absent. Once the whistle blows, you can’t pile-drive your opponent as spiteful payback. Due to the NFL wanting to improve their image and appear like a sport that doesn’t condone violence — a sport, mind you, built on the principle of hitting people — EA Tiburon was forced to remove the fan-favorite late hits in order to acquire the NFL rights in the first place. For hardcore fans of the Blitz series, this omission will sting the nostalgic senses.
With that said, the core gameplay of NFL Blitz remains intact. Longtime Blitz fans will pick up the controller and immediately feel at home with the gameplay and controls between hiking the ball and having your player’s face meet AstroTurf. So don’t fret, your classic NFL Blitz experience is perfectly translated by EA Tiburon — complete with chromed-out menus and loading screens full of scantly clad cheerleaders (Yay!).
Outside the standard “Play Now” game-type, NFL Blitz also comes with a few game modes to extend the life of the title. Firstly, “Blitz Gauntlet” brings a classic Mortal Kombat-esque flavor to Blitz, demanding players work their way through a ladder of matches punctuated by frequent “boss” battles against teams made up of yetis and robots. It’s a decent mode for single player gamers, but playing the computer does get boring after a while.
The rest of the game modes in Blitz revolve around stepping out into the online scene and actually mingling with real human beings. With “Blitz Battle,” players create fantasy teams — complete with made-up names and logos — to duke it out online to move up the state, regional and national leaderboard list. This mode is actually where Blitz gets its legs. Playing Blitz versus real people is the best way to go, and moving up the online ranks provides a solid sense of satisfaction from the title.
The final mode of Blitz is “Elite League,” allowing gamers to take part in a meta card game — not unlike what the Madden titles offer — to build your ultimate fantasy team to take online. By playing online matches you earn “Blitz Bucks,” which can be spent in the game’s store to buy card packs to acquire new star players and power-ups to use during games. Typically, I’m not a huge fan of the meta card games attached to EA Sports titles, but I will say it works best in the context of an over-the-top game like Blitz.
NFL Blitz represents unfiltered truth in advertising; for the most part, this is Blitz as you remember it, only with a new graphical spit-shine. While it’s a shame late hits were removed to maintain the NFL’s wholesome(?) image, it’s a small price to pay to see this classic arcade franchise back in the spotlight and done right. For someone looking for a nostalgic trip down memory lane, NFL Blitz delivers.
Now it’s time for EA to revive NHL Hitz next. Please?
Full disclosure: CraveOnline purchased one copy of NFL Blitz over Xbox Live Arcade with our own money (it’s available on PSN, too). Before starting our review, we dabbled in all game modes for a handful of hours. We also discovered that the announcers will call you out for faking a field goal before the snap. What a bunch of jerks!