NFL Blitz 20-03
Arcade sports games have managed to carve a nice little niche out for themselves in the video game market. Titles like NBA Jam, NFL Blitz and NHL Hitz provide a fast and furious take on their specific sport that can often feel like a breath of fresh air when compared to hardcore simulations. Being portable, Nintendo’s GameBoy Advance seemed like a logical place for an arcade sports game, as they are generally better off played in short spurts in between more ‘serious’ games. So Midway signed up the developer team Outlook Entertainment to bring their popular arcade football game, NFL Blitz 20-03, to the GBA. Unfortunately, not only is the resulting product bad, it is so horrendously atrocious that the game’s coverboy, Michael Strahan of the New York Giants, must be seething mad that his name is attached to such a turgid pile of reeking fecal matter.
Why does the game suck so badly you ask? Well, I suppose the gameplay (or lack thereof) is as good a place to start as any. The same core gameplay seen in the console versions of Blitz has been brought over to the GBA iteration. Using rules loosely based on real football, your goal is to use a combination of running and passing plays, as well as field goals, in order to score more points than the opposing team. Simple…yet Outlook Entertainment somehow manages to completely mess it up. For starters, the AI in the game is laughably bad. The players on the computer’s team swarm to the ball carrier like ants at a picnic, and for some unfathomable reason they all run faster than you can. So gameplay consists of you catching a pass, running a maximum of five yards and then getting tackled by the nearest defender. No breakaway plays or anything of the like will ever occur, every time it will be the same – catch, then tackle…catch, then tackle. And the running game is totally pointless. As soon as your halfback gets anywhere near the line of scrimmage, the entire opposing team suddenly busts through and destroys any hope you ever had of getting positive yardage. I literally ran the ball for an entire game and was only able to cross the line of scrimmage on a handful of occasions. So this means you’ll have to spend the entire game in the lame pass, catch, tackle routine. Excuse me while I retch.
And what the hell is with these appalling graphics? I’ve seen some crappy visuals in my day, but these just might take the bunt cake. The game makes use of the GBA’s ability to emulate SNES-like mode-7 scaling, but it even fails to do that correctly. When the field rotates and scrolls, everything chops up so badly that I actually got a headache after a mere few minutes of playing. I never thought that a crappy framerate would be a major issue with a GBA sports game, but the sadistic folks at Outlook Entertainment seem to have an unequaled talent for creating barely-playable refuse.
And then there are the player ‘animations,’ which consist of a whopping two frames (or sometimes three in the really ‘fluid’ areas) of animation. Even worse is the fact that many key animations are completely missing. When a player is tackled, he doesn’t fall to the ground or get knocked from his feet; he just freezes in place and continues pumping his legs with the absurd looking two frame running animation. When I first popped in Blitz 20-03 and saw the movement of the players, I was taken aback by how horrendous it all looked. Even the play selection screen looks rushed and not nearly as glitzy as it did in last year’s GBA version of Blitz.
The one bright (and I use that term very loosely here) spot of NFL Blitz 20-03 is the audio presentation. During the game there are good amount of digitized voice samples uttered by both the players and announcer, and the music is decent quality. All the smacks, grunts and other sound effects are nothing special, but emulate the console versions of Blitz much better than the game’s visuals do. I wouldn’t go so far to call the aural presentation good, but I would describe it as being slightly better than mediocre.
For those gamers who are filled with a certain amount of self-loathing, Blitz offers up the option to play through an entire 17 week NFL season. Of course battery back-up would have been too good for this game, so saving must be done by way of jotting down and reentering passwords. The GBA Link Cable is supported, but nobody in his or her right mind would ever try to force a friend through the misery and suffering that goes along with playing Blitz 20-03. And besides, would you really want to reward both Midway and Outlook Entertainment for creating such garbage by encouraging a buddy to purchase the game? I think not.
In the end, NFL Blitz 20-03 stands as one of the worst games on the GameBoy Advance. Not only does it do an awful job representing the console iterations of Midway’s famous arcade football titles, but it just plain fails as a game. Judging from Electronic Arts’ Madden NFL 2003, a good football game can be made on the limiting GBA hardware, but it just takes a little more time and effort than Midway is willing to put out. Here’s to hoping Michael Strahan busts into the offices of Outlook Entertainment and gives them a firsthand demonstration on how a clothesline tackle is supposed to look.