It’s appropriate that after nearly a decade of estrangement, Blitz and the NFL are being reunited during Tim Tebow’s rise as the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback. Like Tebow, NFL Blitz also plays a cartoonish, improbable, exciting version of pro football. Now, Blitz has been resurrected for the modern age, and though it lacks some of the happy buoyancy of its reborn sister game NBA Jam, it’s still solid.
How Blitz football works: You move the ball 30 yards for a first down, the clock stops after every play, there are no penalties, 400-pound men can leap 10 feet into the air to catch a 70-yard bomb under heavy coverage. It works a lot like NFL-loving 10-year-olds might picture the sport. Only a couple dozen plays are available, but the simple routes and passing plays match the rules’ bombast.
At its best, a Blitz match will see the ball turned over three times in 30 seconds, through fumbles, interceptions, and traded scoring drives. The natural, delectable tension born from close competitions isn’t drowned out, though. Tight matches online can be real nail-biters, especially in the card-collecting Elite League mode, where you can lose players from your virtual deck by losing a match.
A more vanilla online vs. mode called Blitz Battles, where your team can be co-owned with a friend and played co-operatively, complements Elite League. Solo players have Blitz Gauntlet, a series of tournaments where every fourth match is against a boss team on a field with limited power-ups (speed-enhancers, clock-stoppers, etc.) The variety is good, though the game is best in small doses.
The bosses illustrate Blitz’s biggest failing, though: It isn’t nearly as goofy as it should be. Sure, roses are thrown on the field when the team of Roman gladiators hit the end zone, but that’s about it for theatrics. Even when players are “on fire”—consecutive successful plays enhance their performance—as in NBA Jam, it’s little more than a twinkling visual effect. The entire end zone should be set ablaze when you run that sumbitch in on fire!
Then again, Blitz shouldn’t be too absurd. The NFL’s self-seriousness counterpointed with just the right amount of absurdity is what’s needed. The announcers strike the right tone: Brian Haley and Tim Kitzrow deliver the sort of inane Chris Collinsworth-isms that make fans want to shoot their TVs, but filtered in are some bizarre non sequiturs. After recovering a fumble, Haley comments, “I like finding things, Tim! Last week I found a reuben sandwich on the train. It was barely touched.” Find a way to mix that silliness into the game proper, and Blitz will be in fine form. As is, the game is just a touch too conservative.