Are you ready for some BLITZ PROOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The NFL Blitz series by Midway has always been known for fast action and big hits. Although it wasn’t exactly realistic, playing the game with a bunch of friends was a blast. However, Midway has decided to move towards a more realistic approach with NFL Blitz Pro. A running game, a playbook with real formations, and a kicking game have been added, but can a realistic 11-on-11 football game exist in the world of Blitz’s hard knocks? Will Blitz Pro complete the Hail Mary on Fourth and Long, or will it drop the pass to the competition? The presentation of the game is excellent. The menu screens have a blue and silver futuristic look, with backgrounds occasionally flashing pictures of Terrell Owens and the Blitz cheerleaders. The menus all look clean.

The stadiums have all been recreated accurately. The end zones of the game will have the team logo accurately portrayed, while the midfield graphic only has the home team’s helmet displayed. While this isn’t completely accurate, it is acceptable. During the game, if a screen is visible, it will show the action of the game. The grass or turf looks realistic, with the shades of green blending well, giving the grass a worn look. Snow will come down in a flurry, and the field will reflect the weather. During a touchdown, the pylons will display fireworks, like something reminiscent from an XFL football game. Unfortunately, the crowd is completely static during the game. While the stadiums aren’t perfect, they do their job rather well.

The player models look nice, and they are animated very well. The new motion-captured animations are evident in every play. However, there aren’t many different character models. You could classify them in three sizes: small, medium, and large. They also aren’t as detailed as other football games, such as Madden or ESPN Football. However, the “smoking” effect shows up prominently when a player is warming up. The in-game music is a part-rock, part-techno mix, something that I could imagine players using to pump themselves. A majestic feeling radiates through the music, something that feels like a dynasty is being built.

Music will be played during intermissions in the game, but they don’t show up often. The crowd will constantly chatter, but they will also cheer and boo when appropriate. None of the team specific cheers are being used though, such as the infamous “GO PACK GO” of Lambeau Field.

At first, I didn’t care for the commentary of “Chris Morgan” and “Gator Jones,” but it did grow on me the more I played Blitz. While they won’t match the amazing commentary of ESPN Football, they are head and shoulders above Madden and NFL Fever. The commentary has a natural flowing feel to it, not forced how like some of the other games. The commentators will sometimes crack the corniest jokes, but the “advertisements” are generally funny. The control of the game is a mixed bag. Although I didn’t like the placement of the buttons at first, I did get used to them without any problems. I admit, I usually am used to a turbo button as a face button instead of on a trigger (R2 in this case), but more play time caused the button placement to be more intuitive. The juke moves are placed on the L1 and L2 buttons, while a stiff arm is the L2. Hurdle, spin, charge, and dive are the face buttons, starting at the top and working clockwise.

If I have any complaint about the game, I would say that sometimes the button hits feel sluggish. While selecting the plays, it seems like there is a short pause before that formation is registered. While passing, the button would be pressed, but an animation would go into effect that would cause the quarterback to be sacked. It can be overcome after some playtime, but a little be more responsiveness would have been nice. The biggest question about Blitz Pro is how well the Blitz gameplay will transfer to a more realistic game of football. Both teams have 11 players on each side, and first downs are gained at 10 yards instead of 30. However, refs still are non-existent, so there is no such thing as pass interference. Quarters by default are three minutes.

Nine formations are available on offense and six are available on defense. However, only the names of the formations are listed. Formation diagrams aren’t displayed until after the formation has been selected. If the player doesn’t know the different between a “Single Back” and a “Pro Set,” he will have to use some trial and error. Each major formation has about 18 plays to them, not including the special teams formation. Although this sounds like a lot of plays, it really isn’t. Also, except for a specific playbook formation for each team, all the other plays used are the same for each team.

The running game is improved over the other Blitz titles, but let’s face it, that’s not saying much. A large number of running plays are included, but generally any hit from any defender will cause the running back to fall down. Still, it is possible to juke out and make significant plays out of a run, but this doesn’t happen very often. However, having a running game as part of this game is a nice addition to the Blitz series.

The passing game does have its issues. The graphics over the players are rather large, so it is hard to find the open receiver. Also, since there is no pass interference, it is too easy to knock down receivers before the ball comes close to them. This causes a large number of incomplete passes. When passes are completed, it sometimes feels like the completion was more because of luck and not because of skill.

Audibles can be called at the line of scrimmage. However, only the name of the play comes up. If the player is unfamiliar with these plays, he may call a running play when he intends to audible a pass play. Also, the players automatically switch into their new positions instead of running to them from their previous positions.

While the running and passing games have their faults, they are fairly solid. So why does the gameplay receive such a low score? The speed of the gameplay of Blitz Pro is the reason for the low score. Blitz games before this were known for their fast action and lightning quick gameplay. Blitz Pro feels like molasses in winter compared to previous Blitz games. The running is slower, even when the Turbo button is pressed. Selecting plays takes longer. After the play is complete, the camera will circle around the ball and show the players getting up, but the play selection screen won’t come up until a few seconds after that. Also, even with three minute quarters, the game is long because of the number of incomplete passes. Also, plays need to be selected in less than 10 seconds, and then the ball snapped less than 10 seconds after that. Still, the game feels slow and sluggish, dragging its feet. Here is where the fault of the gameplay lies. The game includes a season mode to take a team through the current NFL season. A franchise mode with an NFL draft is included as well. However, the draft isn’t very deep, with only a few statistics for each player. Still, the inclusion of this is better than nothing. Anyone expecting the depth of Madden or ESPN will be disappointed.

Any player who likes unlockables will love this game. Completing games will earn the player credits. These credits can go towards fantasy teams, stadiums, or game modes. Fantasy teams are teams like the Lions, which are actual Lions in uniforms, or my personal favorite, the Cheddarheads. Stadiums that can be bought include Arctic Station or Oil Rig. Game modes will change the way the game is played. Modes included are Blitz Classic rules or Big Head mode.

Online play is also available for those who have Broadband connections. However, play is limited to single head-to-head games. Two players can’t play against two players on another PS2. Roster updates are also available online for offline games.