Blitz: The League II Review
At one point in time, the NFL Blitz franchise was a huge seller for Midway back in the PlayStation and N64 days. The arcade smash translated extremely well for home consoles, and gamers flocked to the series with open arms. Eventually, as was typical of any arcade franchise, the games began to get more and more stale with every iteration, losing their fandom and success. And with the NFL license belonging to EA, Midway had to get creative in order to bring back the Blitz franchise.
Granted, I never played the first Blitz: The League game, but I heard good things about it. So going into this follow up, my expectations were high. I knew to expect gameplay that was more akin to the franchises' roots, with a very straightforward playbook. As soon as I began my first match, this Blitz game felt instantly recognizable as what I had played 10 years ago on my PlayStation. This is neither a good or bad thing, because on one hand, you're instantly familiar with the mechanics, but on the other hand, you also feel as if the franchise has stagnated yet again, despite only being the second iteration of its rebirth.
Blitz II reintroduces the Clash Mode mechanic that allows for the slowing down of time, as well as performing evasive stiff-arms, and etc. Furthermore, it also makes it official that slowing down time is the most overused feature in videogames ever. Anyways, Clash Mode allows the quarterback to evade getting sacked by the charging defensive line. But it isn't limited to just the QB, as any player can utilize it. You can't use the feature sparingly, though, as you'll need to collect five tokens in order to use a Clash Meter gauge, which will deplete, and you'll have to refill it by performing well during the game. For example, if a play goes in your favor, your gauge will fill up and vice versa. Additionally, a stamina system keeps players in check, as every time a player gets sacked hard, or you end up beating him down after a play is over, their ego will take a hit, as will their stamina.
The scope of the field is also the same as the past Blitz games, the action is 8 vs. 8, and first down is every 30 yards. The campaign mode is similar to that of other games, where you create your own team and one player and take them through the campaign. The story of the campaign focuses around your created player, as you'd expect, and there are fully voiced cut-scenes too. The campaign makes a number of obvious references to the NFL, such a New England team spying on others, and a high-profile quarterback tossed into jail. On top of the campaign mode there is also the Tournament mode, and additional mini-games.
My problem with the Blitz II is that the Clash/Unleash feature is unstoppable when in use, and there's no option to turn it off. It ruins the balance of the game, making instant touchdowns more common than they should be. Additionally, there isn't much new in this iteration over the first League game, so fans of the first looking for something radically different will be disappointed. While I know I said I never played the first League game, a friend of mine did, and was able to confirm these downfalls. Multiplayer could've been better too, with the support of only two players. With a $40 price tag now, Blitz: The League II may not be the steal of the century, but it's also not the worst thing out there. Another $10 lower, and I'd suggest picking the game up for some good laughs.
Renderware powers the game engine for Blitz II, and it does a good job of doing so. The visuals are certainly good looking, with well detailed players that animate smoothly, too. To add to that, even the field looks very well done, as floor textures are of very sharp resolution, so the grass looks nice. Whether effects such as rain cast a great looking sheen on players' jerseys, as well as a nice wet coat on the grass too. To be honest, sometimes it feels like Blitz II looks better than most other sports games out there. The game runs at a clean 30 frames per second, rendering a, mostly, blemish free 720p image. My only complaint about the visuals is that the faces of the players could've used some more detail, and Midway should've used more animations.
Blitz II's audio is not for the young minds to hear. Tons of profanity is present, as the game and its soundtrack are uncensored, so you'll be hearing an assortment of swearing all throughout the game. Frank Caliendo lends his voice to the game as The League's commentator - but it's really just Frank Caliendo doing an even more exaggerated version of his John Madden impersonation. It's funny at first, but grows stale soon after. Jay Mohr plays the role of your agent, and does an okay job. But it's the voice actor behind your superstar rookie player that really hurts every cut-scene his voice is heard in - he's just not good, and that's a mixture of his trying-too-hard delivery, and the cheesy script/dialogue.
Blitz: The League II isn't a bad game, but I wouldn't rush out to get it right this moment. You could probably have some good times with the game for the right price, but you may have an even better time with a copy of NFL Blitz 2000, which was good for up to four players, unlike the two player limit in Blitz: The League II. The gameplay is pick-up-and-play, as it's highly reminiscent of the older Blitz games, but it has balance issues with numerous exploits that can make gameplay feel cheesy and boring. And while the game looks sharp, the audio is a mixed bag of good to bad.
12/29/2008 Arnold Katayev