Review: Blitz: The League (XB)



Genre: Sports
Platform: Xbox (also available for PS2)
ESRB Rating: Mature (Blood, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Drugs, Violence)
Publisher: Midway
Release Date: 10/17/05
Official Website: http://www.blitzleague.com/

In the years of 2004 and 2005, football fans were happy. Sega had partnered up with ESPN, and they were releasing the first real competition against the juggernaut known as Madden NFL. By 2005, not only was ESPN Football BETTER than Madden, it was also cheaper. Sega decided that it wasn’t fair to release the same game year after year with only minor improvements, but keep it at the $50 price tag, so they dropped the price of their titles across the board to $20.

The NFL didn’t see competition as a good thing. Paul Tagliabue and the NFL apparently only see dollar signs when it comes to gaming, and wanted an exclusive contract with a company. It was obvious which company would get the contract. Even if EA didn’t pony up ungodly amounts of money to win said contract, they probably would have won anyway. Psychotic megolomaniacs seems to flock together. To pour salt into the wound that was given to Sega’s football division, EA snatched the rights to ESPN from them as well.

With this deal, it marked the end of competition in the NFL football sports game genre. There was mass speculation about what would happen to the football franchises from other companies. One of the possibilities was Arena Football, but EA pissed on that by brokering a deal to get exclusive rights to it as well. You can expect this game to be either a) awful or b) Madden with different rules. CFL was another option, but unlikely. Simply not enough people cared about it to risk making a game over it.

It appears as if what was once Sega’s (and know is known as 2K Sports) football franchise has died a quiet death. But Midway wasn’t willing to give up so easily. They wanted to keep making football games.

Midway’s games are very arcade based. Their Blitz series, along with the classic NBA Jam and Hit the Ice were once staples in arcades everywhere. Hell, it may be the case still, but I haven’t been in an arcade in ages. Midway wasn’t willing to go down without a fight, but they couldn’t use the NFL anymore, so what’s a company to do? It’s easy, make up their own league!


Story
Yes, the game actually has a story. Well, campaign mode does anyway. Basically, you play the GM of an ailing football franchise. You’re the worst team in the league (like the Houston Texans). The owner strikes a deal with the Mayor of the city that if your team plays good this year, your team will get a brand new stadium, and if your team loses, the owner will make a substantial campaign contribution to the mayor.

The story seems ripped directly from Major League, except kind of in reverse, because the owner wants the people to win. But basically, the team starts over from scratch, with no previous players, coaches or anything. Despite that, it feels very clichÃÆ’©. It’s almost as if this is the ONLY story they could have possibly come up with. It certainly doesn’t feel original. But I guess just the fact that the game HAS a story counts for something, and I have to give Midway credit for creating a halfway decent history of the League.
Rating: 5.0

Graphics
This certainly isn’t the best graphics on the system, but it’s not the worst either. The models are decently designed, and animate fairly well while playing. The slow-motion effect in Clash mode (explained in a bit) gets old after a while, but there’s not much you can do about it.

Other than the football players, all the rest of the models are pretty ugly. From the owner and the mayor to your coaches and cheerleaders, everything could have used more work. I guess the reason the football players look so good is because they only had to make ONE model and then scale it either bigger or smaller. Ok, so they made 3 models for football players. It really shows because all the football players look the same. It’s hard for you to look at these players as real people when they all look like clones. I don’t ever even recall them taking their helmets off, except when they’re knocked off on the field (though once when that happened, it magically appeared back on their head two seconds later).

About the only really good thing I can say about the graphics is that they designed some pretty cool logos. Most of the logos look A LOT cooler than the NFL logos, but the NFL tends to base a lot on tradition, and they don’t often update themselves, but just look at how cool some of the updated uniforms and logos are (see: Eagles and Buccaneers). It’s a pity the rest of the graphics don’t hold the same level of quality.
Rating: 6.0

Sound
Well, let’s start out with the music. It’s as if Midway had an open call for new hip hop acts and said they’d make them famous by putting them in a game. Because all the music sounds like completely generic hip hop (or is it rap? I don’t listen to either so I’ll probably be wrong either way). I certainly haven’t heard any of those songs before and I don’t care to hear them again.

The “voice acting” is pretty awful too. Let’s see, there’s Lawrence Taylor, and other random people. Probably about 4 or 5 people total. I can’t really tell. Because they ALL SOUND THE SAME. It’s like f*ckin Jango Fett on the football field here. They look the same and they sound the same. And they sound like a bottom-of-the-barrel football player who has no voice acting skills went into a booth and recorded it. There wasn’t a single Willie Roaf in the bunch. But Mr. Roaf would have been smart enough to stay away from the game.
Rating: 3.0

Gameplay and Control
While this is a football game, it’s not like any old regular football game. It’s not like playing Madden or ESPN Football 2K5. This game is focused on speed and “fun”. Quarters last 2 minutes and there are 30 yards to go every 1st down. And there are no penalties.

Other big differences from this game and others is called “Clash” mode. Basically, as you score yardage and perform big plays, you get “Clash” points. When you hold down the L trigger, it puts you in “Clash” mode, which slows down time and allows your moves to be bigger. So if you’re the QB, you can dodge tacklers easier, you can perform better jukes and spins when running with the ball, and you can make Dirty Hits when you’re on Defense. As you perform enough of these special moves (Dirty Hits, QB Evades, Spins, etc) you earn “Clash Icons”. You can get multiple of these on a single play to perform combos. A touchdown counts as a “Clash Icon”, and if you’re basically untackleable, you can taunt the opponents, and if you taunt for long enough, you get more icons. Basically, if you get 5 icons, your “Clash” meter becomes “Unleashed” which allows your “Clash” plays to be even bigger and better. If you make a catch in “Clash” mode, while your meter says “Unleashed”, it is uninterceptable (according to the training mode), hits will almost certainly cause injuries, and all your moves are basically bigger.

“Clash” mode sounds interesting in theory, but its pretty poorly executed. For one thing, about half the time I’d hold down the L trigger, I wouldn’t enter “Clash” mode, despite having enough points. Secondly, to win games, you HAVE to use it. The problem is that you never have enough points for it to matter. The computer, however, seem to use it all the time, yet always have points. It’s rather frustrating, and really gets old when they get 3 touchdowns in a row because of this.

All in all, the campaign mode is pretty cool though. You start out, and select a City, Team Name and Logo. I made the Oklahoma Rednecks, and my logo was a molotov cocktail. You can design your jerseys and helmets from a whole crapton of options. They really went all out here. It’s a shame they didn’t with the rest of the game.

After you select that, you pick your team. You get to choose a Head Coach, and Offensive Coordinator, Defensive Coordinator and a Doctor. Then you pick a Veteran and a Rookie, and then the rest of your team is picked for you.

Every week you play a game, and other stuff happens too, like you can get messages from people, and some of those have challenges to complete (I don’t know if you GET anything from those challenges though). You can also buy new equipment for your players or juice them up on some drugs (there are good drugs and bad drugs), but good luck being able to afford any of that.

Overall, the game is kind of fun, if you can get past the computer using every trick in the book to win, while you have to do it the hard way. As I’ve said before, there is a line between difficulty and cheating, and this game probably goes over into the cheating side. But hey, that’s what the game is about, isn’t it?
Rating: 6.0

Replayability
The game has quite a bit of unlockable content. One of those is the popular Cyberball game. But to unlock most of the bonus features, you have to play a lot of football games. Many require you to beat campaign mode as well. So while it’s nice to have extra content, the only people that would play that many games are people who really like the game. And I didn’t.
Rating: 5.0

Balance
There really isn’t much balance to be had here. The computer is always better than you. The only times you will win a game is when it wants to let you, when it makes a mistake, when it rolls the dice and says “oh, my guy fumbled”. Yes, numbers have a part in it, but the more I played, I kept getting better, but I kept doing worse in my games. Stupid things started happening, like the ball bounced off the heads of 3 of my receivers and got intercepted. Stuff like that happens in the NFL every year or so. I would get screwed every few plays. There is no progression in difficulty. It’s just a progression in frustration level.
Rating: 3.0

Originality
I’m obligated to give Midway credit here for having the balls to make their own football league. That was smart. But the execution on the rest of it is flawed. All the Jangos in the league are the same. They all think they’re a badass. There’s no character. They’re all like the poster boy, LT. There is no personality to the game, except “oooh, I’m bad, I say dirty words!!”
Rating: 4.0

Addictiveness
This game could be A LOT of fun, IF you liked the sort of play. I prefer playing REAL football. I did NOT like 30 yards per first down. It makes running plays worthless, because I could never get 10 yards on a running play (though the computer ran over my ass all the time). So it COULD be addictive, but it certainly wasn’t to me.
Rating: 4.0

Appeal Factor
Let’s be real here. Let’s be honest. This title will appeal to so few people that it’s not even funny. There are three types of people it will appeal to: 1) Madden Haters, 2) Blitz lovers, 3) people who see it’s rated M and go “OOH!” I fall under number 1. But I’m willing to bet most Blitz lovers loved the NFL players and won’t care about people that aren’t real. And the small amount of M rated content is hysterical. Wow, he’s sticking a poorly rendered needle into somebody! Ooooh, he said f*ck! Really, the vulgarity in the game comes off like when a kid says f*ck. It’s because they’re NOT supposed to say it that they say it, but they don’t really know how to put any FEELING behind it. And that’s really indicative of the game. There’s no FEELING to it.
Rating: 2.0

Miscellaneous
I’ve been very vocal about my dislike of the Madden franchise and EA in general. I was very, very upset when the NFL and EA brokered a deal giving EA a monopoly over the NFL. I knew it would screw the fans most of all. I knew that no football game would be able to recover and make a quality game without the NFL franchise. Damn you, Midway. Damn you for making me right. This was the best, and probably only chance to give a big “SCREW YOU” to Madden. But instead it’s more like a kitten giving a little meow saying “please don’t step on me!”
Rating: 3.0

Ratings Summary

Story: 5.0
Graphics: 6.0
Sound: 3.0
Gameplay and Control: 6.0
Replayability: 5.0
Balance: 3.0
Originality: 4.0
Addictiveness: 4.0
Appeal Factor: 2.0
Miscellaneous: 3.0

Average: 4.1