Review: Blitz: The League (PS2)

Genre: Sports
Platform: 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/

NBA Jam was a phenomenon. In a time when arcade games still looked and played better than their home console conversions, NBA Jam was on top of the arcade heap – cool graphics, real players, over the top moves, and of course, the bombastic announcer.

As Midway branched into other sports, they also found some success with extreme NFL and NHL titles. NFL Blitz was a favorite, and although it did little to innovate since the initial concept, it spawned many copycats. In fact, EA’s Street series is essentially a Blitz rip-off, but unfortunately it surpassed Blitz. In addition it’s also the only NFL-licensed extreme football allowed for the foreseeable future.

Blitz has resurfaced, without the NFL license, but promising a new gameplay experience with the reigns off. Without the rules and regulations of the NFL, can Blitz carve a niche in the sports-gaming world with some innovative gameplay and storylines? Let’s find out

Storyline
Did I miss the memo from sports video game fans that requested massive storylines to go with their football games? I actually saw a TV commercial for NBA 06 by 989 Sports and they are touting a storyline surrounded the season as well. I guess that’s what happens after decades of yearly updates and nothing left to update!

If plot is something you’re interested in for a sports game, Blitz: The League has it in spades. The plot follows a team owner who is fed up with his team, and cleans house on the coaching staff, players and front office staff. What follows is somewhat akin to a movie like Any Given Sunday, with the story of the season progressing on the field in games the player plays, and in cut scenes and amusingly debaucherous choices. Do you want to sabotage your opponents? Use illegal new substances to enhance your players? It’s all possible in Blitz.

The only question is why?

Rating: 9/10


Graphics
As 2005 comes to a close, the Playstation2 has now been on shelves for over 5 years, and the graphical power of Sony’s machine is beginning to really show its limitations. The game doesn’t look BAD per se, but it just doesn’t look particularly good. The player models are on the blocky side, and the stadiums don’t do anything above average to immerse the player in the game.

The cutscenes are pretty blocky too, using in game models and real time rendering. They are a fun diversion, but don’t do anything visually impressive.

Compared with its closest competitor, NFL Street, the graphics are comparable, if not a bit less polished.

Rating: 3/10


Sound
The voice acting in the storyline mode is pretty decent, and there is a large amount of on-the-field chatter and trash talking. It gets old pretty quickly, and I found the triangle button a bit awkward for skipping them in game.

The music is an array of licensed music that doesn’t have much that stands out, but fits the game nicely. I’d say you get what you expect in the aural department with Blitz: The League.

Rating: 5/10


Gameplay
With the gloves off, so to speak, and without the need of NFL approvals, the gameplay of Blitz was the area the game needed to shine. And while they continued on the path of the Blitz-based extreme football mold created nearly a decade ago, the changes didn’t go far enough.

The gameplay is 8 on 8 extreme football with 30 yard first downs, and essentially no rules. The plays are pretty straight forward and recognizable to anyone who’s played video game football before.

The Major new “twist” is with the addition of the Clash Meter. NFL Street has something similar called Gamebreaker, which is only available a couple times per game (after it’s earned). Like Gamebreaker, Clash allows the player with the ball to act superhuman, tossing aside multiple tacklers. Unlike the gamebreakers in NFL Street, the Clash Meter is more like a turbo meeting, allowing use anytime there is anything in the meter (rather than waiting for certain benchmarks).Without the ball, Clash makes the defensemen hit super hard and often invoke a fumble. The computer does have the ability to turn on and off this ability at the exact right moments, but a player can come reasonably close to that usage with multiple plays of the game.

There are an incredibly high amount of turnovers in any game of Blitz: the League. Many of these fumbles or interceptions come off as “cheap” because there was little the player could do to avoid them. They occur enough in favor of the player that it’s not offensive, but it’s still a bit annoying to be well ahead and driving at the end only to get a couple of cheap turnovers making the game close or even ending up losing.

In the end, the gameplay is solid – the plays are easy to execute and the response time is crisp and fast. The gameplay itself has been refined over the generations and iterations for years, and still holds up well today.

Rating: 7/10


Replayability
Midway has done a good job of bringing popular titles online for PS2 and Xbox, and Blitz: The League continues that trends.

Football is perfectly suited to online play, and Blitz works very well online. There is very little if no noticeable lag, and the trash talk certainly flies. The people who were playing online, however, were much much better than me, even though I was plowing through the computer.

There are also a ton of unlockables, including the classic game CYBERBALL which continues a fun trends to make classic games hidden in new games. Ah memories of Cyberball on Lynx, I’d almost allow that to cloud my judgment.

Rating: 8/10


Balance
Sports games are inherently unbalanced because there are always strong teams and weak teams, and that helps to add to the challenge, especially in 2 player games. It’s easier to handicap a game between an expert and a novice by having the expert pick a terrible team.

But the lack of balance in Blitz: The League stretches beyond the limit of the normal sports fare, and it hurts the game somewhat. The Clash option is a cool (if somewhat unoriginal) way to try to add gameplay to the series, but it ends up making offense far too easy, even after learning ways to overcome Clash-powered run and pass plays.

Rating 3/10


Originality
On one hand, it’s easy to dismiss Blitz: The League as derivative and unoriginal. After all the series has been around since the 90s and hasn’t done a whole lot to change or innovate the core 8 on 8 smashmouth football. The relaxed rules are the same as always, and unfortunately this time, there are not real players, or even compelling fake players that you might get into.

The developers tried to differentiate the game by adding the storyline and pseudo RPG elements (with steroids, injuries, etc). This doesn’t really have a huge impact on gameplay, and the core football is very derivative. It’s nice to see a non-licensed football game in the spotlight, and we haven’t seen one in quite a while.

Rating: 3/10


Addictiveness
It really depends on whether the bulk of the gameplay will be done against the computer, or against friends/online. As a one player experience, there is a pretty limited appeal after the core game is finished. There is more to unlock, but it’s not quite addictive.

However, if you have a bunch of friends into this game, or get into the online experience, there is something that will keep you coming back. The “unfair” balance of some of the plays and features are still equal for everyone across the board, and like other rubber-band style games, there is a lot of fun in the competition.

Rating: 5/10


Appeal
Sports titles usually have the officially licensed teams and players to appeal to a mass audience of sports fans looking to recreate the action of their favorite teams and players on the video game field.

With the deal between the NFL and EA Sports eliminating all NFL games not made by the 600 pound gorilla, other developers either canceled their football titles, or revamped them without the license.

The appeal of Blitz: The League lies in its over the top presentation and storyline. The 8 on 8 football gameplay hasn’t changed much in 10 years The mini-RPG elements of building up players and using steroids is a nice way to add some spice to hide the fact that there aren’t real players on the field.

Rating 3/10


Miscellaneous
When faced with a football franchise with no real players or teams, Midway could very well have folded shop and waited years before venturing back into the football arena. Instead, they took a huge risk – take a stripped down version of Blitz, super-saturate it with elements that would make the NFL cry, and storm the marketplace with LT.

For the fact alone that they are continuing to fight the good football fight, they deserve a nice miscellaneous rating.

Rating 9/10


Overall Rating:
Storyline: 9/10
Graphics: 3/10
Sound: 5/10
Gameplay: 7/10
Replayability: 8/10
Balance: 3/10
Originality: 3/10
Addictiveness: 5/10
Appeal: 3/10
Miscellaneous: 9/10
Total Rating: 5.5/10 (55 out of 100)