Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 08/12/02 | Genre: Sports
One of the big things I look forward to from the video game industry every year, is the fun arcade-style, bigger than life sports games put out by Midway. Their 'z' series (as I call it) are all really fun games to just pick up and play, without the learning curve of EA's Madden or Sega's NFL2k. They're just fun games, and there's been many a 4-player battle in this Nelson house. NFL Blitz 20-03 gives us more of the same, though I believe this is really it's big problem.
For the info-mongers among us, here's a list of features:
- Big, detailed players
- Fully customized stadiums for all the NFL teams
- New create-a-player system
- Officially liscensed with the NFL and NFLPA, to include all your
favorite teams and players
- Fast-paced arcade presentation and gameplay
- All-new fantasy stadiums and players
- Varying weather conditions
- Play-by-play and colour commentary in the two-man booth
- One to four-player support
As usual with an Midway game (going back to Arch Rivals, in the early 90s, which was the precursor to NBA Jam), the presentation is top-notch. The menus are all sharp and easily navigable, with lots of the little bells and whistles we've come to expect. This is always a strong point, and when it comes to aestetics, few can argue that Midway is one of the best in the business. Style to spare. That said, it's essentially the same interface we've been trated to since Blitz made it's first home console apperance about 4 years ago. The play-calling system is simple once you get the hang of it, with lots of 'hidden' things to keep you messing with those button combinations. The stadiums are huge, and fairly detailed, right down to the fans in the stands. Commentary is far less repetitive than last year, but (as with any game) can get on the nerves of anyone when you're down 24-0. The create-a-player is still in it's infantcy, but is a much needed add-in to this aging Blitz franchise.
Midway has always gone with what they know. Over-the-top arcade games, leaving 'sims' to the other guys. There's tons of tackle animations, a few new plays, and tweaked graphics and colision detection, and the same old insanely fast gameplay we've all come to expect. If you've played NFL Blitz up until now, there isn't much that's changed. In lots of ways, this is a great thing. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The playcalling system is still a big hard to grip, but if you fiddle around with some button combinations, you'll find tons of hidden plays to mess with. Making a return from 20-02 is the Impact Player setting (aka the 8th Man). You can make you impact player cover, zone left and right, blitz, play the safety, or delay rush on defense, and go deep, block, get open, or wait for a dish off incase your QB gets in trouble on offense. This is a really nifty feature, that gets quite a bit of use from yours truely. Passing (for me) is kind of tough for the beginner, as you have to push the joystick in the direction of the guy you're passing to (unlike the default button-assignments in Madden and 2k), so I usually change it to the one-button per reciever setup. On both side of the ball, you've got plenty of things to do. You can dive, jump for interceptions, and clothesline people down, or juke, spin, hurdle, or plow-through your defensive pursuers.
The audio on Blitz is (and has been) in the middle. It's clean, clear, and does what it does well. Generic rock riffs accompanying menus, as per usual. There are LOTS of added taunts in this year's installment, coming from such NFL stars as Shannon Sharpe and Michael Strahan, and more commentary by the guys in the booth. The on-field audio is the usual grunts, screams, and whimpers from past games. The audio sounds fine, not muddy or scratchy, even on my little 13" tv. There's not dolby sound for the audiophiles, sadly.
The players are highly detailed, muscles buldge out, and neck-rolls stick out of super-huge models, with tiny tweaks from least year. There's real player faces on a lot of the guys, with generic ones taking up the rest. The models move and interact with each other just fine, defenders wrap their arms around a runner, grab his arm and swing him around, or even throw a nice fireman's carry. The environments are just like football should be, and the fantasy stadiums add some funny little touches. The addition of the fantasy players are also fun little diversions, and I'm very fond of the Zombie, myself.
If you have Blitz 20-02, there isn't a huge need to upgrade, unless you're a huge mark for Create-a-player options in a game, or updated rosters. There aren't any real problems with Blitz, except for it's lack of what games like NHL Hitz have: mini-games. In Hitz you can Create-a-team, or run the skills competition. To take Blitz to the next level, Midway really needs to have a QB challange, or the ability to customize rosters, just -something- to justify games shelling out $50 for what's essentially a bugfix. If this were an online game, this would most likely be Blitz version 1.5, available for download at no cost to the user.
Wishlists aside, it's a fun game that does what it does well. The graphics are sharp, the gameplay is tight, and who can resist a game where pass interferance is legal, and late hits are encouraged? Not me, that's for sure. This game definately gets my thumbs up, but all I can really say is if you own Blitz 20-02, think hard before upgrading.