NFL Blitz Hands-On Preview -- Forward Momentum, Fire, and You!By Miguel Concepcion - Posted Nov 18, 2011
When arcade football fans get their hands on EA’s revival of NFL Blitz, I’d love to see what will be the one moment in their play session to convince them that Blitz is indeed back. It might be the WWE-inspired tackles, the familiar play selection, or the 40-point matches. For me, it was when my wide receiver got punched in the face by a defender. Talk about stopping forward motion.
Just like how EA revitalized the NBA Jam property last year, the publisher is looking to do the same with this former Midway IP. With EA’s NFL exclusivity license locked down for another two years, NFL Blitz makes for a fitting arcade complement to the authenticity of Madden. Under Midway, Blitz games evolved beyond the original arcade formula, often in uninspiring ways.
EA has enough respect of the property and the fans to dial NFL Blitz back with the kind of core gameplay that made the original title such a hit. That includes the 7-on-7 team match-ups, no penalties, and pass interference is always encouraged. I particularly love the animation of the wrestling-style tackles which I doubt will ever get old. Make no mistake; there is a sense of depth, like how you get the feeling that there’ll be a good percentage of players who’ll try to master the running game, throwing off more traditional, pass-centric Blitz players.
In a football game with 30-yard downs, NFL Blitz is less about field position and more about scoring. You’re practically expected to have a strong passing game and Blitz offers a sufficiently robust selection of 27 offensive plays, while there are nine defensive plays you can choose from. There’s a little unpredictability in that every team has one special offensive play that no other team has.
These 10-15 minute play sessions come with all the unscripted drama that provide the concentrated emotional roller coaster NFL Blitz has been known for. Two opposing players who know how to get their defensive timing right can have a heated match filled with fumbles and interceptions. Speaking of heat, your team catches on fire with good performance. Defense or offense, making sequential, successful plays literally fires up your team, giving your players unlimited boost for a short period of time as well as a very high catch rate for your receivers.
On top of the legions of sports gamers who’ll welcome this franchise return, HD no less, the simplicity of the control scheme will surely gain a new following as well. In the context of the media event where I got hands-on time with the game, I held my own against industry colleagues with just knowing the hike, throw, turbo, and juke buttons, so learning additional moves came easy. There’s certainly a high level of pacing you don’t get in Madden; you even have the option of trying for the extra point with a single button press without actually seeing the play unfold, just like in the original titles.
For as much as EA is banking on nostalgia and familiarity, they did manage to add something new to NFL Blitz, specifically to the online mode. Online multiplayer has the standard features like 2-player co-op, team creation, and asymmetrical multiplayer through leaderboards. Where this new Blitz gets adventurous is in offering an online currency-for-performance system where you earn “Blitz Bucks” every time you play.
These bucks can be spent to enhance your custom team through the Elite League card simulation game. You might have the Oakland Raiders as your base team, but you can build a more unique team based on the players you get from the card packs. And while NFL Blitz is already intense enough socially, there’s an added element of competition since an online win lets you take one card from your opponent.
Not counting this intriguing card system, EA is playing it relatively safe, giving longtime fans an HD enhanced rendition of the familiar Blitz look and feel. If EA Sports was considering bold feature additions or gameplay tweaks, I’m sure they’ve strategically saved those for later installments should this downloadable title become a hit. We’re quite optimistic that’ll be the case, especially when you have a game that turns Chad Johnson into a punt returner and Frank Gore into a fire-engulfed, turbo-charged running back.