In the world of gaming few genres take as much abuse as they age than 3D sports titles. Sure a couple are in the top 10 over on Game Rankings, but how many people would play them over the newest version of Madden? NFL Blitz 2000 is one of the rare exceptions to that rule; it's just as fun now as it was then. Blitz 2000 was my first PSX game back on Christmas 1999. I had wanted a Dreamcast with NFL Blitz 2000, and now 6 years later I finally picked it up for the Dreamcast, is it better then the PSX version? Yes, for the most part.
If you've never had the joy of playing a Blitz game by pre-Blitz Pro rules let me explain. There are no rules except for the requirements for first downs; you have 4 downs to make it 30 yards. Other then that it plays like you're basic football game, only much, much faster.
As fun as Blitz 2000 was on the PSX and N64, it looked absolutely terrible -- with jaggies that looked like if you touched the screen you would get lacerated. The Dreamcast version puts the PSX version to shame and notably improves on the N64 version with its 128 bits of love. It looks identical to the above average looking (at the time) arcade version it is based on, the jaggies are gone and the polygon count has been noticeably increased. Also increased is the amount of colors used on the backgrounds and fields, previously drab stands and relatively mono-color grass is now bright and vibrant. The animation is also silky smooth, maintaining a high frame rate at all times. For a first generation Dreamcast game, it looks very good.
The game suffered some very noticeable audio problems on the prior system generation; those problems have been completely dealt with. The sound is crisp and finally CD quality. There also seems to be more sound effects in this version. The announcer is funny for a while -- with his over-enthusiastic play calling -- but it gets boring after a while. Thankfully it never gets too annoying. The players also have plenty to say after plays; while repetitive, it never seems to get old when a guy gets up in a daze wobbling around asking if anyone has seen his mojo. It also has what may be the most satisfying code confirmation ever. "LIGHTS OUT BABY!"
Previously all Blitz games had you point your joystick/D-Pad at the intended receiver to pass, that isn't always to precise, it wasn't too hard to hit the wrong man. For Blitz 2000 they added a feature they call "Blitz Passing" Hold in R and a button Icon appears below each receiver. That, of course, limits your QB's actions to throwing and running. You are faced with the choice between the more accurate Blitz passing and standard which allows you to spin and hurdle in the pocket. Good players will find the strategic middle ground; memorizing the receiver button designation so they can pull all the crazy moves they need in the pocket and only hit the R button for the split second needed to pass. This adds a much more strategy and intensity to the all ready insane pacing of Blitz 2000. Although the Dreamcast has less buttons then the PlayStation no moves are lost. The number of moves is impressive; hurdles, spins, audible, laterals, stiff arms, ball swats, dive tackles, and pushing. Each of those moves can then be enhanced applying the turbo. Added to the arcade game last year and in turn in this game it's based off is on fire mode; by meeting performance criteria (such as 3 straight sacks) you're players are lit on fire, receiving infinite boost until your opponent scores, gets a first down, or forces a turnover.
One must talk about the tackles in NFL Blitz, they are absolutely incredible. Your players will be sent flying across the field after some hits, on other you will lay down body slams and one armed tosses. After the play you can beat to hell out of the other team. Amazingly it controls better then most wrestling games. It's all wickedly satisfying, giving an elbow to your friend after you sack him never gets old and really increases the smack talk attitude of the game.
While the game does have a season mode, it is extremely bare, not offering any sort of roster customization. It does however offer custom play lists which are relatively easy to make and use. The multiplayer in Blitz however is some of the best ever seen in a sports title, let alone gaming. The 2 on 2 is some of the most intense action you'll find, it's also extremely challenging, dealing with 2 human defenders as a quarterback or wide receiver is no easy task, but when you burn 2 friends for a 70 yard touchdown you'll get a hell of a thrill. You can play 2 on 1 if you please, but it isn't nearly as fun, it frequently results in a total slaughter of the one player. I found myself preferring 1 on 1. I can't help but imagine that this would have been an incredible SEGA Net game, but it was launched prior to the first online titles. Then again, dial up probably couldn't have handled this game.
As with NBA Jam, Blitz includes player heads unlocked with pin numbers. Midway characters such as Subzero, Raiden, and Scorpion make big-headed appearances. You also have couple different dino heads, smiley faces, the developers, and even punk rockers. Then you have the codes entered through button presses, these unlock things such as even faster game play, no interceptions, and different playbooks.
This game is the pinnacle of the Blitz series unfortunately; it's been all down hill from there, Midway has continued to try and improve on the 2000 formula, but improving something that is great in gaming almost never works. With its pickup and play controls and incredible multiplayer this game is an absolute must own for anyone into the slowly dieing art of playing multi-player on one screen. Plus it goes for under 5 bucks on eBay; you have no excuse not to own this game.
(This review is dedicated to West Virginia University fullback Jajuan Burrell, for the hundreds of weekends we spent playing blitz together.)