This Superbowl Sunday, let us pray once again for a true successor to the sports game GOAT – NFL Blitz

By admin Feb 12, 2024

It’s that time of year again – ‘the big game’ is upon us. Some watch for the football, some for the commercials, or half time – or just the crazy spectacle in general. While I am an NFL fan and will be rooting for the 49ers tonight (anyone but the Chiefs), my thoughts are preoccupied the same way they are every time American Football steals all the headlines: on Blitz.

NFL Blitz is, without a doubt, one of if not the greatest sports game ever made. That team at Midway is what in sporting terms we’d call a ‘dynasty’, in fact – because the only thing that can stand up to Blitz is NBA Jam – made by pretty much the same creative group.

The thing that makes Blitz stand-out special is its attitude towards American Football – the idea that it’s a representation of the sport that is in the spirit of its traditions and laws, even while absolutely being about a million miles removed from the letter of the law. Blitz understands that it is a videogame – and so the rules of the game are tweaked or even tossed out entirely to give you something that represents the most exciting plays of any given NFL season – over and over again, designed to sap quarters from your pocket.

It’s a thrillingly addictive, wildly competitive, simply wonderful game. At the risk of sounding like an old man, it’s the sort of sports game they just generally don’t make any more; joyous in its silliness, steadfast in its refusal to waste even a second of a player’s time.

This has also made a Blitz revival difficult. Some would tell you that the braying drones out there really want simulation titles like EA’s Madden, and that’s why those get made. A great deal of the barrier is the league itself, however.

Cover image for YouTube videoNFL Blitz ’99 Arcade

Rocked by scandals over harrowing player injuries and concussions, for instance, the in-your-face hits and tackles of Blitz, designed to be eye-poppingly ‘big’ on screen, aren’t acceptable. They look too much like the sort of banned moves that, in real life, might leave someone paralyzed. Blitz never cared; it’s a video game. But after a deluge of proof that the sport left many players with irreversibly-changed lives, the NFL of 2024 cares – deeply.

When the classic Blitz games were reissued in a home arcade cabinet, the cowardly NFL made the new publisher strip out certain content. When EA attempted a Blitz reboot as a downloadable it had no teeth at all, and also just wasn’t very good. The modern NFL, terrified of reputational damage, would never allow any modern release to be exactly as the originals were – even in a game so fantastical that players on a hot streak burst into flames.

So the late hits might not actually be possible in a modern licensed game. But, honestly, I think Blitz is about a lot more than that. It’s totally possible to make a game that is a little more respectful about the bodies of the digital representations of the NFL’s athletes while maintaining a snappy, arcade-like feel in-game. It’s possible that a game could get out of the humdrum of simulation, and ultimate team, and all that nonsense – and deliver something magical.

So, today, that’s my Superbowl Sunday prayer. That and every year until we get a true Blitz successor. And y’know, there now at least appears to be a path to it.

Back in 2020, it was announced that 2K Sports had reached a licensing agreement with the NFL to make their own American Football game. 2K used to make a maddern rival, but backed out in the early 2000s – but now, finally, there will be another big-name rival to Madden. 2K’s deal secured them the teams, the stadiums, uniforms, players – everything needed to be authentic.

But here’s the exciting rub: 2K’s game has to be “non-simulation”, per the terms of the deal – because EA’s Madden series retains the exclusive rights to make simulation football titles. What’s the most successful non-sim American Football game? Blitz, of course. Even with the excessive violence stripped out, it remains the template to follow. Three and a half years on from the announcement, I wait with bated breath – can 2K finally give us what I’ve been craving since 2001? I want that almost as much as I want my team to make the Superbowl next year. Almost.

By admin

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