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Backbreaker
GameGrep

Backbreaker

By Jay Acevedo (AnodaJay)
Posted on June the 7th 2010 at 09:06:00 AM

While franchises like Tecmo Bowl, John Madden Football, John Montana Football (which actually got sacked after Madden became THE reference in the early 90’s) started it all, other franchises like NFL 2K, NFL Blitz, NFL Gameday and NFL Fever tried their best to steal some of Madden’s mojo. Actually, 2K came close but then EA acquired the NFL license and the rest is history. Since then, new football games were released, but none actually managed to offer a product interesting enough to grab the fans attention. In 2007, NaturalMotion revealed their intention of making an ultra-realistic game based on their new Euphoria technology. Back then, no games had used it yet, so there was no point of reference. Following the releases of Grand Theft Auto IV and Star Wars: Force Unleashed (both Euphoria-powered games), info on Backbreaker started to appear and suddenly, interest among gamers increased. We finally got our hands on Backbreaker after two long years of waiting. And while the game does not scream perfection, it delivers the promise of a realistic and exhilarating experience.

If you were a Backbreaker fan without ever play one single minute prior to its release (and also played your share of the other football games), two things have certainly crossed your mind: either you were going to get a Madden killer in terms of game modes and options or an extremely simple football game which would serve as a prototype for the future. The latter should have been the most honest expectation since NaturalMotion has never created a game until this one and because they are a software company who spends most of their time playing with algorithms rather than NFL playbooks. Of course, if you had no idea of what the words “Backbreaker”, “NaturalMotion” and “Euphoria” meant, chances are this game will come as a disappointment since you’ve been accustomed to EA Tiburon’s juggernaut for the past few years.

From the close camera angles (sometimes too close) to the ability to control one player and switch to another on the fly depending of the situation, Backbreaker’s main goal is make you feel like you were on the field. Backbreaker uses the right analog stick for every defensive/offensive situation on the field, instead of pushing on buttons. Use the right trigger as a modifier and your player switches to a much more aggressive state, allowing you to pull off certain moves that could get you that extra yard or two you may need in a pinch. Despite having a different control scheme compared to what you’re used to, the experience ends up being a satisfying one, even with its little nitpicks. The lob pass is practically impossible to make, controlling players like the receivers isn’t always accurate and moving players while Aggressive Mode can become a hassle, to name a few. But for the most part, you will realize how exciting it is to use and how boring playing with the face-buttons really is. Just make sure to pay the tutorial mode a little visit and you’ll be fine.

Whether you want a deep experience or a simple and fun game to play, Backbreaker features several different game modes for you to choose from. Play a single offline game - either alone or with a friend, hop online and challenge the masses, start a season, or better yet, bring your team to top in Road to Backbreaker. Or you can just have some fun in the Tackle Alley mini-game. The latter two are my favorites. Road to Backbreaker allows you to bring your custom team from a minor league franchise to the big show in hopes of eventually winning the Backbreaker Bowl. You’ll need to win games to improve your team as you advance from one league to another. Credits will be awarded after each win, allowing you to sign new players that will help you progress until you reach the ultimate goal. Road to Backbreaker is an almost carbon-copy of the Season Mode, but ends up being much more gratifying. As for the Tackle Alley mini-game, it’s fun and addictive as hell. Your task is to score a touchdown, but you’ll need to accumulate as much points as possible by pulling moves on your opponents while trying to get to the other side of the field. Trust me, once you’ll get a feel of it, you will find it hard to let your controller down.

While I did enjoy the game modes, I’ve personally found great pleasure in creating and customizing my own team. Last year’s version of NCAA Football (with its Team Builder feature) made me realize that I would spend countless hours taking care of my own team and lead them to victory. Backbreaker may not feature TeamBuilder-like options, but the customization tools given pack enough punch to make you stay up into the wee hours of the night fiddling away with your team. You can create your own team from the ground-up, or copy an existing team and make adjustments according to your liking. You can also create a custom logo, city (I can finally play as Montreal in a football game!), name and choose a stadium from the list. Once that’s done, you can use it on any of the aforementioned modes, including online.

Speaking of the online portion of the game, it needs a patch something fierce. Not that the experience was impossible to enjoy, but I did came across various games affected by lag and slowdowns. Gameplay-wise, Backbreaker does not feature expanded playbooks, no hot routes, no injuries, no stamina loss and other little things the hardcore fan is used to getting. Some people might see these omissions as big minuses, but like I said earlier, this game is being developed by software engineers showcasing one of the most advanced physics engines ever conceived. Clearly, this game wasn’t made with the idea of challenging Madden to a death match; but rather to show gamers what a real football video game could be. However, if Backbreaker is indeed planning to go against the beast in the near future, things like expanded online features and other gameplay oddities like the dumb AI and the hit-and-miss passing/rushing game will need to be addressed. Interceptions in this game happen as often as Brett Farve’s retirement speech.

Graphics & Sounds

While the Euphoria engine does a great job at giving a realistic experience, the rest isn’t as convincing. Player faces are covered with black visors, there are no sideline animations and the crowds are barely noticeable since the camera focuses a lot on the players. Again, I understand the emphisis for this game is on the gameplay. However, a little more effort could have been made with the visuals and particularly in the audio department. Crowds will applaud your great plays and touchdowns, but the essence of a football game revolves around atmosphere. Here, it’s completely lacking. There’s no play-by-play commentary (aside from the incredibly boring PA announcer) and in-game chatter is non-existent. There’s not even an energetic soundtrack to accompany the promised high-octane action. You are given a little something at the kick-off, but then, there’s not even the chirp of crickets to break the deafening silence. It’s certainly the game’s weakest link.

Value

Despite having interesting features, I can see Backbreaker pleasing both the casual and the hardcore crowds. Its fun factor will definitely get the gamer that’s looking for something less daunting and cluttered to experience while the hardcore will dig the customization part more than anything else. Being offered at a lower price compared to Madden NFL 10 (around $50CDN vs $70CDN for Madden) is great, but since you aren’t paying for any license whatsoever, I would have priced it much less. Backbreaker was already on many gamers’ wish lists. Pricing it at a decent price would have been an excellent move.

Now, if playing the game with non-licensed players is an issue, you can always re-create your entire favorite NFL team and show it to the world. Although, an online roster feature would have been awesome.

Conclusion

I don’t know if Backbreaker will get a sequel, but I think that the idea of putting you in the action quicker by simplifying the game of football in order to showcase an incredible game from the technical point of view has its merits. Whether they would tackle Madden’s domination or pair their knowledge with someone else’s experience in the field, gamers should expect a change in the way football games are developed. Backbreaker brings the fun first and opens up a door for the future. For a freshman effort, the final result isn’t perfect but it’s far from being boring. And please, don’t get this game with the intention of skipping Madden. This isn’t a Madden killer…at least, not yet.


Pros

+ Fun and intuitive control scheme...
+ Tackle Alley is a blast
+ Robust team customization
+ Player physics are nice
+ Visuals are okay...


Cons

- ...but requires a lot more work
- Inconsistent Passing/Running system
- Controlling players isn’t always precise
- Camera is sometimes too close in Aggressive Mode
- Audio ambiance is seriously lacking


Final Verdict

Breakdown :
Presentation :
7.5
7.5
Graphics :
8.0
8.0
Sound :
5.5
5.5
Gameplay :
7.5
7.5
Replay Value :
6.5
6.5


Our review : 7.0
Your verdict [0 vote] : Do your own review
System :
Publisher :
Developer :
Category :
ESRB : E - [GameFocus' ESRB Guide]
Consult the complete file

Here's a small guide to help you understand our evaluation of games.

PRESENTATION GRADE
Can be from the game's box to the contents of the booklet, and even the game introduction. (Intro, menus, options, etc)

GRAPHIC GRADE
Up to what point the graphics have been worked on my the developper. The design type, the effort used for textures and environments, as well as animations and framerate.

AUDIO GRADE
Is the soundtrack a good match to the game's style, he ambient sounds keeping with the gameplay and the sound effects clear and convincing?

GAMEPLAY GRADE
Placement of the controls and the inferface that the player with be using during the game.

REPLAY VALUE GRADE
The most important factor in the evaluation of a game. It identifies the lifespan of the game and the fun of coming back again and again.








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