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Video Game / Blitz: The League

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The year is 2004, and Midway Games has a problem. Last year's edition of their popular NFL Blitz series, NFL Blitz PRO, was the most toned-down, realistic Blitz yet thanks to National Football League lobbyists forcing them to dial back the games' signature violence, and the result was a flop, both commercially and critically. To make things worse, their rivals over at Electronic Arts just signed an exclusive license with the NFL, making Madden NFL (and NFL Street, until that died out a few years later) the only game in town as far as American Football video games went. So now, Midway was faced with a choice: take a premature axe to their iconic football series...or go their own way, start their own league, and create a version of football so brutal that it made the NFL's old complaints look absurd.

The result was Blitz: The League, originally released in fall 2005 for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, with Xbox 360 and PlayStation Portable ports the following year. Not content with merely returning Blitz to its arcade roots, The League reveled in Rated M for Manly excess, with gameplay that encouraged dirty hits, steroid use, gambling, and every other seedy vice the NFL would never want to be part of its image. This all came packaged with an entire fictional league called, well, The League, complete with a promotion-relegation system like soccer leagues outside the U.S. use, its own detailed century-long backstory, and 17 teams, each with their own outlandish star players. This all paved the way for a single-player story mode written by the team behind ESPN's controversial football drama Playmakers, where the 18th team of the league, after a humiliating season that ends with them getting sent down to the lowest division and their quarterback retired at the hands of the New York Nightmare's star linebacker Quentin Sands—played by his real-life inspiration, NFL Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor— go through a total overhaul in an attempt to finally win a championship and get their revenge.

The game was successful enough to get a 2008 sequel, appropriately named Blitz: The League II, with its own storyline set three years later. This time, you play as Kid Franchise, the League's first two-way player in decades, as he leads his newly-created hometown team up through the ranks and battles the League's corrupt commissioner, who wants his pet expansion team, the LA Riot, to be the next big dynasty at any cost.

However, hopes of a third entry in the series quickly hit a brick wall in early 2009, as Midway filed for bankruptcy and saw its assets bought off one by one. With EA now holding the license to the Blitz name, if not necessarily The League's universe, it's unclear if or when the series will ever come back.

The Blitz: The League games feature examples of the following tropes:

  • The Ace: Kid Franchise, the protagonist of II's campaign, is presented right from the start as a guaranteed star, with enough athleticism to do what no one else in the League can do and instantly become his team's captain. He even has an offer to play pro baseball waiting for him, which his agent uses to make sure Franchise can play for his hometown team instead of the Riot.
  • Adam Westing: The infamously hard-hitting, hard-partying Lawrence Taylor plays Quentin Sands, a star linebacker who shares his jersey number, college background, and lifestyle. Starting with the 360 port of the first game, the even more violent (not to mention hated) Bill Romanowski does the same with his in-game equivalent, Bruno Battaglia.
  • A.I. Breaker: The game's artificial intelligence never catches on with user-controlled teams doing the same plays over and over again. Feel free to spam onside kicks, the 'Oh Mary' passing play, and the 'Glove' defensive play ad nauseum.
  • All for Nothing:
    • Whatever success the Player-Created Team had in the first game ended up being undone by the events of the sequel as Lyman Strang was indicted for gross misuse of public funds and forced to sell the team to The League due to his newfound bankruptcy, who would move them to Philadelphia and rebrand them as the Brawlers. The team dropped back to Division III and developed a reputation as sloppy hacks who can't win without cheating.
    • The Commissioner's plan to rig the championship in favor of the LA Riot in the second game comes to naught despite his constant rule bending. The Commissioner stacks the Riot's lineup with the best players in the league, starts them in a higher division than most of the other new teams and fakes a positive drug test on Franchise that almost ruins him. For all his efforts, the Comissioner is forced to swallow his pride and present Franchise the trophy at the championship game and on top of that, he's convicted of insider trading.
  • Alternate History: The League has its own elaborate history of the game of football, which diverges before 1900 and presents a consistently more brutal version of events than what happened in real life, but features plenty of its own parallels.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: No, you can't just snap a broken fibula back into place or shrug off torn ligaments with a single steroid injection and act like nothing happened. Naturally, this is all for the sake of gameplay, and in all fairness, there are some injuries that are too severe to power through. Then again, a lot of the doctors you can hire are morally questionable at best, so who knows what they could be doing behind closed doors?
  • Artistic License – Sports:
    • None of the violence players in The League commit would fly at any level of football, let alone the NFL. One such example of this contrast is defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was fined over $200,000 during the first four years of his career for unnecessary roughness, late hits and attacking other players, all things that are encouraged in Blitz.
    • There are no real world counterparts to Blitz II's Mexico City Aztecs and Vancouver Beavers. Currently, there are only US-based teams in the NFL; however, there are rumblings about international expansion. For Canada, a proposed law would've prevented the NFL or any other American league from establishing a team in Canada; said law was mostly a bluff to protect the Canadian Football League. Additionally, the Buffalo Bills had played several "home" games in Toronto between 2008 and 2013; while Southern Ontario has a good number of Bills fans, the games played in Toronto were sparsely attended. Mexico was initially thought to be a no-go for the NFL, with soccer being more popular than gridiron football; however, the NFL's Mexico Game, played off and on since 2016note , has been well-attended with over 75,000 fans.
  • Ascended Fanboy: H.J. Latshaw, of the second game's Philadelphia Brawlers, went from ordinary fan to team captain in less than a year because he got in a fight in the stands and the team decided to give him a tryout instead of kicking him out.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Juicing your players in The League. While giving your players performance enhancers boosts your players' stats, some of them come with detriments. Also, they only last three weeks and can cost money that could have gone into training and equipment upgrades.
  • Boring, but Practical: Training your players and buying better equipment. Both actions provide permanent stat increases and make your team better.
  • Bullet Time: On offense, Clash Mode sends the game into this, making it much easier to shake off defenders.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compare this to the earlier NFL Blitz games and you'll find this series to be in a league of its own. Licensed hard rock/rap soundtrack? Check. Politics and gambling influencing game outcomes? Check. Shady figureheads trying to screw other teams from the sidelines? Check. Casual drug use? Check. Gratuitous sexiness from cheerleaders and prostitutes? Check. Having enough blood and gore to rival Mortal Kombat while coming up with the concepts of X-Ray Attacks first? Hell yes.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Karl Tirpitz, a Supermax prisoner who was convicted of 23 counts of aggravated assault and the captain of that facility's team, ends up joining Franchise's team after his early release.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: In this alternate version of the NFL, unsportsmanlike conduct isn't punished, it's encouraged. The League is American Football as a Blood Sport, with no penalties for late hits, illegal grabs or even bench clearing brawls that likely would have gotten any involved players suspended, or even charged with assault.
  • Face–Heel Turn:
    • In the sequel, some teams change captains and end up with more antagonistic guys in that spot than they did before. For instance, the New England Regulars' original captain, Vonnie Treonday, was a trash-talker who could back it up, but by 2008, they've got a championship win with the dark clouds of cheating allegations over it, and their new captain, "Packrat" James, is implied to have been arrested on felony weapons charges—only to have them dropped because he has lawyers.
    • Many of your potential options for the rookie and veteran protagonists from the first game's campaign also go bad by the time the second game comes around. Clayton Wescott becomes a full-blown egotist as the Washington Redhawks' QB/captain, Ted Lawless and Kurt Shock both end up on the cheating New England Regulars, Justin Jonas and Darryl Kinsman both end up on the LA Riot's overpowered roster when you hit Division I, and even Tyrone Kilgore signs with the New York Nightmare—though, considering the Nightmare aren't the enemy anymore, it's more of a betrayal to the old player-created team's fanbase than anything.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • At the start of II, Kid Franchise refuses to play for the Los Angeles Riot, insisting on going to his hometown team. But when it's time for the player to create the team's identity, they can just put the team in LA anyway.
    • In the original, Lyman Strang insists on a total rebrand of the player's team after they get knocked back down to Division III, but if you look closely at the team's helmets, you'll see a variation on the eagle logo the game allows you to use. You can also stick with the team's old blue, orange, and white if you want that aesthetic connection to stay.
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • The sequel also sees multiple teams trade their more obnoxious captains from the first game for relative nice guys. The Las Vegas Aces, for instance, replace the egotistical Kelvin Diggs, who didn't gel with the rest of the roster's team-first mentality, with respected veteran Amos Newell, while the New York Nightmare's new captain, Max Carson, proves much more of an introvert and quiet professional than Quentin Sands.
    • Quentin Sands himself makes a face turn in the second campaign, once he realizes that taking down the Riot and winning another championship is more important than feuding with Franchise over which one should be the star player. He ultimately proves instrumental to not only winning the League Championship, but getting the evidence needed to arrest Commissioner Clive Hanson and have him removed from power.
  • Jerkass: Half the League would qualify for this trope if you put them in real football, what with their normalization of late hits, excessive violence, and trash-talk. However, Baltimore Bearcats captain Bruno Battaglia stands out as one even by this game's standards, with a reputation for violence and general asshole behavior from the beginning. Once he joins your team on the way to Division II, he continues to act like a jerk and sow dissent in the team. And then in the sequel, just to make sure you know he's surpassed Quentin Sands in dickishness, he becomes the LA Riot's first captain and starts knocking people out with a titanium plate he had put in his elbow before the start of the 2008 season.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Aside from the guys who were outright voiced by the linebackers who inspired them, the team captains' list is chock full of players directly inspired by NFL stars.
    • Cookie Wallace, a diva receiver on the downswing of his career and carrying a rep as "Locker room cancer" is based on Terrell Owens. Who carried a similar reputation as his career went on.
    • Shane Spain is basically Brett Favre. The veteran gunslinger QB who just refuses to retire, and even came out of one retirement to keep playing.
    • Tito Maas is based off Washington wide receiver Santana Moss. Both famous for being not the biggest guy on the field, but being very hard to catch and bring down.
  • Opposing Sports Team: Downplayed with the New York Nightmare in the first game's story. They're dominant arch-rivals from a gigantic media market, with a scary name, black-and-purple uniforms, and many of the other trappings of this trope, but ultimately, your beef is with Quentin Sands for what he did to your team, not necessarily everybody on the Nightmare roster.
    • The Los Angeles Riot, on the other hand, go full-tilt into this, checking many of the Nightmare's boxes while making the franchise as a whole incredibly easy to hate. The Commissioner created the Riot with the express purpose of having a star-studded franchise in a big market and constantly bends the League's rules to get them to a League Championship as fast as possible.
  • Prison Episode: At one point in Franchise's career, he gets sent to the Milltown Correctional Facility for testing positive for Ultranol, an illegal performance enhancing drug. It just so happens that the prison holds an annual football game against the Supermax Prison Facility, and the unnamed warden promises Franchise an early release if he wins. Unsurprisingly, the "stadium" has a distinct prison flavor, from the poorly-kept field and jumpsuits, to the ambiance and the cheerleaders wearing stripper cop outfits.
  • Rated M for Manly: Blitz is a more brutal form of football, with the offense and defense alike getting in on the violence in front of seemingly apathetic referees. Players are also very resilient, and can shrug off broken bones and nerve damage with only a shot of anesthetic and a Skyward Scream.
  • Stripperific: Cheerleaders in this series usually wear little more than bikini tops, g-strings, mini-skirts, stockings and high-heels. They make the NFL's cheerleaders look wholesome in comparison.
  • The Unfought: Whenever you win a lower division and move up to the higher one, you replace the team that came in last in the higher division. As such, you end up skipping a couple teams in both campaign modes.
  • Unnecessary Roughness: Actions that would result in fouls in the NFL go completely uncalled in The League, with the player earning points for illegal moves like Horsecollars (a grab by the shoulder pads) and facemasks (grabbing the front of the helmet).
  • Updated Re Release: The PSP exclusive Blitz: Overtime, which contains additional balance updates, teams, and game modes.
  • We Cannot Go On Without You: In the second game, if Franchise sustains a major injury, it is an automatic Game Over.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: Many of the tackles and tackle breaks look more like moves from the WWE than the NFL, with suplexes and flying elbows aplenty and many opportunities to continue the carnage after the whistle. It's not uncommon to see a running back perform a flying knee on the way to a down, then get double teamed by a pair of linebackers on the next play.