While developing Blitz: The League II, Midway asked itself a very simple question: "What would NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell do?" Then Midway did the exact opposite. Though the gameplay is strikingly similar to previous Blitz games, with many of the same flaws, The League II is also a biting parody of professional football and, thanks to several cringe-worthy moments on the field, a sadistic and guilty pleasure.
Ruptured spleen or scrotum? The new tackle targeting mechanic gives you choices.
Without the No Fun League in the way to soften the hits, tone down the language, and brush off-the-field indiscretions under the carpet, Midway was free to develop the foulest and most indecent sports video game on the planet. Among the gruesome injuries presented in slow-motion high definition: broken collarbone; skull fracture; ruptured spleen; broken spine; and the granddaddy of them all, the ruptured scrotum. Thankfully, Blitz 2 is more than the sum of this pile of body parts, and the over-the-top story of the single-player campaign will keep you engaged far more than the typical arcade sports game.
You play as a hotshot all-around athlete poised to go professional in any number of sports. You choose instead to play for The League, but under one condition: You only suit for your hometown team (which you will create and customize later). In a fun twist, you select your offensive and defensive position (you're a phenom, remember?) and improve player attributes in a postdraft press conference. Reporters pepper you with questions such as what you did for fun as a kid. Answering that you liked to wrestle with your brothers will improve your tackling rating, while casually joking that you spent most of your youth running from the police will give you a speed boost. Actor Jay Mohr, in a similar role to the fast-talking sports agent from Jerry Maguire, guides you through the interview and later helps set up sponsorship and marketing opportunities. Finally, you choose your hometown, team name, colors, logo, and uniforms. The customization options are fairly deep here, but it's too bad you can't select or design your own stadium--your default home turf is generic in comparison to the giant pyramids of the Mexico City Aztecs or the gritty industry of the Cleveland Steamers' stadium.
Money earned from salary and in-game bonuses can be spent on a number of upgrades, including training facilities, as well as on juice. These fictitious performance-enhancing drugs will give you a statistical boost come Sunday, but at the risk of getting caught by the league. You can juice up to three players a week with a laundry list of supplements that vary in price and legality. If caught, your team will come under close scrutiny from league officials and you'll lose access to these valuable drugs. And yes, they are valuable. Success in Blitz is dependent on balancing your juice usage and team risk. Keeping your star players on the field with an injury-reducing drug (or taking out opposing team captains with a strength boost to your defense) is key to winning ballgames. Assigning juice to your players at the risk of getting caught by the league adds another level of depth not typically seen in this genre of sports game. BALCO would be proud.
You also receive upgrades in a few other ways. Your agent will frequently call with sponsorship opportunities, but you'll have to impress on the field to earn your spot on a Wheaties box. To cash in, you must complete an in-game challenge, like scoring more touchdowns or recording more sacks than an opposing team captain. Sponsors will get you access to better equipments--the Azimuth shoe company will give you top-of-the-line cleats that add several points to your speed rating, for example.
Something doesn't seem right here.
Because you're the face of the franchise, you're also a hit with the ladies. You'll meet a handful of girlfriends during cutscenes, and if you impress them on the field by completing a personal challenge (like injuring an ex-boyfriend, for example), you'll be rewarded with marketing deals, bargain-priced juice, and even a new team medical facility. In addition, you get to see a saucy bedroom cutscene with your flame of the week. Sometimes she'll even have a friend... While pleasing a girlfriend is awesome, it would have been a better system if you could pick and choose your ladies instead of being assigned them as part of scripted cutscene. But oh, what a custscene it is.
The overall story is fraught with sex, drugs, scandal, and betrayal, a not so subtle blend of ESPN's pro football parody Playmakers (the inspiration for the original Blitz: The League, and penned by the same writer), and The Longest Yard. Lawrence Taylor returns as bad-boy linebacker Quentin Sands and is assigned by the corrupt commissioner to join you on your squad. The overall story is somewhat predictable, but it's a shame most sports games don't have this much personality, even if that personality is sadistic and profane. With fictional teams, Blitz still manages to get you emotionally involved in the star players of the league. The cutscenes that introduce opposing teams and their alpha-dog captains are far more engaging than the simple ratings comparison menu screen of other games. Imagine if a franchise game in Madden against the Patriots opened with an NFL Films scouting report of Tom Brady picking apart a defense, but then getting shut down by the Giants pass rush in the Super Bowl. While that kind of personal touch has long been lacking in traditional sports simulations, you feel it here.