With EA Sports having brought back the NBA JAM franchise, a lot of talk was rumbling around as to whether it would resurrect another popular arcade series of the late '90s: NFL Blitz. Well, this January, EA Tiburon is bringing NFL Blitz to consoles, and we had the opportunity to talk to designer Yuri Bialsokursky who gave us some information as to what fans can expect.
EA's take on NFL Blitz isn't going to shy away from the classic gameplay that so many people spent quarters on in the arcades. You're still going to have two-minute quarters, no penalties with big hits, and other crazy actions in between. This will be the same frantic action from the past but with tons of modes to play with and sharper visuals. Even Tim Kitzrow will be doing commentary, and this time, he's joined by actor-comedian Brian Haley to do color. Expect the pair to be quite crazy and add an extra layer of enjoyment to every match. Of course, while EA is looking to keep the core mechanics that made NFL Blitz so popular, it is also hoping that the new additions will bring in other gamers to the fold.
For those who simply want to play on their own, the game's Gauntlet mode will let you create a fantasy team. Then you can play against the rest of the league and even fantasy boss teams on your way to league supremacy. Battles against boss teams will take place in the Blitz Coliseum and feature power-ups that will alter the course of the game. Defeating boss teams will unlock a cheat code, which allows you to use it in all other modes.
But where NFL Blitz really looks to shine is its focus on numerous online modes. Of course, if you simply want to play standard matches against others, you can do so, but co-op play both locally and online will be offered. Grab a friend and play together on the couch against others, or if you want, you can partner up with one of your online friends to challenge another group of players.
Other online modes include Blitz Battles. Here, you begin by selecting your team of choice and your location. Once you've chosen, you're put into a local battle board and face off against other NFL Blitz players in your area. Within the local battle board, there are four tiers: rookie, pro, veteran, and elite. Playing matches will earn you ranking points. Then based on your performance and upon reaching the top of the current tier, you'll have the opportunity to play in a "rank up" match. Winning that match moves you up to the next tier and a new set of foes. After completing the local battle board, you'll move to a regional and then a national tier. And if you can go through and be among the very best there, you'll be awarded a spot in the Blitz Hall of Fame. You can even pair up with a friend and play together online, which is a cool addition to Blitz Battles. You'll share the glory, and it might make reaching the Hall of Fame a bit easier.
The last mode that online gamers will be able to take part in is called Elite League. The Elite League is similar to the Ultimate Team mode seen in EA's regular sports series. You'll begin with a starter deck of players and play against other elite teams. Your team is built on both the skills of players and how well they work as a team. If you have a team that consists of a lot of fast players, then your team's turbo meter will last significantly longer than another team's meter. As you develop your squad, you'll want to look for trends to ensure you have the best possible team.
All online modes give you the opportunity to earn Blitz bucks based on your performance, and these can be spent on a number of different unlockables, including the ability to purchase card packs that improve your team. Every card has a contract value associated with it, but collecting an entire team will allow you to trade it in for a noticeably better card. Trading in a team gets you a "pro" player who has two maxed rating stats and an infinite contract.
On top of that, if you have an entire complete division, you'll be able to trade it in for an "ultimate" player. There is only one ultimate player per position, and his stats are maxed out in all categories and he also has an infinite contract. Collecting all the cards will be quite a challenge because each team will have 12 cards to collect, but you'll be able to trade and wager cards with other players with the hope of completing your collection and developing that ultimate team.
NFL Blitz has been in development for well over a year, and the developers at EA Tiburon feel very confident that they are bringing back the series that so many people have loved. They hope that their brand of NFL Blitz action will appeal to all players and that the number of modes included, especially the focus with online, will keep people playing for long periods of time. With any luck, we'll have the chance to play around with NFL Blitz soon as its January launch on Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network can't come soon enough.