In 1998, Midway released what GameSpot.com referred to as “the greatest football game ever made.” Although NFL BLITZ hit the arcades in 1997, the home console version was released shortly after in 1998. Midway’s NBA Jam was a hit, as exaggerated visuals and fast gameplay were popular among gamers.
BLITZ was unlike any football game of its time. Teams play on a small field surface, games consist of two minute quarters, teams field seven players as opposed to 11, it takes 30 yards for a first down, and there are no penalties. Yes, defensive players can tackle receivers as many times as possible before a play ends. The offense is made up of three linemen, two receivers, a running back, and quarterback. Playbooks are the same for all teams; offense has 18 plays (all passing-based, unless it’s a special teams situation) and the defense has nine. Extra points are automatic, unless going for two. And passes to a player behind the line of scrimmage can be thrown forward again.
As noted above, the visuals are exaggerated. Every players looks as if they spend way too much time in the gym. The tackles are over-the-top, the jumps, dives, catches, runs, everything is superhuman… but that’s what makes this game so fun to play and watch. In the midst of the chaos, it’s still relatively easy to keep track of plays, players, and all of the action. It isn’t a difficult game to follow, especially when games are played at the same stadium with its perfect green playing surface. The main menu is simple, as it features arcade play, season mode, play editor, and settings. It’s short, sweet, and to the point. Playbooks are simple to navigate, and all text is easy to read.
The talented Dan Forden of Mortal Kombat is the sound producer for BLITZ, which in itself already says the sound for this game is fantastic. Aside from the standard football sound effects, BLITZ adds in exaggerated player screams, booming menu effects, and the talented Tim Kitzrow on play-by-play.
What makes NFL BLITZ such a great game to play is its simplicity. Three buttons and an analog stick make up the controls (leaving the N64’s six other buttons unused). BLITZ can be easily learned by beginners, yet won’t be a boring cakewalk for gamers. Although BLITZ is fast-paced, game-play doesn’t feel rushed. It’s at the perfect speed where play calling can be effectively made, while the down time in football is skipped over (Acclaim’s NFL Quarterback Club loved to attempt realism, even the downtime). There are a couple of flaws with BLITZ though. Only two players can play at once, and it’s head-to-head. Co-Op or 4-player capability would be a nice touch. Also, the game runs like an arcade, so picking teams is timed and there’s no back option if the player wishes to change teams.
For those searching for a realistic football game, BLITZ isn’t that game. BLITZ was never meant to be a realistic depiction of the NFL, and maybe that’s what makes it such an enjoyable experience. Football fans want big plays, huge hits, and non-stop action. QB Club and Madden may have been more realistic, but they were simply painful to play at times. On a personal note, I absolutely love BLITZ for its release date. John Elway, Dan Marino, Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Drew Bledsoe, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, and others made the 90s a great decade for football.
9 out of 10