- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Midway’s classic, violent arcade sports event NFL Blitz (Electronic Arts, reviewed for Xbox 360, rated E10+ for players 10 and older, 1,200 Microsoft points or $14.99) returns as a high-definition download to give a new generation a chance to create their own exaggerated NFL moments.

That’s right; it’s back to extreme seven-vs.-seven football  sort of like the old-timers remember in the late 1990s with action that takes on a World Wrestling Entertainment appeal.

Pared down to their most primal form, the on-field antics require coaches to maneuver their team to run, pass and score (a set of 18 plays with audible options) or prevent the opposition from scoring (nine possible formations) using simple controller commands.

Rules include 30 yards for a first down (as opposed to the standard 10), rigid two-minute quarters and no penalties with options for automatic extra points and near-impossible-to-kick field goals that lead to an intense, roughly 30-minute matchup every time.

Although much of the silliness remains (hot players still can burst into flames), cheap shots of “The Longest Yard” variety after the whistle blows have been watered down in the latest version.

However, bone-crunching tackles, concrete stiff-arms, body-breaking fumbles and players bouncing and flipping around the field like a Chinese acrobatic team continue, along with excessive celebration dances.

Purists might cry foul over the diminished lack of sportsmanship until they look at some of the other goodies EA offers in the package.

I especially enjoyed the Blitz Gauntletcq per game site mode (a nod to Mortal Kombat) which requires climbing a dozen matchup ladders, including struggles against some outrageous fantasy characters. My Chicago Bears (helmed by the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers  sacrilege, I know, but can’t I dream for a real quarterback?) crushed regular teams in the gauntlet and eventually battled a team composed of horses and Bigfoot creatures.

Winning unlocks the codes to be able to use those beasts in a game.

NFL Blitz also demands challenging opponents online to win Blitz Bucks to spend on more than 50 upgrades, cheats and visual enhancements. Those goodies can range from players sporting big heads to throwing a pumpkin ball to not allowing punts or first downs to controlling humanoid hot dogs and zombies. (What is football, of course, without the undead?)

Additionally, a pair of coaches can build and customize a team (down to logo and banners) to cooperatively challenge other teams around the world.

Further online play offers entrance into the Elite League, which uses a collectible-trading-card system to craft a team, including buying, gambling and trading those precious cards. The game features all 32 NFL teams and 31 stadiums and souped-up versions of nondescript NFL stars recognized only by the names on their jerseys. Machismo quotients are further satisfied though a preponderance of cheerleader photos added between navigation menus.

The blind aggression is padded liberally with the rambling of announcers Tim Kitzrow and Brian Haley, who are as well-versed in gridiron-speak as they are with pointed sarcasm. Twisted commentary mixes in “kielbasa” or “deep-fried pigskin” as smoothly as a discussion on actually scoring a touchdown.

For the price, NFL Blitz not only is a fun, tongue-in-cheek expose of professional football, but it also delivers a perfect level of digestible action for the average sports-gaming fan unable to process the complexities of Electronic Arts‘ Madden.

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