Review by AceHardball

"Excellent new concept, yet poor execution"

Blitz: The League was one of those games that I just desperately wanted to like. I brought it home, psyched with the anticipation of playing with steroid-pumped linebackers smashing running backs, or watching my receivers make ridiculous catches over the opposing secondary. I heard rumors of X-Ray vision showing shattering bones as an injury happens, and being able to "juice" them back on the field. Television commercials displayed players in bar brawls and behind jail cells, which made me excited for a storyline full of berserk players drooling over women, booze, and in trouble with the law. I kept thinking that it must have been a blessing for EA to buy up the NFL license, because look at what Midway can do now! However, this was all quite misleading.

The concept for this "extreme sports" title was simple. There are Quick Games, where you play with one of the Midway-created teams against another Midway-created team, or use your created team from Campaign Mode to stomp the opposition. In the Campaign Mode, you create a team of bust-out players, and pummel anyone in your way until you win the championship. The first thing I noticed when starting up was the UNGODLY long load times. I actually thought I had a damaged disc at first, until I realized that every time I loaded anything or saved my game a millennium passed by. What really made me scratch my head was thinking about what led to these lengthy loading times. The graphics are mediocre, with the player models all being of roughly the same height and generic structure. The crowd is more or less a blur of movement, and the stadiums are what you might expect from a football game a few years passed. Meaning not much detail except for grass, goalposts, and stands. Even more confusing was the slowdown that would occur when games would be played with snow or other weather conditions. This makes the week it takes to load a game totally inexcusable.

Thankfully, Midway made sure to balance out their sub-par graphics with some sharp sound and good music tracks. Player hits were captured beautifully, and I especially liked the music changing to fit the game scenario (more gritty music for redzone approaches, etc.). The voiceovers were decent, with the use of Lawrence Taylor being the best feature in that category. Whether that is even worth mentioning is debatable.

The arcade-style of football, which is derived from the original Blitz games of a few years ago, worked quite well. I quickly became nostalgic as my top wide receiver would make leaping one handed catches or my defensive end would maul the quarterback in a bone-crushing sack. The Clash feature was a great addition, giving that extra edge to out maneuver the opponent. I enjoyed the idea of the story, drafting a rookie on offense and veteran on defense to rebuild an ailing franchise. Yet strangely enough, these bar brawls and cop chases I thought I might be embroiled in were nowhere to be found. This is because all of these scenarios are merely cinematic introductions for what players on other teams are doing. Shame on you Midway, for making me think that I too might crush some skulls both on and off the field.

The aspect of "juicing" your players and using steroids to make them better was a truly exciting idea, if it were in fact remotely useful. The varying steroid boosts (to be precise only about nine, four of which actually are even worth trying) do little to increase your stats, and actually detract much greater from your other needed abilities (like field awareness and resistance to injury). Not only that, but the cost of this 3 week only pill proved outrageous (I don't know about you, but if I was paying $50,000 for anabolic steroids to play football, I might see about taking up golf). I was disheartened to see that when I saved my money to buy the $700,000 dollar shoulder pads that would supposedly make me a tackling demon, I witnessed remotely no change in my defensive prowess. Maybe I should have just bought some of those cheerleaders instead and had a party.

The cheerleaders and their outfits, by the way, comprise most of the unlockables. Sponsored by FHM, a clone of Maxim magazine and a desperate attempt to steal readers of Playboy who are adverse to seeing nipples, has you complete varying tasks in Campaign Mode and Quick Games so you can unlock the girls' photos, and different outfits for the cheerleading squad. This would be great if A) The graphics were a step above mediocre, and B) If you actually saw your cheerleading squad for more then 10 milliseconds as your team takes the field. The rest of the unlockables were made up of differing game modes, such as Big Head, No Injuries, and the unforgettable Windbreaker.

By far the most frustrating part of this game would have to be a combination of glitches and flip-floppy A.I. So many times would I play a team and completely wipe the floor with them, only to play them again and it seemed I could barely keep up with their monster scoring. Or much worse, I would start off with a good lead, then have the A.I. seem to put up points at will, with running backs and receivers shrugging off anywhere from 5 to 8 power hits from my defense to score 80 yard touchdowns. When this is coupled with Challenge points (which by completing, you unlock more polygonal cheerleaders for your squad!) that are in fact difficult to obtain, I will admit that I uttered quite a few cuss words at the On and Off difficulty of the A.I. The glitches mentioned earlier varied across the board, from diving tacklers ghosting through ball carriers, to the wrong offensive player celebrating your long gain (My wide receiver dancing after my fullback just ran the ball?!), and of course the necessary booth commentary that has absolutely no relevance to what is going on on the field. Wait, correction. These aren't glitches. This is simply stupid and poor beta testing.

While it seems that I'm really hammering this game into bits, it isn't quite as bad as it seems. I did have a lot of fun with the insane arcade-style ball, and I enjoyed the sick satisfaction of seeing players limbs break from brutal hits. Without all of its extra glitz and glamour, Blitz features some good, hard-hitting arcade football. Only when you look deeper at the extra sells surrounding the game do you discover that you should not give Midway the satisfaction of holding you captive to their sub-par product. Blitz:The League is a perfect example of a game with a downright awesome concept for casual and serious football fans alike, but is in dire need of a sequel to right the numerous wrongs of its ancestor.

Graphics: Average compared to other games of this genre
Sound: The grunts and body slams from the players more than satisfied
Playability: The Clash Mode makes this a strong point.
Entertainment Value: Surprisingly fun, once you get past the load times and false advertising of prison and cheap drugs.
Replay Value: Moderate to High

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 01/05/06

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