NFL Blitz 20-02

Overview

Very few sports games are as entertaining as Midway’s arcade-sports series, NFL Blitz. I’ve been hooked on the series ever since the first Blitz game was released in 1998. I didn’t even like football games at the time, and I rarely ever played them. But I was such a huge fan of Midway’s other games, especially Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam, that I decided to give Blitz a chance. I’m so glad that I did. The reward was an incredibly addictive gaming experience that took extreme sports to a new level.

Now Midway has updated the series once again, this time with NFL Blitz 20-02 for the PlayStation 2 (GameCube and Xbox versions are due for release later this month). Unlike other sports games, Blitz 20-02 isn’t just a perennial update -- it’s a true sequel. The AI (artificial intelligence) has been further enhanced to give Blitz’s hardcore players something new to sink their teeth into. Scoring a touchdown is not easy. The computer opponent’s defense is very good, even on the medium level difficulty. In fact, it’s so good that I almost could not beat the Detroit Lions! (How scary is that?)

There are times when I am killing the opponent 14-0. Then all of a sudden the Dallas Cowboys pick the pace and intercept my pass at the 20-yard line. My dream of scoring a third touchdown in a row is shattered. Dallas’ offense feels like it has doubled, possibly tripled, and I am unable to prevent them from tying the game. Now I’m really mad! This has been a trait of the Blitz series since Blitz ’99, but it is much more balanced in Blitz 20-02. It’s still possible to get your act together, pump up your defense and prevent the opposing team from scoring again. But if your defense isn’t good enough, then you’ll have to rely on your scoring power to succeed. (And if that doesn’t work, you can always hit the reset button.)

Gameplay

The controls are excellent. Blitz may not be in the arcade anymore, but who can tell the difference? I certainly can’t. In fact, Blitz plays better on the PlayStation 2 than it ever did in the arcade. I loved the arcade version, but none of the arcade boards currently available are as powerful as the Emotion Engine. One of the benefits of this uber-console is faster, more accurate gameplay. The players are bigger and feel more lifelike. Once you have the ball in your grubby little hands, you’ll notice that everything moves faster. The players’ speed has been increased, and it’s much easier to score that game-winning goal. If you’re skilled enough, that is. While Blitz 20-02 is more refined, the challenge has not been decreased. Your opponents will try to intercept your passes just as much, if not more than before. They’ll continually sack the quarterback and make you fumble the ball if you’re not careful. The degree of control that you have over your team allows any Blitz master to properly defend themselves and makes it easier for the newcomers to jump right in. I swear, I have never intercepted so many passes before! The strategic planning, the awesome (and huge) playbook, and the superb arcade action are just some of the things that make Blitz a must-have game. Once you pick up Blitz 20-02, you will never want to put it down!

Graphics

NFL Blitz 20-02 is the best looking extreme football game ever made. It puts the previous games in the series to shame! Just look at all of the detail that fills the screen. Every player is smoothly rendered, looking more realistic than ever before. The real-time shadows follow the players’ each and every move without failure. Speaking of movements, NFL Blitz 20-02’s players are packed with new animation. I’ve always enjoyed playing Blitz more than NFL2k, and now that the visuals match the quality of simulation sports games, there’s nothing that can stand in Blitz’s way to success. Not that there ever was before (because there definitely wasn’t), but some gamers are obsessed with aesthetics. Blitz 20-02 utilizes the power of the PlayStation 2 in the most efficient way. Instead of just making the game look better, Midway made the game play better, too.

Fun Factor

You’ll have fun-fun-fun till your daddy takes the controller away! He had better never take it away though, or else you might be tempted to tackle him to the ground and take it back. NFL Blitz 20-02 is the kind of game that will make a weekend seem like a couple of hours. Blitz 20-02 is not simply a "pastime," it’s real entertainment. You won’t play Blitz when you’re waiting to do something else, you’ll avoid doing something else to play Blitz!

Midway is the master of the action-sports genre. I can’t get enough of these games.

Overall

If you can afford to buy only one game right now, then it has to be -- no, I take that back, it MUST be NFL Blitz 20-02. I’ve played a lot of sports games over the past 12 months, and none of them can stand up to Midway’s blockbuster franchise (except for NHL Hitz, of course). This series just keeps getting better and better. The first Blitz was excellent, but somehow, someway, Midway managed to surpass it with Blitz ’99. That game was so good that I never thought anyone would be able to top it. Well, here we are, March 2002. Blitz 20-02 is out and it is the best football game yet! Madden may have more realism, but Blitz has more fun. If you haven’t played it yet, then stop what you’re doing and go pick up this game right now!