Retro Corner: NFL Blitz 2000
Game: NFL Blitz 2000 (1999)
Developer: Midway Games
Publisher: Midway Games
Originally Released on: Dreamcast, Game Boy Color, Nintendo 64, PlayStation, Windows PC, Arcade
Currently Available on: Currently Unavailable
When NBA Jam launched in arcades across the world in 1993, Midway showed that sports titles with exagerrated graphics and frantic, fast-paced gameplay, could capture the hearts of both sports fans and non-sports fans alike. The fact that the game was a caricature of the real event meant that it could transcend the usual barriers to a sporting title and become a real crossover hit.
Midway really ran with the idea, and released a slew of these simplified, over-the-top sports titles, covering many of the biggest franchises of the time. Ice Hockey was represented by 2 on 2 Open Ice Challenge, baseball saw MLB Slugfest and even the world of professional wrestling received a makeover in WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game. All the titles took the basic elements that make the sport fun, and skew them off into unrealistic, exaggerated directions (eve though WWF was over-the-top enough already). But of all the NBA Jam-inspired titles, the one that really caught on the most and spawned an extended series of titles was their version of American Football; NFL Blitz.
Like NBA Jam, Blitz began life in the arcades, before seeing versions ported to almost evey console imaginable. Supporting up to four players (both in the arcades and on home consoles), players were faster, stronger and more agile than their real-life counterparts. Whilst it featured real players and licensed teams, the game took the world of American football, and removed or simplified a lot of the aspects that slowed the game down, such as timeouts and in-depth strategic plays. In their place, Midway added Turbo modes and much bigger hits. Again, like its NBA counterpart, Blitz saw the team sizes reduced, with each having seven players a side, rather than eleven. On top of all of that, some NFL rules were relaxed, with pass interference allowed, first downs requiring an advance of 30 yards instead of the regular 10 and gamers could repeatedly pummel their opponents, long after the stoppage of play.
The main thing that most gamers will remember is the fact that you could really beat each other up. The hard-hitting, contact sport of American Football is ramped up to eleven in Blitz, with tackles becoming almost like Wrestling moves. You might grab an opponent by the arm and spin him around, before launching him across the field. Other tackles would resemble Powerbombs or Clotheslines and you could even perform a Macho Man Randy Savage-inspired elbow drop, once the opponent was already on the ground, after the referee has blown the whistle. Your opponent getting to close to a first down? You could hit them back so far with a tackle that they would lose even more yards. These factors make the game almost more like a fighting title than a sports one, with the idea of defence just being to smash as many players as possible.
Offensively, players could earn special moves such as Field Goals that could fly the length of the field, or super passes that travelled huge distances, with superb accuracy. These mirrored the idea of being “on fire” in NBA Jam, and worked in a similar way, when the player had put a run of successful passes or sacks together. This also applied to defenders, who could power up their jumps and dives, to allow for some out-of-this-world blocks and interceptions, as well as some super-speed to compete with the turbo-charged running backs who could traverse the length of the pitch in no time. The correct timing and implementation of these special moves could turn the tide of a match, and secure victory.
In an attempt to handicap teams and make the gameplay more balanced, the game employed a catch-up mechanic, much like we see in many arcade-style racing games, where cars at the rear receive better power-ups or a slight speed bonus. In Blitz, teams who were winning were more likely to fumble the ball during catches, or to miss field goals, so that the players who were losing would stand a better chance of getting back into the game. This meant that matches were almost always competitive, back-and-forth affairs, where every point really mattered; making the gameplay even more frantic than it already had been. When you get four friends together for a two-on-two game, tackles will be flying left and right and bones will be broken. The game gets ultra-competitive and does harken back to early NBA Jam experiences, each being hotly contested.
Later versions of the series were hampered by the wishes of the NFL to tone down the extreme violence and silly celebrations that characterised NFL Blitz. By reigning in these apsects, the title lost its sense of being, and became just another sports title, which duly affected the sales figures for the games, and saw a hiatus for the series. The game did return, under a different guise as Blitz: The League, now without the NFL license and the constrictions that came with it. But unfortunately the title didn’t manage to re-capture the same simplicity and pick-up-and-play action that had made earlier versions such a success.
With the collapse of Midway, fans of the series must have thought we wouldn’t see another Blitz game ever again. But in stepped Electronic Arts, and just like they did with the NBA Jam franchise last year, EA have created a new version of Blitz that promises to take the series back to its roots. And because the game is from EA, we can expect full licenses and all the spit and polish that comes with it. How will the professional, straight-edge of Electronic Arts mesh with the anti-establishment madness of Blitz? We won’t have to wait tlong to find out, as the game is already out in North America, and is coming to Europe soon.
Blitz brought immediacy and fun to a game that has always had a hard time being accepted in Europe due to its stop-start play. Blitz didn’t feel like an American Football game per se, and that was probably its biggest success.
NFL Blitz 2000 is currently unavailable to purchase new, but can be bought second hand from sites such as eBay. Electronic Arts have recently released a new imagining of the game on Xbox LIVE and the PlayStation Network in North America, with a European release pending. Check out the GodisaGeek.com review, coming soon. The God is a Geek Retro Corner is part of “Feature Friday” and will return on the first Friday of next month. You can see previous entries into the GodisaGeek Retro Corner by clicking here.