*Urp* I think I’m gonna throw up…
Revolutionaries, let me confide a little something to you: I am not good when it comes to realistic depictions of blood. I have an incredibly weak stomach for gore and viscera, and the sight of breaking bones leaves me ready to kneel before the porcelain god. I avoid horror films as if they are going to give me SARS [aka Sudden Asian Racist Syndrome ~Ed.]. I handle twenty beers better than I do one video of a breaking bone. Keep this in mind as I explain my experience with Blitz: The League II.
[image1]I started by sitting down with a good friend and playing a quick competitive multiplayer match. We both chose teams that had maxed stats, because there’s about four of them just sitting around in the roster. This immediately begs the question of why they bother having stats in the first place (a matter which I will expound upon later) – either way, we were both taking teams full of football titans to the field.
Before actually letting us play the game, we were treated to a five-minute video explaining the basics while showing large amounts of internal bleeding, ripping tendons, and breaking bones. Yep, it was less than 10 minutes into the game, and I already wanted to hurl. These renders were amazingly good, disturbingly so. I’m sure on closer inspection I could find details that would tip me off that this wasn’t real, that a strand of muscle wasn't really ripping into shreds, that blood wasn't really splurting out of the ruptured capillaries into the empty space of the muscle mass, but I don’t know if I could have kept my carpet clean trying that.
When we finally got to gameplay, the first thing I noticed is that Blitz: The League II has all the same fundamental flaws I find in most every goddamn sports game out there. Calling plays is nearly meaningless, as all the diagrams are small and abstract and require intense thought and study, yet you have 20 seconds to call one. Switching between players feels incredibly unnatural, especially when you’re going from quarterback to linebacker; massive changes to your control scheme from just one switch makes it nearly impossible to know what you're doing half the time. It’s even difficult to just tell which athlete you’re currently controlling half the time, as the jumble of bodies obscures the marker.
Pile on a mish-mash of awkward moments where a play inexplicably goes wrong, and you can tell fun to go have an abortion. And given the ‘gritty’ feel and look Blitz: The League II goes for, we can safely call it a back-alley entertainment abortion. By the end of the 20 minutes of gameplay, my friend ruined me by a huge margin, and neither of us had any clue why. The game inexplicably fumbled at almost every opportunity; A.I. teammates ran for a touchback once; and his team got interceptions in the middle of crashing messes of bodies. It seemed totally arbitrary, and we couldn’t figure out where the difference was. If our teams were identical in stats, why so huge a disparity in performance? Was it all luck?
[image2]So just as reference, here's a running tally of the game within the first half hour: one count queasiness, one count rage, zero counts fun. Not looking so good.
Much later on, after I’d calmed down, I sat down to try single-player and started digging into the mechanics. Blitz brings a system they call ‘Clash’ to the field. This boils down to a meter for special tackles and such moves, and while on offense, for slowing down time so you can better react to tackle attempts. This meter has a sort of cool-down time after each use, so you can’t just spam it if you’ve got it. Likewise, you have to build it up by making worthwhile plays. Translation: move the ball more yards, get more Clash.
Generally speaking, an offensive Clash can only be stopped by a defensive Clash, especially since the A.I. tends to stand around and just watch the offensive player run ahead with the ball when he’s got his Clash going. So in essence, Clash is a reward for doing well, to help you keep winning.
The result is taking an already over-the-top interpretation of football and cranking it up a few extra notches on the ‘silly’ scale. Tackles are so ridiculous so often that it’s impossible to believe a guy would walk away from it. The runner can throw out stiff-arms left and right, knocking around the defense’s jaws with the greatest of ease. Yet it still takes an amazing amount of punishment before a guy gets "injured". Um, okay…
[image3]When an injury finally does occur, you’re treated to a slow-mo anatomy cam as the bones, tendons, muscles, and organs get in line for a blending. These are pretty goddamn gross, and about seven separate times I had to just put down the controller and walk away while my stomach settled. (Yes, I’m weak, I hear you, shut up.) It’s just plain nasty.
With no referees, there aren’t really any strictly enforced rules – you can run a little out of bounds and the game just doesn’t seem to care. Stay there long enough and you’ll eventually get called on it, but it takes a while. Likewise, beating on a dude while he’s down is completely fair game, and while the teams are re-organizing between plays, you can just walk up to a guy getting up from a tackle and kick him in the side a few times. I guess that’s cool?
I regularly play games about wanton violence, but they feel somehow contextually appropriate. I give Gordon Freeman a pass on the whole blowing-peoples-brains-out thing because those people are generally trying to shoot him; I don’t begrudge the vault dweller in Fallout 3 for hurling a few grenades at people's feet since those peoples are usually trying to kill him and take his stuff. But when a bunch of well-fed football players get together, gritty and urban or not, it seems really strange that they can just beat the living hell out of each other, on the field, right in the middle of a game, in front of each others’ teams. Wouldn’t someone give a shit about that? Wouldn’t you stop a dude from kicking your teammate in the ribs over and over, NFL or backstreets?
[image4]The single-player game is interesting in its use of an entertaining press conference system; the comments you choose to make define how your character develops. Likewise, a lot of crazy stuff gets pulled on you. Dudes drug you! Wacky fun! The basic premise, though, is that your character is one of the most badass football players there is. And because you’re so badass, you feel comfortable flipping off the Commissioner of Dirty Football and playing for your home team rather than taking his offer to go play for the top team. Yep, them’s some award-winning football story right there. You get to play an arrogant, self-absorbed prick of an athlete. Great...
Graphically, Blitz looks good at first, but the more you pay attention, the worse and worse it gets. Animation is poor and awkward whenever it isn’t about beating the hell out of someone, and the static cameras occasionally get blocked by random guys running about the field. Fortunately, the voice-acting is extremely well done, and the picks for the soundtrack were great. Shame the rest of the game is so awful.
Ultimately, Blitz: The League II is a terrible football game with some good ideas surrounding it, and a marked tendency to make me wish I wasn’t playing it. If you enjoy football games, stick to Madden; Blitz is not a serious competitor, unless you enjoy getting a bit squeamish.