Blitz: The League rushes retailers

Midway's outlandish outlaw football game ships to stores for the Xbox and PlayStation 2; depicts on- and off-field antics of fictional league.

When the NFL dropped several game publishers in favor of an exclusive licensing deal with Madden NFL-publisher Electronic Arts, many thought the football gaming field would become a one-team game. The thought of a publisher taking on EA by making a football game based on a fictional league and made-up players was comparable to sending a peewee league team against the 1972 Miami Dolphins.

Even with the odds stacked against the notion, one publisher, in typical underdog fashion, has used the situation to its advantage. Chicago-based Midway Games is the publisher and developer of the NFL Blitz series, an arcade-style football game full of action and hard hits. Shortly after the announcement of the NFL-EA deal, Midway revealed that the Blitz series would continue, minus the NFL branding.

The new game, Blitz: The League, features a fake football league and rosters of made-up athletes. Today, Midway announced that the game has shipped to stores for the Xbox and PlayStation 2.

"Blitz: The League is the football video game that Midway has always wanted to develop, given the creative freedom from NFL restrictions," said Steve Allison, chief marketing officer of Midway. "As a result, we've been able to focus our efforts on developing an entertaining sports game that also leverages the controversy of what happens both between the lines and beyond in professional sports today."

This year's Blitz game is more than just hard-hitting defense and over-the-top touchdown celebrations. The story-driven game lets gamers explore the seedy underbelly of professional sports by pumping their players up with performance-enhancing drugs or resorting to naughty ways to tire out or to injure opposing teams.

Blitz is the only unlicensed football game challenging EA's NFL offerings (which includes Madden NFL, NFL Street, and the recently announced NFL Head Coach), but it once had company. 989 Sports, a division of Sony, announced Road to Sunday in April. The game made Blitz seem tame. In it, gamers could enter their players into underground pit-fighting tournaments, play Texas Hold 'em, and gamble away millions while trying to repay a debt to a Jamaican drug lord. Road to Sunday was canceled in July after it failed to meet quality standards, according to Sony.

Blitz: The League is rated M for Mature and retails for $39.99. For more information on the game, check back later today for GameSpot's full review.

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