Five things to know about 'NFL Blitz'

October, 20, 2011
By Jon Robinson
NFL BlitzEA Sports"NFL Blitz" is making a comeback as a download-only title for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Adrian Peterson bursts through two tacklers as time expires and starts to high-step around the 20 when, out of nowhere, Ray Lewis grabs him by the jersey and, with one bicep-popping flex, picks up "Purple Jesus" Undertaker-style and spikes him into the turf. Game over.

That's the over-the-top "NFL Blitz" violence I remember from arcades when the token-guzzling game debuted back in 1997, and surprisingly, in this era of late-hit penalties and player fines, the franchise is being revived by the NFL and EA Sports (which purchased the license from a bankrupt Midway) and will debut in January exclusively as a downloadable title for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

That's right; the league that fines players for brutal hits is now about to profit by showing players with exaggerated (seriously juiced) size and stature smashing each other from all angles.

I wonder what James Harrison thinks about this.

There is one significant change to the game, however, and that's the complete removal of late hits. Old-school gamers will remember the ability for defenders to drop elbows on players long after the whistle had blown, but this has been taken out of the game due to a request by the NFL.

Then again, according to Yuri Bialoskursky, the new "Blitz" designer, other than the late hits, all the crazy tackles that helicopter-spin players through the air and send receivers face mask first into the field remain, just as gamers remember from the game's glory days.

"The spirit of the game is still there, and you're still taking those huge pot shots at guys," Bialoskursky says, "and all of the arcade, over-the-top animations are there. The NFL has had input from day one. They knew what kind of game we were making. It's a different day and age, though. The NFL has different sensibilities, and they've made that known to us during the making of this game.

"You won't be able to do the late hits. The NFL was pretty clear about that during the making of this game. But all of the roughhouse stuff that goes on during play is all still there."

However, there's far more to the resurrection of "NFL Blitz" than teeth-rattling tackles. From online play to the playbooks, here are five things every gamer should know about the "NFL Blitz" revival.

1. The genius of Mark Turmell

NFL BlitzEA SportsTime for an "NFL Blitz" celebration.

Back in 1996, I worked for a magazine called GamePro, and one of my beats was a column called Hot at the Arcades. So here I was at one of my first video game conventions, when Mark Turmell, the legend who created "NBA Jam," tells me to meet him in a secret conference room that actually has a security guard at the door. "This is going to blow your mind," Turmell tells me. Talk about the understatement of the year (maybe my entire career). I walk into the room, and Turmell pops in a video tape of a game he had in development called "NFL Blitz." First thing I see is Brett Favre getting picked up in an actual WWE piledriver and driven headfirst into the dirt. Hit after ferocious hit played out in front of me, and when it was over, all I could say was one word: rewind.

And while the NFL outlawed the piledriver from the final version that hit arcades a year later, "NFL Blitz" and its seven-on-seven brand of smash-mouth football became a phenomenon the arcade scene hadn't witnessed since the original days of "Jam."

So when Turmell was hired by EA Sports back in 2009, he not only was instrumental in getting a new version of "NBA Jam" off the ground, but he also convinced the makers of "Madden" to remake one of its former rivals. Says Bialoskursky: "Turmell was there from day one, and influenced the concept and design all the way up to his departure in July [Turmell left EA earlier this year to join Zynga]. When he did leave, the game was pretty much in the can at that point. So he helped us out all the way through. We couldn't have done it without him. He's obviously the guy you want helping you out with this project."

Who would have thought that 15 years after I first saw the "Blitz" piledriver, I'd still be writing about that moment.

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