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Backbreaker

Backbreaker Hands-On

With All-Pro Football and Blitz hanging up their cleats, EA is the undisputed king of football games. That isn’t stopping Natural Motion from going for it on fourth down with Backbreaker. Armed with the Euphoria engine that has powered the impressive animations for games like Grand Theft Auto IV and The Force Unleashed, Backbreaker aims to take down the NCAA and Madden publisher with its gritty, up close and personal brand of football. To get a better sense of what this game’s about, 505 Games supplied us with a preview build.

Building A Franchise

Life without the NFL and NFLPA is rough. Any football fan would prefer taking snaps with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints than an imaginary quarterback from an imaginary team. All-Pro Football made due by dishing out large sums of cash to pay for the likenesses of legendary players like John Elway and Barry Sanders. As an upstart developer funded by a less established publisher, Natural Motion didn’t have the resources to go this route, instead filling the game with a bunch of generic teams. To keep the hardcore NFL fans interested in the game, however, the devs included tools to let players customize up to 32 teams.

These customization tools give you free reign to name your team, create a logo with a Photoshop-like editor, fine-tune your jersey motif, choose a home stadium, re-name players, alter your team strengths, and change the number of “gold players” your team has on both sides of the ball. To avoid ugly lawsuits with EA and the NFL, however, you cannot name your upstart franchise the exact names of NFL teams and play online with them. Anything goes in offline play, but if you want to take the Minnesota Vikings onto the field against friends online, you’ll have to be creative. One workaround I found was to use the abbreviated city or state name. Typing the name San Francisco 49ers resulted in the pop-up box telling me that the name couldn’t be used online, but when I typed SF 49ers I received no such warning.

The same applies to player names. I tried names from every era of football – Fran Tarkenton, Tommy Kramer, Tarvaris Jackson – and I received the warning about not being able to take these names online each time. Even little known quarterback Steve Dils didn’t work, which leads me to believe that Natural Motion has a database featuring the names of every player who ever donned a helmet in the NFL. To get around this, NFL fans could intentionally misspell names or just use the abbreviation technique. Having players named A. Peterson and S. Rice may not be ideal, but it’s an acceptable workaround for dedicated fans. Unfortunately, if you want to create an entire 32-team league with NFL clones, you can’t rely on some hardcore fan in another state to do the dirty work for you. Backbreaker does not feature a tool to upload and share rosters or teams with other players.

Long-time Madden players may be equally irked by the lack of player customization. You can edit the name and number of each player, but have no control over their skill ratings, size, or weight. The only way to get better players on your roster is to move the slider that controls how many gold tier players are on your roster. The skill ratings feel rather empty considering the depths to which Madden credits attributes. Each player, no matter the position, is rated in four areas – focus, agility, speed, and strength. While these ratings may be fine for creating basic skill sets, there is no way to deduce what ratings affect abilities like quarterback accuracy, zone coverage, man-to-man coverage, etc.

Not allowing gamers to adjust the size and weight of players is also frustrating considering the physics engine driving Backbreaker. With the Euphoria technology simulating the physical prowess of a player based on his muscle mass and motor skills, the game could do a great job accentuating the immovable nature of gargantuan nose tackles like Pat Williams or the strength and height advantages a stud receiver like Larry Fitzgerald has going up against a 5’9 corner. The version of the game we played did have varying player skill implemented yet, so we won’t know if this will be the case until we play the final game.

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Comments
  • graphics are poop

  • Yeah sorry needs more work. More polish.

  • madden lost me in o6,same game diff year.i agree w blapa.

  • madden lost me in o6,same game diff year.i agree w blapa.

  • Sounds like they have a ways to go to make it a good game. I think I'll just stick to my Madden for now.

  • well obviously then add a little spice to the game such as idk.......

    ....MOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAARRR ti'ts or the use of steroids?

    or make it into the most brutal football games out there....like the  corners could have chains so they can "wrap up" easier...get it?

    or the running back has the option of running naked for more speed(plus who would wanna touch a naked dude?)

    and strippers for cheerleaders!!!

    GOTY already....

  • I don't think this could live upto the madden standard

  • I for one am excited to play a fresh football game, it seems the madden nation is forgeting that madden has been making football games for 15 years. And even with the NFL with them the whole way not all there games have been good, latly they all feel the same as 5 years ago. Any company putting out a new football game with no NFL and without the $$ EA has is not going to be perfect, but here is someone trying something truly different and inovative and those are two words you cant put next to any madden title in the past ten years.

  • Looks awesome.

  • @ whoever said building a football game isn't as easy as Madden haters think. I agree but this is their FIRST try, and they're building a football game along with using never before tried physics, it's expected their going to have a lot of bumps and flaws. EA's been doing it for 10+ years, what's their excuse?

  • i'll pass. compare the things you hate about madden to the work involved in half way creating some no name team, and the generic look of this game, i'll stick with EA.

  • Wow a five-page preview?!

  • Let's get this party started guys! I haven't bought a football game since 04'.

  • One thing about this preview that really bothers me is the fact that the previewer seems completely unaware of what Euphoria is. Several different times he mentions tackle animations. Euphoria handles everything there. The game says jump this way and grab, and Euphoria kicks in and does whatever it *** well wants to do. It might be high, or low, straight or whatever. There really aren't many animations per se, at least not with the tackling. That's a very, very important factor to this game, and that almost seemed completely ignored in this preview.

    But regardless, it doesn't change my opinion on this. I'm not much of a football fan, and especially not a Madden fan. I want to give this a try only because of its uniqueness, and the more "personal" feel it gives you as a player.

  • i liked blitz 2 so I don't see why blitz quit it was a great game

  • I stated in the BB forums that if I wanted a game like Madden then I would buy Madden. I'm looking forward to this title for fun and relaxation and using my imagination when creating a team. I lost all respect for the NFL and EA years ago.

    I don't need a game that has all the bells and whistles the Madden has or tries to tell us that we need in a game. One of my favorite football games of all time was the old school arcade X's and O's with a roller ball to control everything. Yes I'm going back to my roller skating days of the late 70's and early 80's when perms and disco were all the rage!
  • Seems like it will be more of a niche title for those who are looking to fill a football fix. It might get some fans who hate EA or like the "Blitz" like experience but it doesn't appear to have the stuff to overtake Madden. There still may be time to fix the problems mentioned here, but all the hope for the next 2K may have been misplaced.

  • Staff

    @jman12343

    I'm aware of what the Euphoria engine does. It's not a canned animation system like most games use; it uses a process called dynamic motion synthesis to procedurally create animations on the fly. The tackles are still animations, they just aren't motion captured and forced into particular situations like they are in Madden.

  • This game is not looking as good as I hoped it would.

  • I'm hoping the game does well enough to get EA to buy them. That's how desperate I am for a good NFL good. I'm rooting for EA to buy up another small developer.