NFL Blitz

Nintendo 64

Review by Jeff Cooper



Graphics: 7

Sound: 8

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

nflblitzn641.jpg (16062 bytes)Though Mark Turmell is listed as the head designer of Midway's instant arcade classic NFL Blitz, he was not on the team that translated the game to the N64. I would guess that this version is close enough to the original, however, to allow us to consider the game a Turmell creation.

I need spend little time on description. I can't imagine that too may readers are unfamiliar with NFL Blitz, a football version of NBA Jam, which Turmell also designed. Blitz won numerous awards from the glossy mags as home sports game of the year, and deservedly so. One mag argued, in effect, that if you buy Blitz, you do so at the risk of rendering every other football game in your collection obsolete. That's pretty much true IF you are a fan of arcade-style action as opposed to the strategy and simulation elements of football.

The NBA Jam comparison works very well for Blitz. Jam was WAY more popular than any of the countless basketball videogames that preceded it. Yet some hoops fans hate Jam because "it isn't basketball." Same thing with Blitz. Like Jam, it's enormously popular, it's violent, it captures a lot of the fun of the sport, and it simplifies the game to the point where anyone can just pop in the cart and begin playing. It provides a very different experience than many of the fine football sims out there. But if, like me, you're just looking for a shot of adrenaline-pumping arcade fun, Blitz can't be beaten. It's wildly addictive and merits all the success it has achieved.

I would not say, however, that this game cannot be improved upon. Even if you acknowledge that Blitz is no sim, it is not a perfect version of the game it aspires to be. I'll be watching carefully to see whether they iron out some difficulties and make additions to the new version of Blitz that is coming for the Sega Dreamcast and other home systems.

nflblitzn642.jpg (16715 bytes)One problem with Blitz is that it contains the same "catch up" feature found in NBA Jam. If you get too far ahead of the computer, there is practically nothing you can do to score or to keep the computer from scoring. Undoubtedly there is some code to shut this off, but I didn't see anyway to do it in the options (as is the case in home versions of NBA Jam) or in the manual. I never like it when the computer takes the degree of your success in a videogame out of your hands. If designers want to make success very difficult--fine. But don't leave the feeling that the computer alone is more or less determining what happens on the screen.

And even though the game is no sim, I see no reason why individual players can't enjoy more attributes of their real-life counterparts. Blitz does this to an extent, but not enough. Barry Sanders, for example, is not a lethal running weapon. Instead, Detroit has simply been classified as a good running team, and woeful QB Scott Mitchell runs like Forrest Gump. Similarly, it would make little sense to see running backs get zapped by UFOs under the excuse that "the game isn't supposed to be realistic." The UFOs aren't in there, but they might just as well be when you see a three hundred pound lineman catch up to Sanders from twenty yards behind.

Some people are fanatical about "slow down" and act is if any appearance of it automatically wrecks a game. I don't buy that any more than I thought a little "flicker" automatically ruined a VCS or ColecoVision game. Nonetheless, in the N64 version of Blitz, slowdown is more than an aesthetic problem. It's not unusual to get sacked or stopped on the goal line for no reason other than the fact that your runner suddenly begins running in quicksand.

Finally, I've consistently maintained that every sports game should have instant replay and a create-a-player mode; those people who don't care don't have to use them. These sorts of features aren't included in Blitz.

So Blitz isn't perfect. But it provides the purest fun of any video football game ever created. Mark Turmell has two amazing hits on his resume with NBA Jam and Blitz. These games are even more fun than his 2600 Turmoil. The real challenge for him is going to be baseball.


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Last updated: Saturday, October 01, 2005 12:13 AM