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Blitz: The League (PlayStation 2) artwork

Blitz: The League (PlayStation 2) review


"I’m not a big football guy. I couldn’t tell you where the “pocket” is or what to use an “eye formation” for. I don’t know the difference between a fullback and a halfback. That's the reason I absolutely loved Blitz: The League. Blitz makes no attempt at providing all the complexities of other football games, but rather creates entertainment through brilliant simplicity. "

I’m not a big football guy. I couldn’t tell you where the “pocket” is or what to use an “eye formation” for. I don’t know the difference between a fullback and a halfback. That's the reason I absolutely loved Blitz: The League. Blitz makes no attempt at providing all the complexities of other football games, but rather creates entertainment through brilliant simplicity.

With the NFL license officially belonging to EA Sports, Midway had to make some drastic changes to Blitz, the biggest difference being that you won’t see a single team or player you’ve ever heard of. Midway created sixteen original teams for Blitz, some being completely original like the New York Nightmare and some are mock teams like the Denver Grizzlies, sporting the old school "Orange Crush" uniforms. Unless you’re a die-hard fan desperate to tackle the gridiron as Peyton Manning, it’s not a big deal. Campaign mode gives you enough free reign to make you actually feel like an owner.

Not only do you have the option of picking everything for your team—name, jersey design, coaching staff, hometown—you can rename and change the look of almost every single player on it. You choose how they train and grow and even decide if you keep them clean or give them different supplements to boost their stats. You’ll watch as the push their way through thirty games, crawling out from Division three to become the best football team in Division one. Campaign mode also has a good story—showing the darker, seedier side of professional football.

Style wise Blitz plays a lot like its predecessors-no penalties, two minute quarters and thirty yards to a first down-with one big change: The Clash Meter. Anytime you do something beneficial—sacks, yardage gain, and turnovers—it adds to your Clash Meter. On offense, the clash meter is going to save your ass. Pushing L2 will put you into Clash Mode and time slows down for everyone but you. Once you’re in clash mode it all depends on which player you are. The QB can pull some slick evade moves to dodge would be sackers, running backs and wide receivers can spin, juke, stiff-arm and shoulder plow with style and you can even land some pretty fancy one-handed clash catches.

The defense is a bit simpler. Your clash meter isn’t going to slow down time, but it can slow down the offense. If you hold L2 before you tackle a ball carrier, you will land a dirty hit. These hits bring down stamina, wear down runners and can even cause injuries. They get downright brutal sometimes. I’ve spun people around by the arm and tossed them downfield; chop blocked my fair share of knees and powerbombed runners coming at me headon.

Each time you do a move in Clash Mode it also adds a coin icon. After six of them your clash meter fills up and the word Unleash appears in the bar, allowing you to do an Unleashed Move, even slicker than the clash ones. The camera slows down and you get a mini cut-scene of your player in action. On offense, I’ve literally jumped over guys, jerked them past me by the facemask or driven my helmet straight into their chest. On defense, I’ve suplexed players, hit them with flying elbows and even tore off one running back’s helmet and smacked him with the face with it. Not only are these moves insanely fun to watch, the offense moves are almost impossible to fumble or intercept and the defense moves almost always lead to a turnover.

After you’ve learned the ins and outs of Clash Mode, you’ll find the rest of the mechanics are fairly straightforward. Each play is mapped out when you choose it but even if you forget, pressing L2 before the hike will pull the camera back so you can see how the defense is lined up and see the route of your wide receivers and running backs. If you don’t like the way things look, pressing the square button will allow you to change plays before the snap. Passing the ball consists of pressing the button corresponding with your wide receivers Simple enough, but running plays are even easier. Your QB pitches the ball automatically so all you have to do is...well, run. The controls are tight and the buttons never get confusing. It’s great for a novice like me.

I love the way Blitz looks, too. Cut-scenes are polished, the players look great and the arenas are breathtaking. The New York Nightmare's is half stadium, half gothic cathedral and my home field has large Romanesque fountains at each end zone. It’s awesome. Injuries as well add to this games visual splendor. The camera changes perspective and you get an X-ray view so that you can see tendons tear, vertebras turn to powder and spinal cords flash red. Pretty brutal, especially when this game’s wonderful sound allows you to hear the bones snap.

The game has a hefty soundtrack with artists like Skindred, Son Doobie and Heavy Mojo. Voice-overs are done well and each hit upon a player resonates a crack or a dull thud. The trash talking cut-scenes are a crack up. After I nailed one running back trying to spin around me, my player pranced over him saying "Look. I'm juking, I've jiving. Yeah, now you're falling." After one team started losing bad enough, another scene showed two players sitting on a bench. Out of nowhere a cup flew from the audience and hit the player in the head, without thought the player grabbed a helmet and threw it into the crowd, followed by the other player saying "Next time, throw your own helmet." Midway paid attention to the tiny details and it shows.

There are only a few minor drawbacks. Blitz uses an Autosave feature, which is great for lazy people like me, but it’s constantly saving—even when you haven’t changed anything—and it takes so long checking the memory card, loading the data, saving the data. It’s really kind of irritating. The A.I. is also in question. The further you get into campaign mode, the cheaper it gets. It seemed like I was always fumbling the ball, always missing tackles and my special teams suck. Nearly every kick-off was returned for a TD. Not to mention they cheat on clash. It lasts twice as long as yours does and they can go in and out of it at will, something you can’t do. You can only use it once per play. How is that fair?

Cheap A.I. and load screens aside, Blitz: The League is a fairly polished football game. It may not be for the guys who know every team and the stats for every player, but for the people who just want to play football (like me) it’s probably your best bet. The simplicity makes me feel like a veteran and the clash mode makes me feel like a Superstar. EA Sports may have laughed when they heard Midway was making a football game without the NFL, but in my opinion EA got juked.


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Community review by True (February 03, 2006)

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