The National Football League was looking to clean up its image and galvanize itself as the only true contender to the throne of "America's national pastime", so it made a couple of strategic moves before this season started - one of which was the exclusive licensing of the NFL and all related trademarks (read: the NFL Players Association) to EA Sports. With one company producing the official NFL games, and with the full backing of the NFL itself, the league's electronic image would be safe from scrutiny...namely the sort of scrutiny it got as a result of Midway's famous NFL Blitz franchise. NFL Blitz, while traditionally a very fun and unique take on pro football, didn't rub the folks in the NFL's executive ranks the right way. I figure it had something to do with the players exploding into flames, performing illegal moves, talking trash to the extreme and generally doing everything the NFL would like to have nothing to do with.
The NFL thought this was a great idea for its image and Midway, taking things in stride, considered this could turn into an even greater turning point for its franchise. Blitz would lose the NFL license and moniker, but lost none of the smashmouth arcade football that is its trademark. The loss of the NFL license also had a bonus side effect; Midway was now free to design a football game that hits pro football - and of course, the NFL by proxy - even harder in its image than ever before. So here we are, with a new Blitz football game - and it's something of a surprise. Midway's Blitz: The League for PlayStation 2 is a new spin on the old pigskin, unlike anything we've seen to date.
Blitz: The League is home to pro football's dark side, and it takes place in a fictional league that makes no apologies about showing it off. It all starts with Midway's hiring of one of the writers from ESPN's "Playmakers", a TV football drama that allegedly was canceled due to NFL pressure, to write the game's script. The game's story, played out in the Campaign Mode (the main singleplayer mode), revolves around a team on the brink of being removed from the league - your team, of course. The owner scraps all the players and personnel, and starts from scratch; this is where you come in. Your goal is to have a great season and turn the team around. Succeed, and you get a new stadium deal. Fail, and well...you remember what happened to the XFL, right?
Once the stage is set, it's time for some of that Blitz football we all know and love. Most of the things you're used to from the previous games are here, from crushing cheap shots to 30-yard 1st downs and everything in between. The new Clash Mode is like being "on fire" but taken to the next level, affording people the superhuman reflexes you might find in a Max Payne bullet-time ballet to make spectacular plays on offense and defense. The rubber band AI that we all love to hate is here in full effect as well, meaning that the 3 touchdowns the CPU just scored on you to tie the game with 2 minutes left to play shouldn't be a surprise.
The infamous clock management issues that crippled gameplay in prior installments are still here (fun fact: run your play clock to like, 3-4 seconds, then slowly walk to the line of scrimmage and watch as your play is magically executed without penalty), as well as the equally-infamous flaws in balance. The gameplay is still very dependent on money plays; find a few that work, and the CPU defense will bite every time. However, that's where gameplay similarities end, as this game is all about showing off the crazy aspects of professional football you've only heard about in tell-all novels, TV interviews and such. In the same way that Blitz: The League's presentation places emphasis on its back story, the gameplay places emphasis on the action before the actual games are played.