Finally, you take to the field. Much of the eight-on-eight over-the-top arcade action that has defined the Blitz franchise returns. The original Blitz: The League introduced a clever clash and unleashed system. By tallying big plays, you fill a clash meter that, when employed, not only slows down time, but every player around you. You easily burst past would-be tacklers into the secondary. Special moves, dirty hits, and touchdown celebrations will earn you clash icons. When you earn six icons, you unlock unleashed; Midway's answer to the gamebreaker in NFL Street. On the offensive side of the ball, you either sprint in slow-motion to the end zone, or perform a canned move like an ankle-breaking (literally) juke, or a stiff arm that is liable to break a cornerback's vertebrae. By no means are you invincible. Only by timing the move perfectly will you execute it, a great way to ensure in multiplayer games that the defense still has a chance. And on defense, an unleashed tackle will either reduce a ball carrier's stamina severely, force a fumble, or break a bone. Or all three.
It's you versus the commish in campaign mode.
Both clash and unleashed are very fun to use, but they're just too overpowering. The game becomes less about quick reflexes and any football strategy and more about keeping and maintaining clash. Once you have clash, you can easily break off another big play, refilling your clash in the process. The rich get richer. Conversely, if you haven't earned any clash, an offense can run all over you. Is Blitz still fun to play? Absolutely. But this particular design choice will put off football purists. Of course, Blitz has never been for purists. They wouldn't stand the late hits system, a simple button-mashing mechanic that lets you take the helmet off of a tackled ball carrier and beat him with it, draining his stamina in the process. Nor would a purist care for the precision tackles, huge hits in which you select the target area and are rewarded with an injury cutscene that makes Joe Theisman's broken leg look like shin splints in comparison. But if the sanctity of football isn't an issue for you, or your name is Bill Romanowski, you won't be able to get enough.
Gimmicks aside, the basic gameplay is still eerily similar to Blitz titles from five years ago, and comes with the same annoying flaws. Tackles are mostly magnetic, and putting pressure on the quarterback is simply a matter of moving a linebacker to the line of scrimmage, holding down turbo, and then hitting the dive button at the snap. If you are picked up by a blocker, the quarterback will still be pressured to throw short and early, not very effective when first downs are awarded after gaining 30 yards. If you aren't picked up, you'll likely get a sack. And while pass interference is a hallowed tradition in the Blitz universe, it's just too easy to tackle a wide receiver before he has a chance to make a catch. As a receiver, it would have been a vast improvement to have some sort of way to avoid this traditionally legal hit, be it via a jostling system or simply hurdling the offending player. In the end, Blitz: The League II, like most other arcade sports games before it, does not have enough to overcome its repetitious gameplay.
When you're finished up with the campaign, you can take that created team and your star player online. Though created teams start out the same, you make several key personnel decisions that will most likely differ from your online opponents. The offense and defense will both surely run though your created superstar and the competitive game will change drastically depending on if that player is a quarterback/safety or a running back/defensive end. There's also a separate set of specialty games that are fun with a friend, such as prison ball on maximum security exercise grounds, and a no helmets and pads game with twice the brutal injuries.
The unleashed drop kick is an effective tackle.
If Blitz: The League II looks more like a PlayStation 2 game, it's most likely because the art style hasn't changed much since the original game was released on that platform. The canned animations are awesome, from diving catches to jolting stiff arms, but the in-game movement is twitchy, jerky, and downright inhuman. Because there are little to no physics involved in changing direction, juking is only possible with canned animations as a result of Clash. The commentary fares better, and is often laugh-out-loud funny for fans of comedian Frank Caliendo and his tongue-in-cheek John Madden impression. The lines and lines of recorded profanity are also spot on--not a kids' game, if you haven't caught on by now. The effects are equally visceral--the sound of a burst spleen will make you cower.
Blitz: The League II has succeeded where almost all other arcade sports titles have failed: It's an engaging single-player experience. Though the gameplay still shows some of the flaws and repetition of earlier Blitz titles, the over-the-top presentation will keep you thoroughly entertained or, at the very least, offended. If you're a sports fan looking for more than a cut-and-dry simulation experience, and you're not put off by sex, drugs, and profanity, it's time to learn the power of the dark side of football.