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NFL Blitz 2001 (N64) Review

Background Info


Do you like to score? During the morning, in the afternoon, or at night? Do you like to score, or get scored upon? I do and that is why I love the newest version of NFL Blitz, NFL Blitz 2001. Although the game lacks any major graphical improvements, there is enough high scoring, fast-paced action to keep you satisfied.

Presentation/Graphics : 80
It's not so much that the graphics aren't good, it's just that the graphics haven't changed much at all in the past three years. I remember playing the original NFL Blitz and thinking how SWEET the graphics were. I was in awe of the bulky players, their uniforms, and the stadiums. That was then and this is now. Games like NFL2K1 and Madden 2001 cause the expectations to be extremely high. The N64's limitations hamper how great a game can look. A game could look great, but because of the limitations, the frame rate would probably significantly drop. I'll always take a game with great gameplay over a game that just looks good. Don't get me wrong, the graphics in Blitz 2001 are not bad at all. The uniforms and helmets are detailed and accurate. Many of the new jerseys that your favorite NFL teams are wearing make their way into this year's game. The players look smooth running and tackling on the field. They aren't jagged or square. When compared to other N64 football games, NFL Blitz is the cream of the crop.

Presentation/Audio : 92
This may be the best part of the game. Not only is the commentary solid, but the on-field sound bites do a great job of creating the arcadish feel that NFL Blitz wants to portray. The players also throw in a few humorous lines from time to time. For a game that heavily emphasizes gameplay, the play-by-play announcer does not need to play a major role in the game. Midway picks up on this and limits what the announcer says during the game. Almost everything the announcer says is when the play is done. After the play has finished, the screen doesn't cut immediately to the play selection screen. Defensive players can still tackle the offensive players (which in real life would be a personal foul or a late hit). After some particularly gruesome hits, the announcer will state "that move is illegal" or "that's gotta hurt." His lines are funny, but are often missed due to the fact that you are laughing so hard in enjoyment from pummeling offensive players while they stand there defenseless. Whether you're on offense or defense, the main goal is to just hit someone. Blitz 2001 does a nice job of creating the sound of a bone-crunching hit. There are a few different tackling sounds that you can make when you nail an offensive player. They all range in "crunchness."

The players will also once in a while throw out a phrase of their own. One comes shortly after you hear the sound of breaking bones. When the camera view cuts to a close up of the player, you now see that player limping, where he then exclaims, "I think I broke something". Another player speech line is again after the play. Sometimes when you're controlling an offensive player after the play, instead of taking a beating, you can run away from the defensive players. The players running animation turns into a Forrest Gump-esque running animation while the player screams in terror. It's almost like the player is running for his life (in a way he sort of is). The players don't speak often, but when they do be prepared for a good laugh.

Every aspect of the audio is excellent. Blitz 2001 does a great job of allowing the gamer to focus on the game, but also providing a nice game to listen to.

Interface/Options : 70
Blitz 2001 offers all the usual gameplay options. There is the exhibition or arcade mode, the season mode, and the tournament mode. A new feature to the game is the "party games" mode. The party games mode is like a cross between your basic practice mode and the mini games available in the NFL Quarterback Club series. There are three different party games to choose from. One game is called 1st and Goal Frenzy. The goal of this game is to try to score a touchdown from the 10-yard line within four downs. If you do score within four downs, you play the same game again, except now you have to score starting from the 20-yard line. Again, there are no first downs, so you only get four downs to score a touchdown. If you score again, you start from the 30 yard line and so on. Another game, called Goal Line Stand, is the exact opposite of the 1st and Goal Frenzy. Instead of trying to score within four downs, you have to try and stop the offense from scoring. The offense will start at the 50-yard line and you will have to stop them. If you stop them once, they move up another ten yards. The final game is the QB Challenge game. This game will really test your quarterbacking skills. Here you have to throw to three wide receivers within a certain amount of time. Each receiver runs a specific route and you must deliver the ball to that receiver only when he is flashing. If the player is not flashing and you throw him the ball you don't get any points. You get points by throwing the ball to the right receiver at the right time. If you complete three passes in a row, you are considered "On Fire" and special multiplier points will be available. This game is very difficult because the passing in Blitz 2001 is not icon based, like EA Sports football games, but is a D-Pad based passing. That means you just can't press A, B, or Z and the ball will be delivered to that specific receiver. You have to aim the D-Pad or the control stick towards an area where a receiver is so you can get that targeted receiver flashing, and then you can deliver the ball. So the wide receiver that is farthest to the left can be thrown the ball if you press the D-Pad or control stick all the way to the left. Same things go for the WR on the right side. If you want to pass to the receiver in the middle you don't press the D-pad or control stick at all. Since the receivers are running different routes in the QB Challenge, if they cross at one point, the receiver who WAS the farthest left at one point, may be in the middle and the middle receiver may be all the way to the left. That is why timing is so important. That is what makes the QB Challenge so difficult. The party games are a bunch of fun to play. They really allow you to sharpen your Blitz Skills for when you play real games. This is a creative way to put in a "practice mode" feature which is much needed in NFL Blitz.

There is also a nifty playbook editor in NFL Blitz 2001. I thought that the default plays that are available were not really effective. So I went to the playbook editor and created some plays of my own. Luckily, the process of creating a play is very easy and I was able to pick up on the process right away. First you have to choose what team you would like to create a play for (e.g. St. Louis Rams or Chicago Bears). Next you choose if you want to create an offensive or a defensive play. If you want to create an offensive play you have the choice of having a normal play or a fake punt. If you want to create a defensive play you choose between a normal defensive play and a Blitz! Formation. Those decisions will decide how your team will line up for that play. Finally, choose what movements you want your offensive or defensive players to do. Instead of having just a set list of routes or assignments (like having the wide receiver run a 15 yard out or a fly route) you actually choose what direction they will go. You choose the angle and length. You can choose a point where the receiver or running back will stop and complete a move. You can have them stop and spin or cut to a specific side of the field. Your quarterback can stand in a regular set, under center, or in a shotgun position. The defensive plays are much easier to create. After you decide how many defensive backs or linebackers there are going to be on the field, you then choose if you want them to play man to man coverage, zone coverage, or blitz. The best part is after you create the play you can practice them. After making the "perfect" play that is capable of beating all defenses, you can then practice them to get down the timing of the play.

In an era where sports games seem to be overflowing with game options, NFL Blitz 2001 comes up a bit scarce. The options that they do have are fun, but there just aren't enough for the average, short-attention spanned gamer.

Gameplay : 80
NFL Blitz has always focused its attention on the gameplay. The game is not a pure simulation at all, so the focus has to be on arcade play. In a way, NFL Blitz succeeds and succeeds well, but as is the case for a lot of the game's features they just aren't that spectacular anymore. The gameplay is nearly identical to that of the original Blitz over three years ago. Sure, the framerate may be higher or the animations smoother, but everything is about the same.

All the little quirks are back from last year's game. You've got the late hits, the nullification of pass interference, and the "on fire" mode. I've played Madden and NFL 2k before and I would put the gameplay of NFL Blitz right up there with those two powerhouses. This game is fun. NFL Blitz appeals to a lot of gamers. There are a lot of rules that are tweaked, such as, you don't need ten yards for a first need forty! Pass interference is allowed as are all penalties that you can accomplish. It's almost like a video game version of the new WWF football league, the XFL.

On offense you can expect to have a plethora of options when you line up. Most likely you'll never use a running play outside of a reverse, so you heavily depend on the pass play. You can drop back and try to pick apart the defense, or you can use the lateral. The lateral is the most successful way of passing. Instead of having your QB throw the ball, you throw a backwards pass to one of your receivers and then THEY throw the ball. This doesn't work as great on the CPU as it does on human opponents, but you'll still get a touchdown or two just off this play every game. Since there isn't much room in the way of running the ball in this game, you need to be able to pass the ball. This can be very frustrating at times. While I was playing this game I turned into virtual versions of Jake Plummer and Rashaan Salaam. I once threw eight interceptions in one four minute half. I also managed to fumble the ball on five straight possessions one game. There are way too many turnovers in the game and it can become very frustrating. Quite often in a normal game, you will find yourself in the open field racing for a touchdown. This is when the defensive players turn on their "sixth" gear and often times, chase you down. So I incorporated the "zigzag" move. All Tecmo Super Bowl players know the "zigzag" move. Basically, instead of running in a straight line, you run up and down or side to side, pending on your camera angle. When you're constantly changing directions you are more difficult to tackle. Many times I found myself with a little tear in my eye reminiscing my old TSB days while using this move. With the help of the zigzag move you can get into the end zone. There you can then be pleasured by some of the corniest touchdown celebrations of all time. My favorite touchdown celebration is the one where the player pretends to ride a horse and proceeds to dance in a circle around the end zone.

Defensively you will not turn into the "Monsters of the Midway." You should expect to surrender some points. The first game I played the score was the half. I had stated earlier that you would turn the ball over quite a lot. The good thing is, you will also force a lot of turnovers. There are a nice number of tackling animations for this game. Very rarely do you see a normal tackling animation. Usually you are administering a power bomb or a close-line to the offensive player. Even the most normal tackles turn into gruesome acts of violence. The best advice I can give you is to play defense by trying your best to outscore them. Also, hope you don't get in a close game. If you do, the CPU is automatic on field goals. The CPU various times lined up at the 50-yard line for a field goal (about a 66 yarder) and nailed it with plenty of leg left. The CPU can also consistently punt the ball 65-70 yards.

The AI is hard to judge. There are so many turnovers it's tough to get a grasp of how smart the CPU actually is. The players react well to certain situations, but I was able to run the same play over and over again with plenty of success. On defense, many times the CPU QB will throw into double- or triple-coverage. I also found that if I played one type of defense, the QB would always run it to the left hand side on a QB draw. Since I knew that, I'd just line up my free safety on the left side waiting to tackle the guy. Midway states that they have incorporated new Player Artificial Intelligence, but I see no evidence of it.

NFL Blitz 2001 is the only sports game I can remember that has made me dizzy. The gameplay is that fast. The first day I played this game I could barely tell where the ball was and who had it. I liken some moments in the game to a pinball machine. After a few days of playing Blitz, your eyes and your brain adjust and you can finally compete seriously without feeling nauseated. If anyone ever played the old NES puzzle game, Tetris, the reflexes you need for Blitz are comparable to the reflexes needed for about level 25. I have talked plenty about the gameplay during the play, but a lot of the fun takes place after the play. If you're on defense you can obliterate the offensive players after the whistle. You can turn "WWF" on the offensive players after the whistle has blown.

This game has extremely fast and fun gameplay. If your eyes and your thumbs can handle it, you too will have fun playing this game. The gameplay score would have been much higher had the game not played so similarly to previous versions of the game.

Replay Value : 50
There is a season mode in this game, but it's not really useful unless you've got two or three human opponents competing in the season also. I went through a season and was heavily convinced why NFL Blitz is not a sim game. After one game, there were twenty NFL teams who had rushed the ball more then seventy times in one game. One team had 1000 yards of total offense and had scored 84 points. The tournament mode is the same way. If you have some of your buddies playing with you, I could see where the mode would be fun. If you're just playing by yourself the tournament loses its appeal. The new "party games" are really fun, but you can only play those games so many times before they become boring.

I see NFL Blitz as the ultimate "party" game. If you have a bunch of friends over for a party, I could see where a high scoring, easy-to-pick-up game like NFL Blitz would come in handy. Blitz 2001 would also be a fun weekend rental game if you'd like something to play for a few days. But if you are looking for a football game that will entertain you for the long run, NFL Blitz is not a good choice, especially with games like Madden 2001 out there.

Overall : 70
NFL Blitz 2001 is a fun game and I enjoyed playing it. It's fast-paced and there are a lot of touchdowns and vicious hitting. The game, though, feels like NFL Blitz 2000 with new rosters and schedules. The party games are a new feature that will be enjoyed by many, but I doubt if it is enough for someone to go out and buy the game. If you enjoyed the Blitz's of the past, you'll surely enjoy this one.

By: Tim Martin 10/23/00

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