|a game by
|Ideaworks Game Studio
|XBox 360, Playstation 3 (2009)
|6.3/10, based on 2 reviews
|7.9/10 - 21 votes
|Rate this game:
|Sport Games, Sports Management Games, Football Video Games
For a long time, football fans have considered Madden games to be the only way to play American football from the comfort of their home. There’s one game, however, that dared to defy Madden’s monopoly, and that’s Backbreaker.
With its impressive array of fancy physics and immersive camera angles, Backbreaker is a game that looks and feels like no other sports game, let alone a football game. Sadly, the game never reaches its full potential due to its barebones presentation and lack of meaningful content. Let’s take a look at what made Backbreaker so different from the rest of the yearly football games.
Feel every tackle
Unlike other sports videogames that use canned animations, Backbreaker uses an advanced ragdoll physics engine on each player in the field. Developer NaturalMotion is perhaps better known for their work on the euphoria physics engine, the same one used in games like Grand Theft Auto IV and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.
With Euphoria, every tackle and every fall is simulated on the fly, meaning that every move you see happening in the game is unique and hard to reproduce. This gives the game a more natural feeling than what we’ve seen in past football games, including the popular Madden games.
Of course, you need a great camera angle to capture all of the physics-based shenanigans happening on the field, and Backbreaker delivers that in spades. The only problem is that there’s only one camera angle: you can’t change the view, not even in the replays. In such a physics-heavy game as this, it’s baffling that developers didn’t consider that players would like to see the action play out from different angles, although it might have something to do with the limitations of seventh-gen consoles.
Not the NFL you know
If you’re looking for a game to quench your NFL needs that doesn’t include “Madden” in the title, you won’t find it in Backbreaker. If there’s one thing that we have to consider is that NFL licenses are not cheap, so it’s really no surprise that NaturaMotion couldn’t get the license to any of the NFL teams.
Instead, players will have to compete using custom teams and rosters. Although this might sound appealing at first, the simplicity of the system is a huge letdown. Almost every player feels the same, making the whole game feel like it’s just a tech demo for what Euphoria is capable of in a sports game.
Oh, and don’t try to create characters that are named like real NFL players: the game blocks you from doing so. No matter how much you try to recreate the NFL in backbreaker, it simply cannot be done, for better or for worse.
Style over substance
Backbreaker might be a flashy game, but its two main gameplay modes betray its simplistic nature. You get to choose between Season and ‘Road to Backbreaker’ modes for singleplayer. The first mode, Season, plays like a normal American football season, with a pool of 32 teams. Meanwhile, Road to Backbreaker feels more like a soccer league, with players competing in a multi-tiered league.
All things considered, Backbreaker feels like a game that could be so much more, but that had many things against it. The lack of NFL licensing could’ve been ignored if the player customization features were a bit more robust, while some much-needed gameplay modes would’ve made the game feel less like a demo.
At the very least, Backbreaker tried its best to prove that sports games could be more than they were, including top-notch graphics engines and fun gameplay. It’s a shame that the game bit a little more than it could chew.
- Amazing physics
- Immersive camera
- Solid controls
- Severe lack of content
- Archaic customization features
- No way to change the camera angle
- You can’t share your players or teams online
Backbreaker is an American football game that actually had a lot of fanfare behind it when it was first released over a decade ago. Football fans these days pretty much have one football game per year, but for a while, some companies were trying to offer an alternative and this game here came really close. It has a lot of great features and some awesome ideas. Looking back now, I do wish that the developer tried to stick with this and make an actual franchise out of this as I think a sequel could have fixed the issues that I and many other people had with the game.
EA Sports! They Own The Game
The thing with American football games is that EA has an iron tight grip on the NFL licenses. That means that all of the teams in Backbreaker are fictional. To be fair, they came up with a ton of teams so I give them a lot of credit for that. However, they were very clever as they have a deep and robust editor suit that allows you to create over 30 of your own football teams or edit the teams that are already in the game. You can pretty much recreate the NFL if you want although any teams that have any keywords or images based on the NFL were not able to be used online.
A Unique Hit Each Time
One of the big features and selling points of Backbreaker was the Euphoria Engine. The developers claimed that this special engine would result in no two tackles ever looking the same. This engine is able to mix up the animations so that they have a more realistic look and feel to them. I will admit, I thought for sure that this was nothing more than some kind of gimmick, but it actually works and even all these years later, the animations in the game look great. It plays a bit differently to Madden, it is deeper than you would think, but there is a handy tutorial mode that I highly recommend you play as it does a fantastic job of teaching you how to play the game.
Starting From The Bottom
Some people were critical of the single-player modes on offer in Backbreaker, but one of the modes I thought was fantastic! You have a standard season mode which is right around what you expect where you take control of a team and try to take them to the top. However, the mode I love is Road To Backbreaker. This mode has a different structure where you start off in a small league and need to promote your team to the top one, kind of like the way soccer does it. This was such a great idea and it got me really invested in taking my team to the main 32 team league. There is also an arcade Tackle Alley mode where you playing as a running back have to score points by doing special moves to dodge tackles.
Get Out Of My Face
I think that Backbreaker has a lot going for it, but the game is certainly rough around the edges and it lacks the polish that you get with a Madden game. The game has a rather low budget look to it which I can get over. However, I hate how close the camera is to the action, sure it is kind of cinematic and makes the hits seem even harder. But, it comes at the expense of being able to see most of the football field and that can lead to some frustrating moments when it comes to trying to throw a long pass or going on an epic run with one of your running backs.
I went back and played this for the first time in quite some time and it was way better than I remember it being. I am not saying it is perfect, it has some rather ugly graphics and it is a bit rough in places. However, I feel like this was a great first effort and it is a real shame that these guys did not try and make a sequel. I know that they made a mobile version which was popular, but I never did get around to trying that out.
- The Road To Backbreaker mode is awesome
- The creation aspect of the game is very clever
- The tackle animations are very impressive
- I think that this is a solid alternative to the Madden games
- The game does have a kind of rough and low budget feel in places
- The camera angle can cause problems