Reviewed: November 3, 2005
Released: October 17, 2005
When it comes to football Midway has always had a unique, if not irreverent approach to the sport. Their legacy of Blitz titles has gone down in history as some of the most fun and brutal variations of football you could ever hope to play. And even when they decided to get serious with NFL Blitz Pro back in 2003 they struck gold by giving gamers the choice of playing real football or tweaking those arcade rules back to their violent origins.
With the NFL license firmly locked away by EA for the next half-decade Midway has the luxury of “not playing by the rules” once again. Free of NFL content restrictions, Blitz: The League does for football what Happy Gilmore did for golf, or what Matt Stone and Trey Parker did for basketball (or was it baseball).
For the first time ever in a football game, Blitz: The League features a powerful story that allows you to explore the lifestyle and drama in professional football, both on and off the field. Take control of a down and out football franchise and retool the players and coaching staff in a quest to guide them to the league championship. Other modes include intense multiplayer action with head-to head online play and complete customization of players, teams, stadiums and more.
Blitz: The League has all the standards game modes for both single and multiplayer but the real fun lies in the surprisingly deep campaign mode that starts by allowing you to pick a home city, name your team, design your logo, edit team colors, choose uniforms, and design your stadium. Then you need to hire a staff; coaches, coordinators, team captain, and the ever-important doctor.
Then you have to recruit your players and train them, pick your cheerleaders and dress them, are you beginning to get an idea of how involved this is going to get. There is a fantastic Training Camp that shows you how to play the game and then allows you to actually play the plays, unlike the current trend in video-only tutorials. It is much easier to learn by doing and these tutorials also reward you with unlockable bonuses.
Once you get into the actual game old-school Blitz fans will feel right at home. This is classic 8-on-8 no-holds-barred football with a twist, and that twist is called Clash Mode. Clash is yet another time-manipulation tool (like bullet-time) that can be earned by executing big plays and spend on either defense or offense as needed.
In defense, you can now execute hard or even dirty hits in an attempt to force the fumble or even worse, severely injure an opponent. When used during offensive plays the other team will slow down giving you the edge to make the big plays. As you successfully pull off these Clash moves you will accumulate Clash Icons specific to the actions or results you achieve.
Once you have six of these icons your Clash Meter turns into the Unleash Meter. Like Clash, Unleash comes in both defense and offensive flavors. These super-moves will deplete the entire meter with a single use but the results are usually way over-the-top, with wild TD receptions and life-threatening tackles just glazing the surface.
I was very disappointed with the computer A.I. in this game. It’s not the worst I’ve ever seen but it falls extremely short of anything that might compete with this title. The computer never seems to adapt to your strategy, so you can repeat plays until you get bored yourself. This is definitely a game that is best played with a human opponent, either locally or on Xbox Live, but that also negates the fantastic story mode designed for the lone gamer.
At first I was worried that a football game with no official NFL ties could even fly, let alone be enjoyable. I mean, without my Cowboys, what would hold my interest? But I think I surprised my self by finding that creating my own team from literally, the ground up, is far more involving than simply taking over an established NFL franchise in some standard GM mode.
Every decision you make, even before the very first coin toss is going to affect you later down the road. Your choice of coaches can actually boost player stats, and the team doctor can either practice smart medicine or use your players as professional guinea pigs for a variety of pharmaceuticals to boost their abilities. Don’t worry; you can equip your team with the necessary drugs to get around those urine tests, and you have the uneasy task of either benching an injured player or pumping him full of drugs and sending him back out...possibly to an early retirement.
This is by far one of the best-looking football games on the Xbox this year. What it lacks in NFL authenticity it more than makes up for in detail visuals, both the stadiums and the players. The camera is position much closer to the action than traditional football games so you get in real good and close for all the brutal hits and bone-splitting action. The fact that you’ll be using Clash and Unleash modes will help slow things down so you can appreciate every grisly detail.
The campaign is broken up with some nice CG movies that move the story along. The setup and menus are easy to read and navigate. The entire presentation just has a whole lot more presentation going for it that you’d expect for a non-NFL endorsed product. Midway was trying really hard to compete and they succeeded.
If you were wondering how a football game could ever get an M-rating it will only take a single quarter of a single game to find out. There is so much trash talking, both on the field and in the press box, that you won’t believe your ears. I was in total awe and hysterical amazement the first time I heard the F-bomb dropped during casual play-by-play.
As for the rest of the cast, there are more than 50 credited voice acting roles in this game and Lawrence Taylor even did his own voice work for Quentin Sands to make sure he sounded tough enough. But even with this star power paving the way, there are some excellent performances from the least likely characters in the story mode.
Sound effects are pretty standard for a football game until you get to the brutal hits and crunching bones that will have you wincing with every tackle, and once again when you replay it.
The soundtrack features a line-up of more than a dozen artists and 20+ songs that cover the entire hip-hop culture you might expect from an underground game like this. You’ll either love it or hate it, but there is no custom soundtrack option so hopefully you can at least tolerate it.
The story mode will take you a week or more of casual play or you can burn through it in a day or two of solid gaming. The lacking A.I. is disappointing and keeps the game from ever achieving a truly challenge state, but it is still a lot of guilty fun.
The two-player modes for online and local multiplayer bypass this faulty A.I. and will keep you playing this game for months to come. This is definitely a game to bust out when you have some friends over and need to drain a case of beer.
Blitz: The League reminds me a lot of the failed experiment known as the XFL. We have exaggerated football, slutty cheerleaders, and a game that is more about style and presentation than actual substance. But Blitz has never been terribly concerned with authentic football and now that the NFL is no longer a part of the equation, Midway is free to remove what few constraints they still had in place.
Serious football players probably won’t enjoy this game aside from its humorous elements, but anyone with a sense of humor and a proclivity towards extreme violence and severe bodily injury will have the time of their life.