|Blitz: The League (2005)
Available for: PlayStation 2, Xbox
Now that Electronic Arts has secured the exclusive rights to the NFL for the next five years, gamers have a few important questions ahead of themselves. Namely, (1) Will “Madden” suffer from a decline in ingenuity, and (2) Is Midway’s newest offering, “Blitz: The League,” a worthy substitute? If you answered “no” to both of these questions, than you’re on the right track, but this doesn’t justify buying the latest “Madden” because it’s the only true-to-life football game on the market, nor does it mean that “Blitz: The League” shouldn’t be a part of your collection. Think “Burnout” meets “Fight Club” in this fast-paced game that plays more like arena football than the NFL. And despite the lack of NFL licensing, a deep franchise mode, and teams you’ve come to know and love (or hate), “Blitz” offers a unique style of gameplay for those of us who’d much rather rush the line of scrimmage and break the other quarterback’s spine.
In the campaign mode, a 30-game story arc written by the guys who penned ESPN’s “Playmakers,” your city’s team has landed at the bottom of the pack and you’ve been given one chance to clean house and win a championship. A team name and logo must be established first, followed by a new coaching staff and several players. Laced throughout the story mode are separate tales for your team’s rookie playmaker, the veteran defensive man, and the new coach, but none of these really add any extra enjoyment to the gameplay. Instead, each tale is told through a series of cutscenes that deliver plenty of swearing and lewd behavior. This is surely what Midway had hoped would be the pinnacle of the game’s humor, but much smaller details will surely cause many more laughs among football fans. Case in point, one of the other team’s players is a run-heavy QB whose jersey number is seven and last name is, coincidentally, Mexico.
But let’s not forget, this isn’t your father’s Sunday afternoon game of catch. This is seven-on-seven, with 30 yards to the first down and a line of mean suckers who’d love nothing more than to knock you flat on your ass. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to wager on your own games in order to turn a profit, buy new equipment for player upgrades, and decide whether you’d rather treat a player’s injury properly or give him the “juice” for a quick fix. Other options include sending escorts to the opponent’s hotel room in order to wear them down before the game, and getting in brawls on the field.
The biggest changes to the “Blitz” series since it last debuted on a game console is the addition of the Clash meter, which sits nicely atop the screen for easy reference. As you earn yardage and touchdowns on offense, or make big plays on defense, you’ll build up your Clash meter. This can in turn be used to make even bigger plays on the fly by pressing the L trigger button at the top of the controller. Using Clash while throwing the ball will almost guarantee a perfect pass, while runners can use it to shift into a “Matrix”-like slo-mo in order to evade defenders. By far the best use of the Clash, though, is on the other side of the ball, where a defender can send a player quickly to the ground via a dirty hit, or even cause some bone-shattering results shown in X-Ray vision.
Hurting people has never been more fun than it is in this arcade-style football game, but it’s not exactly the much-needed diversity from “Madden” that gamers were hoping for either. Limited gameplay options make the long-term playability less desirable, and the multiplayer mode isn’t as nearly as enjoyable as it probably could have been. Still, chances are you’ll have a great time with “Blitz: The League,” and that’s all Midway is really asking for.