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Eight Minutes Of Mayhem In the new batch of video games, the simplest one is the most fun to play

NFL Blitz
Midway Home Entertainment
$69.95 Nintendo 64; $39.95 Sony Playstation and PC

The technology involved in sports video games continues its mad
development. Each generation of games is more detailed, more
authentic and, ultimately, more dizzying. From actual playing
strategies to the facial expressions of your favorite players,
the games are superrealistic. They unfold in the familiar rhythm
of a television broadcast, complete with announcers such as Dick
Enberg and Keith Jackson. But amid all this virtuosity,
something has been lost. Playing some of these games is like
taking apart a Swiss watch--impressively complex but not all
that much fun.

NFL Blitz is the happy exception to this trend. Blitz reminds us
that even though realism is nice, a fun game is even better. The
premise is simple: NFL football with a playground feel. There
are seven players on a side, and only a handful of plays for
offense or defense. There is none of the intricate strategy
called for in a more traditional football game. Blitz is a
run-and-gun, fast-twitch-muscle experience.

It's common to rack up 500 yards of total offense in an
eight-minute game of Blitz, and that's why it's so enjoyable.
The ball flies. Receivers leap and catch and spin out of
tackles. Defenders fly from sideline to sideline, trying to
decapitate anything that moves. Players periodically taunt their
opponents (though in fairly inoffensive terms, such as "I can
take you."). Late hits cause the announcer to wonder, "Is that
legal?" It is all legal. There are no rules in Blitz. It's a
cartoonish version of football, and it's a blast to play.

The home version of Blitz does an astonishingly good job of
replicating the speed and graphic quality of the arcade version.
In fact, it actually surpasses the arcade's in some respects.
Most notably, a player with a force-feedback controller (sold
separately) will feel it shake when he gets hit (or hits someone
else) on the screen. This force-feedback technology can be
annoying in other games, but in Blitz it adds to the adrenaline
rush of playing.

Midway has also come up with an innovative feature that ties
together the home and arcade versions of Blitz. A player can
design a new play--with its pass routes and blocking
schemes--and save it in the memory pack of his home game. At the
arcade the NFL Blitz console has a slot for the memory pack,
allowing a player to load his own plays and run them in the
arcade. Unfortunately, this option is only available to players
with Nintendo 64, but the company is working on adding it to the
other platforms. It should keep players sketching out schemes in
their notebooks for months.

For players who prefer a more traditional football game, there
is NFL GameDay '99 ($40, 989 Sports, for Sony Playstation and
PC). GameDay is a beautifully detailed game that will keep the
hard-core football geek playing until his (or her) thumb falls

COLOR PHOTO: MIDWAY HOME ENTERTAINMENT Roll it up The pace is brutal and the yardage adds up fast in NFL Blitz. [Image from video game NFL Blitz]

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