NFL Blitz Pro Review
When Midway announced that it would be taking its famed over-the-top games like Hitz and Blitz in a more sim-like direction, many people were skeptical. The entire draw of a game like NFL Blitz, was that it was high scoring, was easy to play, and featured huge hits and tackles. Well it turns out that this new and improved format worked quite well with Hitz but unfortunately the changes made to Blitz fall flat, which will make many fans of the series, former fans of the series.
One good thing about the move toward realism is that there are lots of game modes to choose from. There's even a franchise mode where you are given total control over a franchise. You can even increase the performance of some of your players during the season, based on how well you are playing, but if you're not playing well, you're not going to be able to upgrade a whole lot of people. The franchise mode is nowhere near as deep as other gridiron games, but it's certainly better than nothing.
This year, the Blitz series goes online, only with the Playstation2. The game runs smoothly and is more fun to play against a human that it is the computer. Be forewarned, there's pretty much no running game online since people pass to their heart's content. Don't go in there thinking you're going to pound them with the run, because you'll be behind in no time at all. Another cool online feature is the ability to download the weather for whatever city you are playing in. Whether it's snowing in Chicago, or raining in Miami, you can play in the real weather of every NFL city.
NFL Blitz Pro now features a full team of eleven players on both sides of the ball. You can choose from multiple formations from a cumbersome play-calling screen, and then you've got a wide variety of plays from which you can choose. In an effort to keep things moving, the amount of time you have to select a play is very short, which is quite frustrating when you are first starting to learn the game. If time was so important, perhaps the lengthy cut-scenes between plays could have been shortened a bit.
As is the norm with the series, there aren't any rules to speak of. The only part of gameplay that you'll really notice this is with pass interference, which is a key part of the game. If you aren't adept at knocking down a receiver before he gets the ball you're going to get destroyed. Since there's so much going on at once with 22 people on the field, it's not as easy to knock a wideout on his butt as it has been in the past, which is one of the many reasons the 11 on 11 experiment failed. The buttons are also not mapped well and it's a pain in the butt to learn after playing other football games. For example, turbo is on the R2 button. This makes no sense. You can still catch fire, but it's tough to do, and rarely has much of an effect on gameplay.
Midway claims a new focus on the run, and while that may be true, they certainly didn't seem to focus on making it effective. Nobody wants to run for 3 yards a pop in Blitz; it's incredibly boring. Even when you do get a nice run on first down, the computer always seems to be ready for it on second down, leaving you with third and long with regularity. This leads to a lot of punts for your team, again, something that just doesn't belong in Blitz. The computer seems to agree as it is constantly going for it on fourth down in odd situations. This odd play calling carries over to going for the two-point conversion instead of the field goal as well.
For those that are looking for a little more excitement from the game, you can unlock a bunch of play modes based on your play in the normal modes. The "original" Blitz is unlockable, but it's not really the original game, it's just the current one minus a few players. There's also this new mode called "Big Head" mode where you can have players with big heads. It's so wacky and hilarious that I am having trouble typing because I am laughing so hard... Big heads! Get rid of the big head modes and spend a little more time fixing the broken game next time, Midway.
NFL Blitz hasn't received a graphical facelift in years, and as I write every year, it's really starting to show. Actually it's not starting to show, it's now painfully obvious. The player models are just pitiful looking, and are so blocky you'd think they were secret characters from Nintendo's Cubivore. The stadiums don't look bad, but there's nothing about them that's particularly good looking. Other than that, it's the same old animations from the last 5 years, except I thought I saw a defender help an offensive player up of the field once. I'm going to pray my eyes were deceiving me on that one. There's no place for sportsmanship in this game.
Just like every other Midway sports title, Blitz features the straight announcer/wacky announcer booth combo. While it fell flat in Slugfest it fits in fine here, especially with the heinous load times before each game. The sound effects on the field are, just like the game's animations, about five years old. Overall, the game sounds fine, but it just sounds like it has for the last few years.
In case you can't tell, I'm really down on NFL Blitz Pro. I am a fan of the series, but this is such a turn for the worse, it's incredibly frustrating. Unless I'm two minutes into the game, 10-7 is not a score I should ever see in this series. It should never be a final score - that's not what Blitz is about. Maybe I'm wrong and everyone else loves getting stomped on when they try to run, or going crazy because things are moving so fast you have to mash buttons while the pass is in there air in hopes of defending it, but I think it's lame.
I really don't know what Midway can do to fix this franchise. It seems like they "fixed" the stuff that wasn't broken, and left the stuff that needed work, like the graphics, the same. If you own any previous versions of the game, stick with those and don't even bother with this "re-birth" of the franchise. If you don't own one, you can get one much cheaper than you can get this one new, so go check it out, they're a blast to play.
11/14/2003 Aaron Thomas