Writing something this long I expect a lot of TL;DR but I decided to post it anyway.
I remember fondly the blitz series when it first came out in the late 90s. It was an exciting change of pace from the football giants like Madden, Gameday, etc. There were no rules, brutal hits and blood everywhere. All that was missing were hot babes and this would be every man's wet dream. Blitz excelled at bringing forth what we imagine when we think about, watch or play football. While the graphics weren't that great the refreshing and solid gameplay kept us playing our hearts out at the arcade. I remember the butterflies of anticipation in my stomach when asked if I wanted to go to the movies, for I knew a trip to the movies meant a visit to the arcade as well. I remember the frustration because there were a million codes to input before a game to activate cheats, but inputting random icons somehow never worked. After awhile Blitz fell into the same vein as Madden and only improved the graphics as the gameplay became stale. Over the years the glory of Blitz slowly faded away until it was forgotten.
This all changed when Midway picked up the mantle once again and brought us Blitz: The League for the original Xbox console. Midway kept the foundations of the game: hard hits, no rules and blood, but they also did a total rehaul of the gameplay, adding new features, a better presentation including background on all teams and players, and most of all an actual story, something Madden would never have. It also didn't hurt that with the new standard in graphics they could add in babes, spectacular bone crushing hits, etc. They fleshed out the teams and made everything over the top (in a good way), giving the game more personality and an aura of uniqueness along the way. While not as huge as games like Halo or even Madden. Blitz: The League's success would help recover the Blitz Series' dignity and part of its fame, paving the way for Blitz: The League II.
After playing for blitz for hours on end when I was a kid and playing the league just as long, it’s not surprising I was a bit excited they were making a sequel...and I intended to pick it up. The story mode from the first one was pretty good and the over the top, arcade style gameplay kept my Madden collection sobbing as it collected dust. Would the Blitz: The League II be any better? Well, as for the total package...yes. Graphically, it doesn’t represent the Xbox 360 well. The character models at times look like plastic dolls instead of real life players and the stadiums…let’s just say this is where the devs said “It’s a football game who cares?!!?”. The story mode on the other hand is only decent at best. You play a superstar rookie who can play both sides of the field and is naturally talented at six different positions (and yes he has the ego to match his skills). At the signing he is approached by the commissioner, whom tries to encourage *cough* extort *cough* him into joining his favorite team: The LA 'Riot'. After the initial refusal he is setup for a variety of hitches as he rises his way to the top, and one of them could ruin his career (da da daaaaa). The one thing I liked most about the campaign/story mode is the personalities of the team captains, and how well they are fleshed out. Each one is unique and their initial introduction will leave you rolling on the floor laughing at times. It's obvious the developers put some work into making these characters fit perfectly into the Blitz universe. One of the big problems with the campaign is in-fact your character. Everybody else’s personality dwarfs his and personally he’s just unlikeable. It doesn’t help that he sounds like an idiot all the time too. The gameplay is still solid, but doesn’t contain enough content for it not to become repetitive. The commentary is hilarious with Frank Caliendo doing voice work as John Madden among other people although like most sports games you’ll notice after a few games he starts repeating lines because of the lack of lines. There's a lot of cursing, a new dirty hitting system and even more touchdown celebrations (a medley of hits and misses). Sometimes you miss several features from Madden like detailed stat tracking, substitutions, the wealth of plays and ability to edit them, all the pre-snap adjustments, etc.
The really bad thing in this game are the plays especially your campaign mode team’s playbook. At times they had me crying for the playbook from any other football game, even 'NFL Street' because of how ineffective or how I couldn't find one that appropriately fit the opposing team's defense/offense play style. The game is really entertaining so most people won't care about this, but it is something to point out especially when its 30 yards for a first and every play you have on offense is crap. The new dirty hitting system allows you to aim your tackles at certain body parts and with the tapping of the 'A' button it allows you to determine how hard you hit and what type of injury you inflict. There are 31 injuries in the game to inflict upon unsuspecting opponents, but since the hitting system requires quick reaction you'll most likely keep dishing out the same eight or nine injuries over and over. You'll also get a lot of minor injuries like bruised ribs, but major injuries like broken necks are still quite common. Hit detection is great, but finicky when it comes to intercepting passes. I can't tell you how many times me or my AI teammates were right in front of the ball, jumped up to catch it, only for it to go right through our hands/bodies and the other team gets the play off for a gain...without using the 'GOD' whoops 'clash' meter. Also, the same problem arises as in the original that when trying to dodge as a QB or do an unleash move in other situations, the game doesn't register it and you end up getting hit hard, sacked, or even injured. Hopefully this will be fixed in the next iteration.
One thing I always liked about the league is that they ripped the clash meter from the 'Streets' series and made it functional. While stealing is wrong, I think they did those series a favor by implementing it the way it’s supposed to be. Using an unleash move doesn't guarantee you a touchdown or activate some overblown animation where you score automatically. It is simply a fun reward for playing the game how it’s supposed to be played and eases the difficulty a bit. There were plenty of times where I unleashed on some sucker and moments later got hit real hard leading to a fumble or serious injury (life's way of saying HA-HA). It's nice to see a game take something from somewhere else and make it better because we all know that some devs don't have a clue about what to do with what they have.
There are plenty of extras in the form of mini-games, behind the scenes videos, etc. Although I do miss that they didn't include the FMJ girls’ swimsuit video that the first league included /jk. There are a total of six mini-games, some hit or miss, but all are more fun in multiplayer.
The first one you'll get introduced to is prison ball if you decide to play through campaign mode first. It’s basically two prisons playing against each other with the chance to inflict injuries increased, no first downs or timeouts, a shortened field, no kickoffs and the clock doesn't automatically stop when it’s taking awhile to pick plays. It’s a mini-game meant to advance the story that was incorporated as an extra.
The next mini-game similar to prison ball is ‘bonecrushers’ where the only thing different from a regular blitz game is that the chance to inflict major injuries are increased...oh and the helmets are off. Its more of a snoozer when compared to other game modes and one I'd put in the miss category.
Probably the most entertaining game in multiplayer is 'Butterfingaz'. In this game every player has come down with a serious case of fumblitis leading to a loose ball after every single tackle. It's a bore to play this one by yourself as the AI is a pushover. However playing this against someone else can lead to a few laughs if played in short amounts.
Ah, on to 'Make It Take It'. This could easily be the most challenging game or the most abused game. It’s basically all about defense as the penalty for letting someone score is...they keep the ball *gasp*!!! Smart players can easily keep the ball from someone who doesn't really know how to play and can lend to frustration/boredom or two equally talented players can have the game of their lives.
Next up is 'Lucky 7's'. In this one with every play you have to use to get a touchdown, its worth decreases. So basically you have 7 chances to get a touchdown excluding the kickoff which is a freebie.
The final mini-game is 'Pain'. I like the idea in this one because it promotes playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played only problem is I think it has a serious flaw. Basically it’s a regular game of blitz except you get points for dirty hits, unleashed hits, injuries, and all around mayhem. Only problem is...that it’s a regular game of blitz and you still get points for touchdowns. Some players might lose if they don't dirty hit or whatever, but a talented player could easily avoid getting hit dirty hit by stiff arming and only score touchdowns to win. Until it’s revamped this mini-game is pointless to me.
Overall I still love this game and suggest it to others who are tired of Madden and the other Madden wanna-bees it has spawned. It’s also good for those who miss that wholesome, fun arcade style that videogames were once abundant in. The only problem is that it gets repetitive at times as most animations only require you to tap ‘A’, they give each character only so many lines, and while there are more in-game animations than the original league there still are pretty much only a handful here.