Released in 1998 by Midway
This is simplified 7-on-7 football at a fast pace with supercharged players on a small field with few rules, and ultimately shallow gameplay.
It’s known for big hits and late hits. Every play is followed by a few seconds of free time for late hits, which are fun the first few times and tiresome after that.
Where it falls in the series
It’s the original in a long series that stretches multiple consoles and lost its NFL license and then got it back, yet little about its gameplay changed along the way.
The N64 and arcade versions came out at the same time, then a PS1 port, and there were some basic “roster update” sequels. The jump to PS2 and Xbox came with similar Blitz gameplay but much better graphics (and one odd Blitz Pro release that couldn’t decide if it was sim or arcade) before EA took the NFL license for themselves. Midway kept their series going with Blitz: The League in 2005 and a sequel in 2008, which are notable for being purposefully distasteful while using fictional players and teams. In 2012, EA then made NFL Blitz 2012 as a download game for PS3 and Xbox 360, which was remarkably faithful to the 15-years-older original, except for the omission of late hits.
If you need to convince someone to play video football who doesn’t go for any type of learning curve, I guess this may do the trick.
The passing system is creative in its simplicity. Just point the stick in the general direction of the receiver and fire it. The QB moves around swiftly and can make a pass on the move, which makes things easy. Also, you can make a backward pass to a running back, who can then throw downfield just as well as a quarterback can.
In typical Midway fashion, there’s over-the-top sounds and player animations. Defenders can tackle from 10 yards away, receivers spring off the turf to make a high one-handed catch, and well-timed stiff-arms can knock defenders back like a bomb went off in their underpants.
The game moves fast between plays. You pick a play, and you’re instantly lined up ready to snap the ball.
Since the clock stops on every play, you can’t kill time to protect a lead at the end of a game, adding more of a possibility for last-minute comebacks.
The CPU can put up a good fight. This is the one key advantage this game has over the 2002, 2003, and 2012 versions, which are too easy to beat.
It feels like winning in this game is more reliant on cheap, repetitive tricks than skill or strategy. Example: the best defensive tactic is to wait in center field with a superhuman DB and nail receivers long before they get the ball. I understand that pass interference penalties aren’t fun, but neither is trying to pass to receivers who have been cheaply knocked out of the play.
At times, the play moves so fast and the players are in such jumbled bunches that it’s hard to make sense of what’s going on. The graphics overall haven’t aged well.
The late hits are repetitive and pointless, and you can’t turn them off. They have no competitive impact on the game, so they’re just there for fun. I think they should have dialed it way back and made late hits fairly rare. EA’s 2012 Blitz came without late hits, and everyone said, “No late hits?! That was the whole purpose of the game!” Really? The purpose of the game was to push a button and watch the same few animations over and over again? Go play Streets of Rage or something.
Rushing plays are almost non-existent. To be fair, this could be considered a good thing too, since passing is generally more fun than rushing, even in a sim.
The beauty of football just isn’t in this game. Crafty scrambles and long bombs don’t give you that “Ahh” feeling like they should. The ball moves more like a bullet in a shoot ’em up than it does like a ball in a sport. One key to NBA Jam’s charm is that it still feels great to release a basketball shot and watch it drop through the net. Same goes for Midway’s NHL Hitz, which is arcadey but has a pleasing hockey feel. NFL Blitz feels like a different sport being played by machines on another planet.
Blitz came out following the 1997 season and 1998 playoffs, ending with the Denver Broncos beating the Green Bay Packers for their first Super Bowl in team history.
I’ll defer to this fun article by Divac at The Schmozone on top teams in Blitz: Denver, Dallas, San Francisco, Tampa Bay, Miami, and Kansas City.
After the 1998 season, it was Denver winning the Super Bowl again over the underdog Atlanta Falcons.