Football fans had something to cheer about in 1990 when proven programming whiz Eugene Jarvis (Defender, Robotron: 2084) matched wits with the soon-to-be legendary programmer, Ed Boon (Mortal Kombat). The result of their collaboration was a particularly intense arcade version of the beloved pastime called High Impact Football. Sportsmanship would take the back seat, in favor of trash talking and crushing the bones of anyone who stood in the way on the field.
At first glance, it might have appeared to be any other football game, as players followed established football rules while running, passing and kicking the pigskin around. At closer examination, however, this was a pretty ruthless version of the game, where tackles crushed and violent late hits were the rule, not the exception. And with the ability of four friends to play simultaneously, the machine took a similar beating to the players on the field.
It wasn’t so much the actual playing on the game that set High Impact Football apart from the competition; the rules were essentially the same as those found in Atari’s 4-Player Football, and for that matter, all football games in existence. The difference was in the amazing graphics and sound experience that this game had to offer. Using digitized graphics for the first time, the movements of the players on the field were actually digital representations of the game’s developer, Ed Boon (who would later use the same technological advances to enormous success in his Mortal Kombat series.) The audio provided similar realism – featuring cheering fans, players mercilessly taunting each other on the field, and an announcer that injected plenty of witty banter as he called the plays.
Due to the success of the game, a sequel was a foregone conclusion and Williams didn’t disappoint when they introduced Super High Impact Football. A nice collection of new plays were added, of course, as well as some new teams (none of which were licensed by the NFL.) But more importantly, game developers kicked up the chaos a few notches, putting even more attitude into the steady streak of trash talk and allowing the teams to duke it out with each other when there was a disagreement on the field (and there were plenty, rest assured.)
High Impact Football wasn’t exactly the poster child for sportsmanship, choosing instead to focus on the more violent and unbecoming aspects of the game, but there were few protests. Arcade goers embraced the game wholeheartedly and fed every machine a steady stream of quarters, making it a highly successful endeavor. It would be seven years before the NFL would actually license a football game, NFL Blitz. And during its development, they paid close attention to the preferences players had clearly demonstrated with their love for High Impact Football. Games from here on out, in fact, would always be sure to include at least a taste of the bone crushing competition that made such a jarring impact with this classic video game.
If you have fond memories of playing High Impact Football at your local arcade, we hope you’ll share them in the comments section, as we tip our hats to this groundbreaking game.