Review: Blitz: The League II (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Blitz: The League 2
Genre: Arcade Sports
Developer: Midway
Publisher: Midway Games
Release Date: 10/13/08

After the first Blitz game was released, I saw it heavily compared to other football games that were on the market at that time, and I can see the same thing happening with Blitz: The League II. Comparing Blitz: The League to a regular football game is like comparing apples to oranges. Very violent oranges. We’re talking oranges that will shank you if you look at them wrong.

At the end of 2004 the NFL and EA Sports signed an exclusive agreement, which pretty much meant that if you were a developer making NFL games, you were screwed. 2K Sports tried to compete with All Pro Football, and if a bargain bin can be used as a way to measure success of a title, then All Pro Football didn’t do that well. Midway went in a completely different direction with the 2005 release of Blitz: The League. Instead of using the NFL license they created 13 fictional teams and cranked up the violence and mature content.

Personally, I was a fan of the original Blitz game, I felt like it was better for the Blitz series to no longer have to worry about NFL restrictions on their product. This gave them the chance to create an over the top football game where you could juice your players and send hookers to the opposing team. This actually felt like a better improvement, since every year it seemed that the NFL would make more and more restrictions on how their license could be used, and it got to a point where the NFL Blitz series felt stale and pointless.

If Blitz: The League capitalized on sports controversy, Blitz: The League II takes controversial things like sex, roids, dirty hits, and unsportsmanlike conduct to another level. In fact, it takes these things so far that it’s almost cruel about it. This game is not for the sensitive at heart. The game is less about the sport of football than it is about just injuring an opposing player. If you win the game, cool, but how many people where crippled?

Blitz: The League II differs from other sports games in just about every way. Instead of having a season mode as the main focus of the game, instead there is a single player Campaign mode that is similar to a story mode in non-sports games. This mode centers around a wildly talented new prospect that is referred to as The Franchise during all the cutscenes, no matter which nickname you choose. During the beginning of the game you get the backstory: Franchise is the best new prospect to come along in years, and can play both sides of the ball. The owner of the league is trying to build up a new team called the Los Angeles Riot and expects Franchise to play for that team. Instead Franchise refuses and instead wants only to play for his hometown team.

This is used as a way to transition into creating your own team, which will then become Franchise’s hometown team. After you finish creating your own team, the game then moves to a press conference for Franchise where the player has to answer specific questions, which then effect Franchise’s position and stats. After that the team has to work its way through the three divisions of the league and become the number one team, despite constantly being screwed around with by the league’s owner.

I have mixed feelings regarding the story, because Franchise is exactly the kind of asshole dumb jock football player that is easy to just dislike. There are some parts where he should see what’s about to happen to him and he’s just too stupid to see it, and I’m not sure how that’s supposed to make the player empathize with his situation. At the same time, it’s Blitz: The League, a game about touchdown dances and dirty hits; if the main character was anything other than a testosterone filled macho asshole, the whole story wouldn’t work. The story also has some fairly well done voice acting done by Jay Mohr, who is featured as Franchises sleazy agent, and if you are going to get a voice actor who can do a sleazy character you might as well get Jay Mohr. Peter Egan, a writer from the ESPN sitcom Playmakers, returns to the Blitz series, and is credited for writing the story for Blitz: The League II. There are actually some pretty entertaining moments, like playing prison football against “Mike Mexico”, or trying to decide which girlfriend to choose based solely on what bonuses that they can provide.

Aside from the main campaign mode, there are a couple of bonus modes, like the aforementioned prison ball, and a number of other creative variations of the game. In the game mode Pain, you’ll actually earn points for injuries. Butterfingaz returns from the last game, a mode where every tackle results in a fumbled ball. Lucky Sevens is a mode that encourages good offense since the more plays it takes to score a goal, the less points you earn from the touchdown. There’s also a tournament style mode and you can play these modes online and change different settings like quarter length and so on.

Of course, compared to many sports games, that might not seem like a lot of modes, since after you beat the Campaign, what reason is there to really return to it? It would’ve been nice if there had been some sort of season mode in the game that was broken up into different divisions. Campaign is still fun and you will not find a mode like this in any other sports title; however, the nature of the story just sort of limits the amount of replayability that could’ve been had compared to a more cut and dry season mode.

Graphically, Blitz: The League II looks just fine. While the game might not look super high def, the character models look fine and animate decently. The graphics are certainly an improvement over the last game, and there are some great weather effects. The cutscenes oddly seem to differ in quality from on scene to the next; in some the textures appeared rougher while in other scenes the characters looked sharper. One of the best new effects in Blitz: The League II is the animation for injuries. In the last game these were a simple X-Ray overlay on the character to show which bone broke. Blitz II graphically shows internal organs rupturing and bones breaking. It seems more like one of those scenes from something like CSI or the medical drama House than anything that should be in a sports game. But it looks great when it happens, and is so graphic that you’ll nearly feel sorry for the fictional digital character you injured when you see his lung punctured from a heavy tackle. The game also includes the addition of late hits, and while I’ll mention how this factors into gameplay in a moment, between this and other violent hits in the game there is really such a wide variety of different dirty hits in the game that even after hours of play an opposing team surprised me when a player from the other team hit me with a flying drop kick. The animation for the double team tackles is also cringe-worthy.

The game still sounds mostly the same as the first game. There are some random rap songs for the menus and same sounds of guys running into each other. As mentioned, some of the voice acting is nice, such as Jay Mohr’s, and while it does get repetitive over time the imitation that Frank Caliendo does of John Madden for commentary is not only spot on but also hilarious.

The gameplay hasn’t evolved much beyond what was seen in the last Blitz game. In Blitz II the goal is still the same: fill the Clash meter, then use one of the super powered Unleashed moves to either score or block the other team from scoring. While you can build up the clash meter from making great plays and moving the ball down the field, one of the best ways to earn Clash is to beat the ever-loving crap out of the other team. Blitz II has some new ways of delivering pain, including a new late hits feature, which let’s you attack a player you just sacked. These attacks are just cruel and range from beating a falling player with his own helmet to grabbing a standing player in a Muay Thai clinch and delivering a few well placed knees. Not only is this useful for gaining more Clash, but it also helps weaken the players from the other team which makes them more prone to injury. This just involves mashing on the A button, and while there might’ve been a better interface that could’ve been used for late hits, it’s oddly satisfying in the event that you are losing to at least take some of that frustration out on the other team.

Blitz II also features a new system of using Unleashed tackles. Now during the tackle you can actually target the specific body part you are looking to injure. This also includes the nutsack for those looking to prevent the other team from fathering children that might take revenge for the damage you’ve caused to their father. All of these are particularly painful looking, and even for an over the top violent game, these moves are kind of mean. Still fun to pull off of course, but it’s a twisted sort of enjoyment.

Touchdown dances are now a part of the gameplay since they require a button combination to pull off, and they help add to the Clash meter. The only real disappointing thing about these touchdown dances is the fact that many are recycled from the first game. If they’re going to make it so I have to enter a button combo to do a touchdown dance, it would’ve been nice to have different touchdown dances that I might not have already seen before.

Now instead of choosing to just try and give an injured player roids to return them to the field faster, the game introduces a medic style mini-game where you get to inject a player or snap bones back together. If you can pull this off successfully, you can get your players back out on the field faster and with less of a stamina loss.

Those are the major changes. During the campaign you can still choose to juice players on your team with legal and illegal drugs, though the penalties seem to be removed from the first title. In the first Blitz: The League if you used a drug on a player the game would also display a meter showing what other stats that the drug would also negatively effect. This created a good balance, since roiding a player also risked a higher chance of injury for that player, among other side effects. In Blitz II, these side effects appear to be removed completely, having been replaced by warnings about how it will make your pee turn green. In the first League game using drugs was a gamble, while in The League II you’d have to be a moron to not use the enhancement.

The AI is practically the same as the first game. The game might make some good plays, but for the most part, if you find yourself suddenly up 20-30 points, you can expect for your team to suddenly make a lot of fumbles in the last quarter or for the other team’s QB to suddenly become untouchable and break through every tackle attempt as they rush down the field. While developers of the last game claimed that Blitz didn’t have rubber band AI, this happens way too often to be a coincidence. However, it is not nearly as bad as it was in the first game, and it occasionally makes games more exciting (or more frustrating). You can play the same play all game long and the computer will still not learn to adapt to it.

Again though, playing smart football isn’t what will help you win at Blitz II. Building up the Clash meter is what will get you ahead, since these moves are so overpowered that when a team has one, unless they really screw up, means that they’ll score or block the other team from scoring. Since that is how you win at Blitz, most of the game is spent trying to cripple the other team and do touchdown dances. Sure there’s football in there as well, but who cares about the ball when you just punctured the other player’s lung?

Even with some minor faults, Blitz: The League II remains a fun game of arcade style football that is not afraid to be brutal and as politically incorrect as possible. This is great if you’re the kind of person that doesn’t get why everyone gets upset just because Randy Moss pretended to moon another team, or if the Cowboys are offended because someone stood on the star on their field after they lost a game. It’s smashmouth, no-holds-barred football at it’s finest.

The Scores:

Story: Enjoyable
Graphics: Good
Sound: Above Average
Control/Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Below Average
Balance: Decent
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Above Average
Appeal: Decent
Miscellaneous: Very Good


Short Attention Span Summary:
If you are a football purist, then this isn’t the game for you. However if you are a fan of easy to play, over the top, brutal action, then there’s a lot to love about Blitz: The League II. In many ways Blitz: The League II is an appropriate game to come from Midway, since it’s like if you mixed football with Mortal Kombat: you’ve got special moves, button combo mini-games and insane injuries. If you are looking for an alternative to Madden, well Blitz is practically the complete opposite.



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