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NFL Blitz (N64) Review

Publisher: Midway
Release Date: July 1998

Background Info

Are you ready for some football?! No, not strategic play calling, run it up the gut for two yards, three and out football. I'm talking about wide open, fast paced, smash mouth, trash talkin' football. If so, then you're ready for NFL Blitz, Midway's conversion of its popular coin-op arcade game. I have to admit right off the top that I've never played the arcade version of Blitz. Although I had a good idea of what to expect, the N64 version of the game was completely virgin territory for me and I must say, I'm impressed.

Presentation/Graphics : 88
Blitz features clean and, for the most part, fast moving graphics. The players can be best described as caricatures, sporting huge muscles bulging out from under their sleeves, and other exaggerated but well rendered details. There is a fairly limited but impressive repertoire of animations on display. Particularly notable are the various touchdown celebrations. The only downside is that, once an opposing player launches into a celebration animation, you're unable to unleash that clothesline you had in mind to punish him for his arrogance. Oh well, can't have everything. Hits during regular play are numbingly vicious and suitably over the top with players flying in every direction both during and (especially) after the play. The animations here are great as well. Grabbing a quarterback by the arm and giving him a little whirlybird before slamming his now limp carcass into the turf brings a certain sense of, shall we say, accomplishment. Sliding tackles are often accompanied by a little cloud of dust--shades of Looney Tunes.

The playing field looks good with the line of scrimmage and first down yardage markers clearly indicated by different colored bars that run straight across the field. There is only one stadium in Blitz but, trust me, with all the mayhem going on down on the field, you're not likely to notice the absence of others. The stadium looks good but there's not a lot of detail to it, and what there is you really only see on kickoffs. The endzones are customized with the home team's name to give you some sense of whether you're playing a home or road game. Not surprisingly, the in-game play notifications are arcade-like and in your face, and serve to highlight the action taking place in the game. And speaking of action, there's so much of it going on that it comes at the expense of some periodic slowdown. This most often occurs on changes of possession though, such as punt returns and interceptions, and doesn't interfere with gameplay.

Presentation/Audio : 90
In keeping with the theme of the game, the audio package in Blitz is simple but over the top. In-game sounds such as music, sound effects, announcer, and crowd are independently adjustable. While this is always a welcome feature, I find it difficult to strike a balance between the four settings that doesn't stifle the announcer. This is truly a nitpick though and is perhaps how it's supposed to be. The announcer and player speech (yes, the players do trash talk) aren't too varied, but fit so well with the loopy attitude of the goings on that they haven't gotten stale. The music that plays over the menus, game, and especially the half time stats screen, consists of catchy phat beats that are sure to give your subwoofer a workout. The sound overall is brash, dynamic, and perfectly suited to the mood of the game. Blitz stands as a good example of how the cartridge format, despite its storage limitations, can be exploited to produce quality game sound.

Interface/Options : 92
As you might expect of an N64 game, Blitz fires up in a hurry and takes you directly to the clean and simple menu screen (or a demo if your fingers aren't quick enough to the Start button). This won't be the last time you see the word simple in this review. NFL Blitz is characterized by simplicity through and through. The main menu presents you with four options: Arcade Play, Season Play, Play Editor, and Options. Confused yet? I didn't think so. The options menu offers four selections: Game, which allows you to set difficulty, quarter length, help boxes (Turn these off. You don't need them and they only interrupt the flow of the game.), and play timer; System, which lets you adjust sound and music, screen orientation, and controller configuration; Save; and Restore.

The Season Play sub-menu offers the option to start a new season or load an existing one, as well as view stats and standings. The Arcade menu has you jumping right into a game by selecting a team and hitting the field. User records and created plays are loaded and saved by entering a name and unique identification number (PIN).

The Play Editor is the only unique feature of the N64 version of Blitz, and easily one of the best elements of the entire game. Plays can be created and saved for use in either one or two player mode. The play editor interface is simple and intuitive, and will have you designing devious strategies in no time flat. Of course you'll have to name your plays, and that's half the fun. Nothing like pulling out the old "Chuck You Farley" on third and long with the game on the line! Oh yeah, and if you're so inclined, you can save your plays to a memory pak, haul it over to your local arcade, pop it into the Blitz 99 machine, and lay a whupping on that pimply-faced geek from across the hood.

As simple as the menu interface is, so is the control scheme. It features three basic functions which vary from offense to defense: Turbo, Pass/Switch Player, and Jump/Tackle, mapped to the Z, A, and B buttons respectively. More elaborate moves, such as jump passes, can be pulled off through simple (there's that word again) button combinations. It's this basic control setup more than anything that makes Blitz such an inviting game for non-gamers. Newbies can be pounding the opposition into the turf with the best of them within minutes.

Gameplay : 95
Is there anybody out there who's still not aware that Blitz lines up the best seven players from each NFL football team for a little 7 on 7 head banging? I don't see any hands raised, so I guess not. The rules are pretty straightforward: there are none. Well, that's not entirely true. First downs are 30 yards and you're not allowed to attempt a field goal if you scrimmage from your own side of midfield. Other than that, anything goes, and therein lies the appeal of NFL Blitz. Early hits, late hits, cheap shots out of bounds, trickery and skullduggery, it's all here.

On offense you start out controlling the quarterback. To pass the ball, you press the direction either forward, left, or right to select one of your three receivers (including a running back) and press the A button. Needless to say, you don't need to be a contortionist in order to pull this off. One of the joys of playing offense is using your running back to execute an option play. Get the ball to him in the backfield, swing him towards the outside as though the play is going to be a sweep, then rifle the ball downfield to a wide open wide receiver who'll then high step it into the endzone. Yee-haw! Too cool.

Defensively, you start out controlling your safety. Control is switched to other players by hitting the A button. The only complaint I have here is that if you want to rush the QB with a lineman, it's next to impossible to switch control quick enough before the ball is snapped. What's great about playing D though is that there's no such thing as pass interference. As you might imagine, this can be turned to your advantage by employing it as a strategy. There's nothing like whacking a wide receiver as he crosses into the middle of the field and taking him out of the play before the ball has ever left the quarterback's hand. It's that much sweeter when you end up burying the QB under an avalanche of humanity for a big sack as a result.

Your playbook is quite limited to start with, especially on defense. While you can beef up your offensive play selection by creating your own with the Play Editor, there's no way to expand the number of defensive plays at your disposal. Fortunately, you're provided with a good assortment of man and zone coverages, and blitzes from the outset. Furthermore, this is all in the interest of speed and simplicity, and you can't fault Blitz for that based on how well it delivers in these areas.

Speaking of speed, Blitz is one fast-paced game. From the menus through the gameplay, this game is designed to get you in one end and out the other lickety-split. Not only does the on-field action move fast, but you're given a scant 10 seconds to call a play, and the default quarter length is, get this, 2 minutes! You can also play 1, 4, or 6 minute quarters, but 2 minutes seems just about right for realistic scores and stats. I can't believe I just said that, but it's true!

One of the lingering questions surrounding Blitz concerns its longevity. It's so much fun in two player that, in that mode at least, I think replayability is assured (although it's inconceivable why multiplayer isn't supported beyond two players). But what about one player? Well, apart from a quick pickup game, you can play either in Arcade or Season mode. Season mode is pretty much self-explanatory: take your favorite team through a 16 game regular season culminating, if you're good enough, in the playoffs and Super Bowl. Too bad there's no dynasty mode! Arcade mode is actually a little deeper than you might think. The objective here is to beat all 30 NFL teams. The teams are presented to you in 'tiers' of three starting with the weakest opposition. You can't advance to the next tier until you've defeated all three teams on the existing tier. There are also a bunch of all-time records kept across both modes that give you something to shoot for the more you play.

Codes, codes, codes. There are a truckload of them available for Blitz. Extra characters, weather codes, you name it, there's probably a code for it. Okay, so there's no nude code (thank goodness), but that's about it. Codes are widely available across the Internet and simple to enter at the team match-up screen.

Difficulty : 85
There are three difficulty settings for Blitz, cryptically labeled Easy, Medium, and Hard. There's a wildcard at work here though, and it's called CPU Assistance. This isn't documented anywhere so unless you're part of the Blitz cognoscenti from the arcade, you're unlikely to be aware of it even after you realize you're losing just about every game you play to some late game heroics courtesy of the CPU. It's essentially a catch-up feature intended to keep things close down to the wire, but inevitably causes you to come out on the short end of the final score. By the time it dawns on you what's happening you'll be screaming for mercy. Fortunately, mercy is readily available in the form of a code to turn off CPU Assistance. Not to say that it's an entirely useless feature, au contraire, it's just the ticket for a head to head match-up with a hapless newbie.

Okay, this is the part of the review where we're supposed to analyze AI, right? Duh, hello-o?! This is Blitz we're talkin' here, get a grip! The d-lineman rush the quarterback, the o-lineman block 'em, the receivers run the routes they're supposed to, and the DB's cover 'em. Seems like pretty decent AI to me.

Overall : 90
So, for all the hype, what do we have here? Despite the lack of multiplayer support beyond two players, and some outstanding questions about replay value, a game that looks great, sounds great, controls great, and is more fun than a barrel full of monkeys, especially for two players. NFL Blitz certainly won't appeal to all tastes, but for those that it does, what more could you ask for?

By: Jim S. 10/7/98

© 1998-2006 Sports Gaming Network. Entire legal statement. Feedback

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