Let's take a moment and imagine an NFL where there are no referees, no running plays, and no Bill Belichicks patrolling the sidelines. Also: first downs require you to cover not 10 yards but 30 yards. And showboating and excessive celebrations? Not only are both allowed--they're encouraged. Welcome to the over-the-top world of NFL Blitz, a game which debuted way back in 1997, and is available right now, in an all-new high-definition version for current-gen consoles (PS3, $14.99; 360, 1200 points).
Now, NBA Jam enjoyed a nice resurgence in recent years thanks to EA's terrific work in resurrecting that once-dead franchise. EA is trying to do the same with NFL Blitz. Tim Kitzrow, a.k.a. The Boom-Shak-a-Lak-a Guy From Jam, is joined in the commentary booth by partner Brian Haley. Both guys are pretty funny, and they do have their moments during the game, though they never quite achieve the knee-slapping hilarity found in Jam.
Gameplay is spread across several different modes including a quickplay mode, online and offline head-to-head modes, and Blitz Gauntlet, which is a single-player mode fashioned after a fighting game like Street Fighter II. To succeed in Gauntlet, gamers will have to meet--and beat--a series of challenges against NFL teams to earn the right to battle it out against a boss character. Confession: This is the mode that ate up the most hours during the Sports Gamer's review of Blitz.
All the characters in the game are hyperactive, beefed-up versions of themselves. Eli Manning of the New York Giants, for example, looks less like the trim, humble player we'll see this weekend against the Atlanta Falcons and more like a pro wrestling version of himself. And all the players in this game never merely walk back to the huddle after a play. They're always jittering about, and hive-fiving, and dancing their way back to the huddle. It's kind of fun to watch...for a little while.
Longtime series fans will notice that the late hits that were once a trademark of the series are no longer a part of the game. If anything, the 2012 version of Blitz is more polite and politically correct than the 1997 version, no doubt due to the fact that the NFL has a staunch zero-tolerance policy when it comes to late hits, even in video games.
Hardcore Madden experts will no doubt turn up their noses at this goofy version of our beloved sport--just as they've turned up their noses at games like Madden NFL Arcade, the Tecmo Bowl series, and the NFL Street series (which I personally wish EA would bring back; I loved the Street games). The Sports Gamer would like to say to those snooty people: Do yourself a favor and lighten up. There's so much pressure on game makers to include every last detail of a sport in a game that they sometimes make the mistake of forgetting to include most important ingredient of all: the fun. And NFL Blitz, while it's not my favorite of all the "extreme" versions of the NFL out there, is still a heck of a lot of fun. And if your favorite team didn't make the playoffs this year, throwing 80-yard bombs and delivering turbo hits (right trigger) to opponents will make you feel a whole lot better about things.
The Sports Gamer's real name is Scott Jones. He played football for 12 years before hanging up his cleats and jumping into video game writing. In his time covering the gaming world, Scott has interviewed star athletes such as Venus Williams, Tony Hawk and David Wright.