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NFL Blitz Pro

Developer: Midway | Publisher: Midway
Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 10/28/03 | Genre: Sports

I have very fond memories of NFL Blitz. When Midway frst introduced this game in arcades all over the us, I spent countless quarters in games against my buddies. The fun continued with faster, newer versions that were released year after year. When Consoles were finally able to offer an experience like the arcades, NFL Blit2 came home. Soon after that, the arcade industry in the us failed and NFL Blitz has continued to thrive on the consoles. Up to this point, The gameplay has not been Modified much. However, that all changed with the introduction of NFL Blitz Pro. Unfortunately, it is not for the better.

As I mentioned above, Midways has been slightly fine-tuning NFL Blitz every year. However, it has always remained a fast-paced, arcade style football game. It has never been close to realistic and has never even included 11 on 11 players. The gameplay has centered on the passing game with the only ground game you could pull off was on QB sneaks. With the introduction of NFL Blitz Pro, Midway has changed this all in one year. We now have 11 on 11 football, an emphasis on a running game, 10 yards for a first down, and a move to a more simulation style of gameplay. When I first heard about this, I was completely stoked. This was exactly what Midway needed to do in order to keep the NFL Blitz franchise fresh. Unfortunately, several elements did not work out in the final version and the game probably should have been held back and fine-tuned for a release at the beginning of the NFL season in 2004.

Before we get into all that doesn't work well in Blitz, we should emphasize some of the positive features.

This year NFL Blitz Pro boasts some impressive visuals. Featuring Terrell Owens of the San Francisco 49ers as the cover athlete, I made sure the folks at Midway had my 49ers well represented in the game. TO is one of the highest rated players in Blitz Pro. Since he is arguably the greatest Wide Receiver in the NFL today, this should come as no surprise to anyone. But I digress. Besides TO and the rest of the Niners, each player is represented very well. The stadiums are large and the players all seem to be visually represented on screen fairly well. Of course, you always have a few players that don't quite look like their real-life counterpart� but that is to be expected.

In between games, you can upgrade your players. Depending on the skill level for a particular player, it may take a lot more points to upgrade him. For example, it would be relatively easy to upgrade Tim Rattay or Ken Dorsey on the 49ers. However, Terrell Owens would be very difficult to upgrade because his skills are already so high.

This year, one of the biggest improvements is the online play. This mode is exclusive to the PlayStation 2 this year and besides the obvious inclusion of games played online, you can download roster updates, get news updates, and chat with others. Midway also promises to hold a few tournaments to keep the online action exciting. When the online games begin, you can expect them to be fairly lag-free. Ping times were very low and only had an occasional spike. This ensured the action was as smooth as possible.

I have mixed feelings about how no lead was safe in past NFL Blitz titles. No matter how large the deficit, players could somehow collect fumbles, connect on long TD throws, and intercept the opposition on almost every possession. While this ensured that most ever NFL Blitz game was fun and competitive, it was also a little frustrating to see virtually every single large lead vanish before your very eyes. To help alleviate this problem, NFL Blitz Pro features several simulation elements to ensure the gameplay is more life-like. This is first seen in the 11 on 11 players on the field and 10 yard first downs (instead of the usual 30 yard first downs). While not all elements changed in NFL Blitz Pro are good, I feel like this is probably a specific move the series needed to make.

As hard as it is for me to do this, I now have to reflect on the negative aspects of NFL Blitz Pro. Being a life-long NFL Blitz fan, this is quite difficult for me to do.

Gamepaly is arguably the most important aspect of any sports game. Without solid gameplay, why would you play? This is the biggest disappointment in NFL Blitz Pro. For years I have been accustomed to fast and fluid gameplay from NFL Blitz. What does Midway deliver this year? Choppy, unpolished, and unsatisfying gameplay. Dropping back for a pass, you have no idea who is open half of the time and passes fly into coverages and you are virtually blind to the receivers position on the field. While this was true of past titles, by adding more simulation elements and removing a lot of the arcade feel, it doesn't look or feel right to pass. Running the game is also very difficult. With such an emphasis on the running game, I found that it was more beneficial to pass most downs--just like what I did in past Blitz games.

I really must stress to you how the problems with the gameplay take away from the fun. No matter how good the graphics, online play, player upgrades, or any other positive features found within NFL Blitz Pro, if it isn't fun and the gameplay is a giant step backwards for the series, what is the point of playing?

A quick look at the score of this title will probably seem a little harsh to you. However, I can't help giving this title any more than an F. Midway really hyped this game to be something it obviously was not. Why was this game delayed and released two months into the season? Why is the gameplay so choppy? Why did the developers take a step back in the franchise? I had very high hopes that this would be my favorite football game this year. Unfortunately, I am left with the realization that the fun I had in the past with NFL Blitz may be all over. While it is possible that Midway can clean up their act, this title is going to need some serious work before it is even close to being ready for the 2004 season. As much as this F score pains me, Midway, I still have faith in you to bring back the fun and playable Blitz franchise I used to enjoy. It may be wise to develop future versions of the franchise with these words in mind... "If It ain't broke, don't fix it!"

By Kaleb Rutherford - 11/19/03
ESRB Details: Violence
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Screenshots for NFL Blitz Pro

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