Between NBA Jam and the original NFL Blitz/Blitz ‘99, my junior high/high school years were filled with glorious arcade sports action. The simplified team size, the straight out of an 8th grader’s locker attitude and general lack of respect for the way the sport was meant to be played kept my friends and I busy after school for years.
Then Madden happened. Consoles got more powerful, sports could be simulated to greater accuracy. Blitz and NBA Jam both lost their way with misguided sequels trying to live up to modern standards, and eventually, Midway folded. It was dark times for those of us who enjoy arcade sports action. Despite promising titles like the NBA Street series; the glut of Maddens, 2K Sports, etc. left little room for the subgenre to survive.
Eventually, EA (who now owns the rights to both NBA Jam and Blitz) decided to revive these old franchises, first with NBA Jam in 2010, and now with a revival of NFL Blitz.
The good news is that the new Blitz plays, feels, and looks like the old Blitz. The graphics, with their nearly complete lack of lighting and shader effects appear just as I remember, but with considerably more polygons. You can still jump pass. Tim Kitzrow still doesn’t have enough lines to keep the commentary from becoming repetitive, but that doesn’t matter!
The cheerleader is right: the juke button is your co-op passing friend.
Rather than include a traditional season model, Blitz chooses to have you run the Blitz Gauntlet, which is essentially set up the same way as a Mortal Kombat ladder, with several teams standing in your path to glory. Mixed in after every few games with the regular NFL teams will be “Boss” teams made up entirely of fantasy characters such as Gladiators, Robots, Pirates, Cowboys, and even Horses.
Boss battles play out like a normal game, with the addition of powerup icons spread throughout the field. These icons offer such bonuses as speed boosts and even a miniature earthquake which causes the ball carrier to have a high likelihood of fumbling the ball. Beat a Boss team and you’ll earn the right to add that character to your team (or make them your entire team) via a cheat code.
Players may input cheats before Gauntlet and Play Now games, and work exactly like they did back in the day (and in Mortal Kombat). Choose a known combination of three symbols and lock them in to activate as many effects as you and your teammate can hammer out before the game starts. There’s even an achievement for punching in 10 cheats before a game begins.
My two biggest criticisms are carried over from previous games in the series. You can jump, stiffarm, and spin while carrying the ball, but doing so greatly increases your chances of fumbling, and if you’re playing on higher difficulties (or online), getting fancy is a quick path to getting beaten. This ties directly into my next grievance: the rubber band AI.