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NFL Blitz (PSX) Review

Publisher: Midway
Release Date: July 1998

Background Info

Playstation football fans have, for the most part, been pretty well taken care of with the annual releases of the NFL GameDay and Madden Football series. But as Midway proved with its arcade smash NFL Blitz, the market was ripe for something new: a no-holds barred rumble on the gridiron that emphasizes action and simplicity, and is easily accessible to the most casual football fan. Sony took Midway's example and released NFL Extreme for the Playstation earlier this summer, but many fans felt this was a transparent attempt to cash in on Blitz's arcade popularity and eagerly awaited the arrival of the real thing. Now that Midway has finally released the Playstation version of NFL Blitz, curious gamers can finally see if this stripped down, souped up version of NFL football has been successfully brought to the PSX.

Presentation/Graphics : 85
Unfortunately for Playstation owners, the PSX version of Blitz was released almost simultaneously with the N64 version, and the graphics are noticeably better in the latter. This does not mean that Blitz on the PSX suffers from inadequate visuals, however; on the whole the graphics are pretty decent and some of the animations are downright wonderful. Only when compared to the N64 version will you notice that the players are not as sharp as one would have hoped. They are a bit fuzzy overall, but certainly not enough to mar the gaming experience. Each team comes with their home and road uniforms and these are very accurately portrayed, right down to the insignias on the helmets. You will have no trouble deciphering which teams are on the field. Speaking of the field, there are apparently only 2 of them, one indoor and one outdoor, though the team logos are in place for the team that is considered to be at home. The polygonal players are animated fairly well, though of course their appearance and movements are severely exaggerated, keeping with the Blitz credo of fun first, realism never. Each player has bulging biceps and thighs, making them look like the NFL in a parallel universe where steroid use is not only legal but encouraged. Such exaggerated players lead to exaggerated actions on the field, be it incredible turbo hurdles or tackles so bone-crunching and violent you wonder how the ball carrier gets up at all. Some of these animations are truly breathtaking, especially the tackles and some of the post-touchdown celebrations. Of course, there are only so many times you can play the game before you have seen them all and begin to tire of them, particularly the touchdown celebrations. Still, these up the intensity level immensely in a two-player game (leading to even more trash talking between you and your opponent than usual) and spice up a sport which the casual observer might consider a bit dull. There is little or no polygon breakup in the players, and very few graphical glitches to be seen at all during game play. Occasionally you may notice a bit of a distortion in the field, but these are so rare they take nothing away from the game.

Presentation/Audio : 80
The sound of Blitz is effective if a bit unremarkable. An announcer will make comments after each play, but only about such things as the severity of a hit or the timing of a leaping catch. He does not talk about such things as how many yards were gained on the previous play or how many yards are needed for a first down. While fun at first, he gets repetitive after only limited game play. Player's names are announced if they are involved in a play, be it as the quarterback, receiver or ball carrier. The sounds of tackles and hits are appropriately ferocious, complete with grunts and the thud of players being slammed to the turf. The crowd noise is pretty standard stuff, with an occasional cheer or set of boos standing out.

Interface/Options : 93
The pregame menus are easy to understand; so are the in-game options brought up during a pause. However, something's badly wrong with the playcalling menu. You are allowed to choose one of six "books"; in each "book" there are six plays. On offense the "books" resemble sets; on defense . . . who can tell? In any case, players are going to have to invest time in looking through plays to see what works.

The controllers are rather straightforward. One can do well enough with command of only a few buttons, and of course some of what's there is for flair more than anything else. Indeed, one can survive for a while on offense by pressing X to snap the ball, then any of the other right buttons (triangle, circle, square) to allow the CPU to hit an open receiver . . . or hit X a second time to bring up the passing icons, then hit the button linked to the receiver of choice. While the former sounds sooo easy, be aware that the CPU often selects the safety valve, and not much happens. You can simply hit circle for a "special move" or hit the triggers for stiff arms, turbos, and breaking tackles.

There are an assortment of in-game cameras: some offer a close-in view, others help quarterbacks look downfield.

Gameplay : 87
If you have not figured it out yet, NFL Blitz resembles real football in only the most cursory of manners; there are 2 teams, one plays offense while the other plays defense, and the ball can be advanced by running with it or throwing it to a teammate. There are no penalties, you need 30 yards for a first down and there are only 7 players on a side. In addition, you can pass the ball as many times as you like as long as you are behind the line of scrimmage. Sound like fun? Well it is, as long as you know what the game is all about, and that is fast and furious arcade action. There are various modes of play, including Arcade, which challenges you to beat all 30 of the NFL teams. Each team is represented by there star players, so even though there are only 7 players a side, you are still going to see Terrell Davis, Brett Favre and Deion Sanders. The rosters are set; that is, there is no trading of players, no creating players, etc. What you see is what you get. A season mode is also included, where you play a complete 16 game schedule in hopes of making the playoffs and, ultimately, the Super Bowl. Team stats are tracked in a variety of categories during Season mode, so you can see how you are stacking up against the better teams in the league. In the interest of multi-player fanatics, a tournament mode is included, where up to 8 players can enter a winner-take all tournament. Unfortunately, and this is a huge oversight, the game is not Multi Tap compatible, so the maximum number of players per game is 2. This is rather unfortunate, as NFL Blitz has everything else needed to make a great party game. The actual mechanics of the game are simple enough, with the aforementioned directional passing aiding a great deal in simplicity. The player control is responsive on both sides of the ball. Performing leaping catches and jarring tackles is easy as can be. The playbook is very limited, with only 18 plays on offense and 9 on defense. However, this is in line with the rest of Blitz's simplicity-first mentality, and with the ability to do all sorts of things with the ball once it is hiked, each play can be used in a variety of ways; trust me, the halfback option will become a way of life when you play enough NFL Blitz.

Quarter lengths can be set to 1, 2, 4 or 8 minutes. With the breakneck speed at which Blitz is played, coupled with the fact that the clock stops after every play, I found that 2 minute quarters give the most realistic scores. This lets you play quite a few games in a short period of time, something that adds to the addictiveness of Blitz's game play. While playing Blitz, I was instantly reminded that this was in fact an arcade game in the strictest sense of the word. I never played Blitz in the arcade, but boy does it feel like I have. Playing the PSX version, I was almost immediately transported back to my younger days, when I would continually feed quarters into the game of my choice, with a mix of exhilaration and frustration pouring through my veins. The one-player mode certainly gives you that sort of rush, with the short game length combining with the game's intensity to give you that "Just one more game!" feeling that the arcades cash in on so well. After a while, however, you get this very serious sense of deja vu; there are only so many things to do in the game, given the limited number of moves and options. It won't take long before you have literally seen all there is to see. The 2 player portion of the game is a bit better in that regard, giving you the chance to talk some serious smack to your opponent as the little polygonal figures fly across the screen in exaggerated reckless abandon. With its emphasis on action, NFL Blitz is an outrageous 2-player experience that can have you literally rolling on the floor in giddy laughter. Eventually this will also grow a bit old, but what game doesn't upon repeated playing? The mindless fun of the 2-player mode only makes you even more upset that Midway did not include Multi Tap options. There are tons of "secret" codes that can enhance game play, or just do some downright silly things. Some of these codes actually effect game play, such as allowing for a better pass rush or no fumbles. Other codes are just there to amuse you, such as the Big Head mode or tiny player mode. While such codes may not actually be used much by gamers, they do offer a bit of flexibility for game play.

Difficulty : 80
This is where things get dicey. NFL Blitz offers three levels of difficulty: Easy, Medium and Hard. But the main component of Blitz's difficulty can be summed up by this simple statement; to give you a good game, the computer will cheat to level the playing field. That is a fact. Almost every game against the computer will be close. Whether or not you win basically depends upon which difficulty level you have chosen to play with. If you are playing on the Easy level, you can expect to win about 90% of the games, with the score always being close. On Medium, the winning percentage drops down to about 50%, and again the games are close. On Hard, you will lose most games in the most disturbing ways imaginable. How does the CPU cheat? It is so obvious it will infuriate even the most level-headed gamer. Basically, if you are leading and have the ball, you WILL turn the ball over. If the CPU is trailing and has the ball, he will suddenly become super-human, pulling off outrageous moves and being almost impossible to tackle. It is obvious that there is catch-up logic embedded in the game's AI. This further illustrates the game's resemblance to an arcade game, when such AI is used to frustrate you into pumping more and more money into the coin slot. While this catch-up logic can be disabled in a two-player game, it cannot be toggled off in single player mode, and that is very unfortunate. Yes, nearly all the games will be nail-biters, right down to the final gun, but it is a cheap way of doing things and in no way makes up for real AI.

Overall : 85
NFL Blitz definitely has something to offer gamers that want to play a quick game of football but don't want to take the time to learn the intricacies of the actual sport, or simply don't wish to be bogged down by complicated controls. It is pure, unadulterated arcade fun if you know what to expect going in. It is not a simulation of football, but there are already plenty of those on the market. If you want fast paced action and can tolerate the game's cheating ways, you may very well enjoy NFL Blitz.

By: Jim S. 10/7/98

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

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