Blitz: Overtime is a PSP update to Blitz: The League, which was released last year on the Xbox and PS2, and earlier this year on the Xbox 360. Generally speaking, this is very much the same brand of over-the-top, bloodthirsty football the console games contained, but with more than a few caveats. First of all, the developer clearly couldn't get the game to run at the proper speed on the PSP hardware, no matter how many textures it blurred and lighting effects it removed. Secondly, the load times are just abysmal, lasting only slightly longer than the average pro football player's career. Yes, there's a bit of new content, and yes, the game that lays underneath all these technical gaffes is a fun one, but you'll be hard-pressed to enjoy it in the state it's in on the PSP.
If you ever played the Blitz brand of football in its arcade heyday, the core mechanics of The League will be immediately familiar to you. This is eight-on-eight football with an incredibly quick pace, 30-yard downs, and the kinds of barbarous hits that would snap a typical human being in half. But really, anyone with a basic understanding of football ought to be able to pick up The League's simplistic mechanics quite easily. You still call plays as you would in any football game, and you can run, pass, and tackle at the press of single buttons. Just don't expect any fancy audibles or defensive scheme shifts to be available. You'll call a play, and that's the play you'll run, dammit.
Overtime does futz with the Blitz formula a bit, however, and in quite satisfying ways. As you earn yards and touchdowns on offense, and as you stuff your opponents on defense, you'll build up your team's clash meter. Clash is basically the gamebreaker concept from EA's arcade sports games, but it's done better here. Any time you have any clash built up, you can simply press the left shoulder button to slow down time for everyone on the field except the player you're in control of. Passing the ball while in clash mode will let you take control of the wide receiver, tight end, or whomever else you choose while he's in midroute, letting you shift him to the position he needs to be in to manually catch the ball. Runners can use this mode to shift and juke around would-be tacklers with relative ease. Defenders use clash differently than offensive players, because it doesn't slow down time for them. Essentially, clash lets them lay down the dirtiest, foulest, meanest hits you'll ever see.
These defensive cheap shots will often lead to injuries, which are the best part of the game. Any time you injure an opposing player, the game shifts to an X-ray camera mode, highlighting the portion of the poor schmuck's anatomy you just snapped in two. If it isn't a season-ending injury, you're even given the option of treating it as normal, perhaps leading to the player being out for the entire length of the game. However, if you're the gambling type, you can "juice" that player up, bringing him back into the game after just a short time. Just pray to whatever you believe in that the player doesn't get hit really hard again, because if he does, you can kiss him good-bye for a good long time.
The clash functionality usually works really well--at least, it did on consoles. The funky thing about the PSP version is that you actually don't need to use it very much, especially on offense, because the game already runs so slow on the PSP hardware that you already get a bunch of extra time to figure out where to throw the ball on a passing play. On kickoff returns it's the worst. The game runs quite literally at half-speed, and because of that, it's not too hard to break off a lot of kickoff returns for touchdowns. But even on basic offensive plays, the game slows significantly, making clash moves almost irrelevant. The only time you need to use them now is on defense to try and injure other players, and with the slowed speed of the game, it's now even easier to line offensive players up for a dirty hit.
Slowness negatively affects just about every area of Blitz: Overtime, from the on-field action to the menu screens. Load times are atrocious, clocking in anywhere from a full minute to a minute and 45 seconds in spots. Whenever it has to load up a cutscene during an actual game, you'll see the camera linger on one shot for much longer than is necessary while the game tries to access the UMD to load up the next sequence. Nothing about Overtime runs well at all, which is a crying shame since the game itself can be really fun. It's a great game of football that's been kneecapped by all the loading and slowdown.
There are also a couple of things about the way Overtime plays that might irritate longtime football-game players (though these were issues in the console versions, as well). For one, the artificial intelligence, while generally smart, occasionally loses its mind and forgets that going for an extra point instead of a two-point conversion will keep it behind by, say, four points instead of the three it would be losing by after a two-pointer. The kicking game, in general, seems to be a little all over the place, too. From a player's standpoint, the rhythm-game-based kick meter is awesome, but the computer opponents seem to whiff a few too many easy kicks. Also, don't be surprised if you catch wind of the computer opponent magically grabbing interceptions and forcing fumbles late in the game when it's down. Blitz games have always kind of flirted with catchup AI, and it's not horrible here. Just be careful toward the end of a game, and don't start throwing unnecessary long bombs--no matter how tempted you might be--because the AI will take advantage.
Blitz: Overtime contains no franchise mode to speak of. Instead, you get the campaign mode, a 30-plus game storyline telling the story of one team's rise from the dregs of the game's fictional league to the top. You begin the mode by creating a team of your own, complete with city name, uniform style, and logo. Then you get to choose a rookie offensive player and a veteran defensive player. These are the two players that will come under the most focus during the storyline. The story itself was apparently penned by some of the writers from ESPN's now-defunct gridiron soap opera Playmakers, and it shows. After a particularly humiliating defeat against Quentin Sands (voiced to perfection by the dirtiest player in the game, Lawrence Taylor) and his New York Nightmare, your team is sent to Division 3. The league in this story is broken up into three divisions, with the top dogs competing in Division 1 and the bargain-basement, Houston Texans-like squads rounding out the bottom of the barrel in Division 3. The game never explains how this whole thing works, beyond the fact that you need to win the championship in each division to move up.