Patrick Hope: NFL Blitz among football games that haven't aged well
In the Game of Thrones, you either win or you die. In the Game of Football Video Games, you either sign an exclusivity deal with the NFL and the Players' Association or you die.
In 2004, Madden signed that deal and rose to sit on the Gridiron Throne, vanquishing celebrated and not-so celebrated simulation football series such as NFL Quarterback Club, NFL Gameday, and NFL 2K.
As the presentation and gameplay of Madden advanced, these series, by and large, with the exception of standout entries like NFL 2K5, were relegated to the dust heap of gaming history.
Unless you really like looking at old rosters, most of these games are only worth getting if you are going for a complete set for a particular system. But not all football games were about accurately simulating the NFL. There was one series that prided itself on being different. And that was NFL Blitz.
NFL Blitz was released in arcades by Midway -- the producers of such over-the-top games as Mortal Kombat and the ever-popular NBA Jam -- in 1997, with a console port releasing on the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 in September 1998. While other series tried to make football games as realistic as possible, with fledgling Franchise modes and great-for-their-time production values, Blitz went the complete opposite direction.
There are only seven players on each team, first downs require 30 yards, kicking is virtually nonexistent, and defense focuses solely on getting sacks and interceptions. As you might expect from a game that was originally in the arcades, the emphasis is put on fast action and crazy exploits on the field.
You want to hit a downed opponent with the Hulk Hogan Atomic Leg Drop? You can do that. Want your quarterback to throw flaming passes as part of a play called "Da Bomb?" Done and done. Do you think Raiden from Mortal Kombat should be a playable character? Your prayers have been answered.
Even the cover art was over the top, depicting Kordell Stewart -- because nothing is more EXTREME than playing two positions poorly -- raising his arms to a football being struck by lightning. Blitz is more or less what Vince McMahon wanted the XFL to be.
So is the game worth playing? Well, back in the late 1990s, it sure was. With the flood of traditional football games on the market, Blitz was something different. It was a perfect party game to put in a rotation with Mario Kart 64 and GoldenEye. It was easy to pick up, required no football knowledge, and almost always promised its share of silly moments.
But it's not the late '90s anymore and Blitz has aged poorly. Its control scheme is pretty clunky, especially in passing, the difficulty is punishing at times, and the blocky graphics are an eyesore, even in the context of other early 3D games, which have almost universally aged poorly in that regard. Blitz lacks the charm and fun factor that its basketball counterpart, NBA Jam, still possesses. Plus, unlike in NBA Jam, Bill Clinton is not a hidden character and that definitely knocks it down a few notches.
Blitz was a yearly series until 2003, at which point the original series went out with a whimper and attempted a total reboot 2005 with Blitz: The League, which contained completely fictional teams and featured Lawrence Taylor as its spokesperson. But gamers don't want to win the "Big Game" as the Miami Sharks. They want to win the Super Bowl as the Miami Dolphins. And so the lack of a license doomed the rebooted series and no new game has been released since 2008's Blitz: The League II.
A completely new version of Blitz, complete with the licenses, could serve as a viable alternative to Madden, but next year marks the 10th anniversary of EA's reign on the Gridiron Throne and that is a situation that is unlikely to change soon.
So for now, other football series, Blitz included, live on only as memories. And considering how time has negatively affected many of these games, those memories are the best thing about them.