Football is one of America’s favorite sports. When it comes to video games, this sport harbors one of the most popular reoccurring titles every year in EA’s Madden franchise. What is it about football that we Americans love so much? Is it the violent collisions, or maybe the suspense of knowing the game can change at any moment with one big play?
There are a ton of reasons to love a game such as football, which is why I was excited when Blitz: The League II was announced. This isn’t the Blitz of the old days with an official NFL license. You won’t see Jerry Rice catching a flame throw from Steve Young and then using his roadrunner speed to score. This Blitz tackles issues that we can only dream about when it comes to real NFL football. There is no NFL license; the game instead follows a fictitious league that is all about the glitz and glamor of being a football star. It’s raw, gritty, and dark, which are all reasons it’s different than the mainstream football games we know. But does all of this add up to a fun experience? Let’s see….
Blitz does a lot of things really well and others not so hot. One of the first things you will notice about Blitz: The League II is that it is not just a football game, but a story too. The Campaign mode follows you, a young, highly touted rookie coming out of college and looking to find his groove in The League. One of the things Blitz II does best is the off-the-field stuff involved in the game. When you create your player, instead of going through a mundane player creator where you select a position and assign points to your player’s different attributes, Blitz takes the opportunity to do this through a virtual press conference. The answers to your questions determine your offensive and defensive positions, as well as assign attribute points to your player. This is a really cool feature that makes the player feel like it is more than just a menu; there is a level of interaction involved.
After creating your player you have the chance to create your own uniforms and such, as well as deciding what city to play in with which mascot and pre-rendered team logo. Pretty standard fare when it comes to created teams in sports games. When you get into the first Story mode menu you will notice many different things. One is that you have a cell phone, which occasionally rings and displays a pop-up message in the bottom right corner of the screen. The phone will allow you communicate with your agent and girlfriends, who are the people that give you goals you need to achieve to get better equipment. You can check all the stuff you’ve earned in the top menus.
Then it’s on to the football field.
It is easy to forget that Blitz II is a football game when you are going through everything involved in creating a player and running through the story. It still must deliver on the field to be a successful game. Overall, it does not. Graphically the game is a mixed bag. The overall look of the game is solid; it feels, as it should, dark and dreary for most of the games that you play in, mainly because every game you play is in the rain or snow. The textures in the game are ok, players’ jerseys have good detail, with numbers that look as though they are stitched. The field gathers puddles of water and turns muddy. The game shows its ugly side during games that are rain- and snow-free. The grass has a poor look and feel to it; it looks flat and has no depth. Player models are very average and generic. There is little difference between the players other than the general categories of skill players and linemen–the linemen are heavier than skills players. The players are also very shiny and look like mannequins. Even when they get muddy, the mud shines, which is just weird.
The actual gameplay is where the game stinks. The game lacks the feeling of big plays and feels like it is scripted. Events in the game, like fumbles or interceptions, seem to happen at just the right moments. You can’t run the ball, so don’t even dream of creating a running back, because you won’t get anything in terms of equipment upgrades. The best position is the quarterback, but his lack of arm strength will limit your big plays. One thing the game does well is that it implements the bone crushing tackles a little more effectively than the last one, and when a bone does break or something tears, it looks fantastic. The repair mechanic which will allow your player to get back on the field faster is a mess. The game does little to give you direction on how it works and when you get it, the repairs are hard to pull off, causing a loss of stamina. Breaking bones is fun; fixing them is not. The game plays slowly as well, which is not how Blitz should play. The time is set at two minutes for each quarter, and while the clock goes fast, the game speed should be kicked up a notch. Speaking of kicking, the kicking mechanic is unique…and terrible. The game uses a button mashing mechanic that just feels weak. By hitting a string of buttons you determine the power of the kick. It’s not good.
The off-the-field stuff works really well, and if you play through the entire campaign and watch all the cut scenes you’ll spend about 6-7 hours on it depending how much surfing around the menus you do. Once through, there is NO incentive to play again. The game offers nothing in the Story portion that will make you want more or go over things you may have missed. The local and online multiplayer is ok; it’s nothing spectacular but suffices. At a price point of $39.99, I would recommend holding off and waiting until it drops another $10 before you even think about buying it, but it is worth a rent. The story is solid, the voice acting is great, and the cut scenes have a tense feel to them, adding to the edginess of the game. The player models aren’t pretty but the voice acting makes up for it. It is an average game at best, though, because it really seems as though they forgot this is a football game. If you’re a fan of the first, stick with it because the football itself is better. The off-the-field additions in Blitz II are a nice touch, but not enough to make it any better than Blitz 1.