Friday, January 6, 2012

EA Sports Goes From Jamming to Blitzing... The NFL Blitz Review

After the successful NBA Jam revival, EA Sports decides to also bring back NFL Blitz in this new downloadable release for Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network. The Blitz franchise has been known for fast-paced arcade style football without most of the NFL rules from pass interference being allowed, a limited but enough playbook on both sides of the ball, being on fire like NBA Jam, and crazy tackle animations the Madden games dreamed of having. Most of what makes NFL Blitz the game it was back in the late 90s is still in this new one gameplay-wise, but the missing things really hurt this revival from being great. Who would of thought a NFL Blitz game would lack energy like this one?

This 2012 version of NFL Blitz is crammed with modes both offline and online. There is of course is play now mode, but then there is the other stuff like Blitz Gauntlet. Blitz Gauntlet is a Mortal Kombat style ladder where you face real NFL teams and then have a boss battle against wacky characters such as zombies, ninjas, and horses. The only point of this mode is basically gaining these unlockable teams that can be activated before a game starts on the code screen, which also returns from previous entries. Besides the unlockable teams, you can change the ball color, turn on big head mode, and many other stuff on the code screen as long as you input the right icons before time is up. While Blitz Gauntlet is the main offline mode, the bulk of the game is actually on the online front.

The online modes in this new iteration will pretty much make or break the game for most people in terms of how long they will play it and the amount of them on at the same time to play games. If a decent community gets going, then the game will be fine online, but as most downloadable games go these days, people don't come back after launch week. Anyway, there is a simple head-to-head mode with only the real NFL teams and also Blitz Teams where its 2v2 online. The leaderboard system is pretty crazy especially for a game like this as you climb ladders locally, regionally, and then nationally by consistently playing well online. Performance-wise, the games play fine for the most part, but the lag can be a problem especially during punts and kicks since they are timing based. However, pulling out a clutch online win by a last second field goal under laggy conditions feels very satisfying. The Elite League mode consist of a card system that is basically fantasy football as you start out with a weak team, but having more Blitz bucks, which you can only gain them by playing online, you can buy more cards for better players, ultimate cheats, and more. Additionally you can pony up rare cards against others in Risk and Reward as well.

The core gameplay is as good as it was back in the original with most of the playbook resembling that one with infamous plays such as Da Bomb, Sub-Zero, Hurricane, and many more. The action is still fast-paced with two minute quarters as you can score in mere seconds and 30 yards are required for a first down. As long as you don't pass the line scrimmage, you can pass the ball more than once if you wanna be fancy at times. Being on fire is simple on both sides of the ball as you have to throw to the same receiver three times in a row on offense and sack the quarterback twice in a row on defense. In boss battles and elite league games, there are powerups spread throughout the field The vicious tackles are back in full force, but the ability to not do late hits like the original games is a huge disappointment especially for purists. The late hits were a hallmark of the franchise as since the NFL didn't want them in this new iteration, you can blame them. Kicking is only in field goals and punts as extra points are free as they were in the original, but I personally had an extra point missed once randomly, which was weird. There are also little changes from past games that hardcore Blitz guys will notice for both good and bad, but the core gameplay is still as pick up and play as it gets.

My major criticism with this new Blitz though is that there is definitely a lack of energy when it comes to the presentation especially how the game looks and sounds. The game just looks boring as I couldn't let myself have long stretches with the game, so it is best played in short sessions. It lacks the grittiness how the Blitz games were back in the day as if you compare it to Madden NFL Arcade, they can look pretty similar. Blitz goes by a certain art style and while the players are bigger and bulkier than their Madden versions, a certain spark is flat out missing. The NFL stadiums look bland and the crowd does not look as good as expected. The same lack of energy also comes with the commentary, which is also disappointing. Tim Kutzrow returns from NBA Jam as the main announcer along with Brian Haley as there isn't that much enthusiasm from the guys while the game is going along with the fact they don't talk that much either. The banter between the two gets repetitive as you'll hear the same jokes and lines multiple times, so the variety is not there as well.

So is this new NFL Blitz by EA Sports really worth reviving? Magic struck with NBA Jam's comeback, but I can't say the same for Blitz however. Sure, the core gameplay is still good and there's enough replay value, but the lack of energy in the presentation from boring graphics to not much effort being put in to the commentary really hurts the overall package. Even though there are a ton of online options, having players actually playing online is a problem even though it is not the game's fault since downloadable releases tend to not go well after launch week with player numbers. If there is enough of a community to keep going with the numerous modes and leaderboards, then the game can be a bit more enjoyable. Other than that, there is some fun to be had with NFL Blitz if you're into arcade sports games, but it could of been so much better considering the amount of effort the developers put into it.

Score = 6.5/10

  • Core gameplay still good and fast-paced
  • Tons of modes for replay value both offline and online
  • Its still Blitz, but not everything that made the franchise famous are not in this new one
  • Lack of online players can be a problem since the bulk of the game is online especially when trying to earn Blitz Bucks
  • No late hits is a big disappointment, but blame the NFL on that one
  • The game overall just has a lack of energy... it looks and sounds boring