NFL Blitz - first screens, trailer and an interview with EA Sports

Over-the-top football hasn’t had a proper home since 2002’s NFL Blitz 20-03. That’s all about to change in the new year when EA Sports’ NFL Blitz takes to the gridiron in January of 2012. This fumble-happy, interception-laden comeback brings the arcade franchise back to its roots with no rules, no penalties and lightning-fast gameplay. It’s a bit of a silver-lining to Midway’s bankruptcy and subsequent fire sale of properties; without it, Blitz would’ve never landed at EA, the sole NFL video game license holder. At EA Sports, we talked to NFL Blitz project lead Dave Ross and designer Yuri Bialoskursky for more details on the adrenaline-filled football experience that awaits.

Can you tell us what you announced this week?

We announced that we are bringing NFL Blitz to the PS3 and the Xbox 360 and we’re very excited. We are going to be delivering this title as a digital download. It’ll be $15 for PSN and XBLA.

We noticed that this is a 7-on-7 game. Is there any reason you went with that number instead of 8-on-8?

Our focus was to recreate the traditional Blitz arcade experience, making sure that we were able to deliver twitch gameplay and fast-paced gameplay that would run at 60 frames per second. That was paramount to us and having that 7-on-7 gameplay as our focus, we were able to achieve that. The 8-on-8 were the later versions of Blitz. We wanted to go back and start with the traditional version of Blitz and 7-on-7 of course that. 8-on-8 was something that Blitz did much later on in its life, but it’s not the direction we wanted for this version.

When we were checking out the trailer, we didn’t notice any gratuitous late hits? Do you have late hits in the game?

We have late hits in the game, but the game is still not finished and it’s still under review by the NFL. We do also have first and 30, no injuries, no penalties and on-fire players.

Do you have actual players in the game and, if so, how do they feel about being involved and engulfed in flames?

[Laughs] Our game is NFL licensed, we have 32 NFL stadiums, we have the teams and we have the players that are associated with those teams. It’s not that we had any one or two or three individuals that are participating in the game with us. It’s just our opportunity to use the NFL license in order to bring those players to life on the field in that arcade experience. So I am actually waiting to hear the feedback from perhaps the NFL players, to hear their cries of joy and to see how they’re represented in the games as these hyper-real, great impressive athletes.

Do you have a name for this engine that this is running on? Is it the same as the Madden NFL engine?

No it’s not running on the same Madden engine. It’s technology that we have adapted in order to bring this to life. There’s not a specific name for it so to speak.

As an XBLA and PSN game does that mean there’s going to be online play?

Yes, as a matter of fact, that’s one of the great things about our delivery mechanism for the game being digital download. While we have a compelling single-player experience, the bulk of our feature-set is online focused. Clearly people who are downloading the game are going to have online connectivity, so they’ll be able to take full advantage of that. We have online head-to-head, online co-op and what’s called the Elite League. Instead of a card game, Elite League is akin to what Madden Ultimate Team was. Our game takes a little bit of a twist on that with regards to the cards that you collect and how you collect them.

The collectability aspect is the motivating factor in Elite League. It’s still about purchasing card packs, it’s still about formulating a fantasy team, but at the same time you’re improving your team by collecting the players and trading in the teams of players to get better cards, which you can then substitute into your lineup. Through all of this collecting and trading in, you can get to a point where you have a team of the best players in the game. It’s not a monetized mode. You basically collect the Blitz currency, which is called Blitz bucks, as you play online games and built up a bank account of Blitz bucks that you can then spend on cards packs.

Can you tell us about Blitz Battles?

Aside from our Elite League, we also have Blitz Battles. Essentially Blitz Battles has two different team types. It’s got head-to-head and Blitz Teams. The overarching meta game of Blitz Battles is that there are these Blitz boards and, when you first start, we ask you what your location is and we group you together. There’s three different Blitz boards: the local, regional and national. So we ask you your location, we actually group you together with other people in the same location you’re in. For instance, if we were to start up a game here, we’d say “We’re in Florida,” and our weekly games inside of the Blitz board would be with 25 other Floridians and we’d jockey for position on this Blitz board as you play through a Blitz style of games. In those games, you’re earning ranking points, which will move you up and down this Blitz board. You’re progressing through these boards with the eventually reward of getting into a Hall of Fame.

It’s a leaderboard with a different twist. It’s alive, you can see people moving up and down the board after each game and everybody is in your locality.

Can you rise through the Blitz Board leaderboards with your friends?

That’s a huge focus for Blitz. There’s no better to play Blitz with or against your friends. So, in that Blitz Battles mode, you can create a Blitz team and you can invite either one of your online friends or you can play with someone local to you, just a guest like a roommate or a friend that comes over. You can create a team, you can customize your team, you can create the team name, team logo and a banner that creates a theme or gives your team some character. You can then compete against other teams of two players, and then your team can move up and down the Blitz board.

So, you can play two players local against other people online?

Yes, that’s a new feature for us. It’s unique our title. None of our football titles have it. You can sit down with your buddy and you guys can compete against other people online. That’s present in our Blitz Teams feature and our other online mode, online co-op.