Sportsman-like, we hope.
Ever since Midway fell into the black hole known as bankruptcy court, one pervading question that has been left unanswered has been whether EA’s Madden series will ever face proper competition? Of course, no one looking at the sales numbers would deem Midway's Blitz series as “proper competition”, especially without the monopolized NFL license, but at least it had a decent-sized following. Now, the only other contenders are the All-Pro Football series by 2K Sports, but their last outing was All-Pro Football 2K8 in 2007; and Asypr’s Black College Football Experience: The Doug Williams Edition, which has been criticized for rudimentary gameplay, stiff animations, and a lack of online modes. Plus, the KKK says they have issues with it.
In other words, there aren’t any contenders at all.
[image1]Enter Backbreaker, 505 Games’ and NaturalMotion’s gutsy foray into the football simulation genre, gutsy not just because it faces Madden without a home field advantage, but also because of the publisher’s and developer’s rookie experience in the video game spotlight. NaturalMotion is a Korean software company better known for its Euphoria engine (yep, that “other” kind of software), which has been used in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and Grand Theft Auto IV, and 505 Games is most known for publishing Cooking Mama 3 in the PAL territories and the recent IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey. Not the flashiest resume, to say the least.
But despite having a name that would more appropriately fit a wrestling title, Backbreaker has more than luck on its side. It touts a physics-based system that uses the Euphoria engine to simulate real-time hits, in contrast to the canned animations of those older competitors. This means that every play will have unique, true-to-life tackles, a point of difference that will hopefully be noticed and noticeable.
[image2]The camera system also offers a third-person on-the-field perspective that is intended to put you into the shoes of the player you’re controlling. Since you can use various techniques, like juke moves left and right and a turbo aggressive mode that makes your player harder to control but much faster and more resistant to tackles, the behind-the-back camera angle frames the action conveniently. The camera also follows behind you if you switch between different members on your team on the fly, which you can do at any time before or during a play, though it takes several moments for the switch to take place.
However, it’s not wise to try stiff-arming everyone that gets in your way like Adam Sandler after you tell him that water sucks. Opting not to enter aggressive mode keeps your player in an evasive stance that lets him turn, dodge, and jump with better ease. If that doesn’t sound challenging enough, you can also kick up the A.I. to a higher difficulty setting and sideline the friendlier Arcade controls for the complex but more precise Pro controls.
[image3]Otherwise, Backbreaker looks to be a solid all-around football sim: an extensive offensive and defensive playbook that can be toggled between standard and advanced plays, reactions from crowds who fill stadiums of up to 90,000 people, instant replay, a few mini-games, and a handful of multi-player options. Players can face each other on the grid-iron either in split-screen mode or online for up to four players in standard team play or cooperative 11-vs.-11 matches.
Once Backbreaker arrives on the scene, we’re going to sneak up to Madden’s gargantuan left foot, poke it with a sharp stick, and shout either “Hey, Mr. Goliath, I think we’ve found your David!” or “Hey, Goliath, I think we’ve found another sheep to squish between your toes!” Either way, we will be watching the mayhem with a fryer, popcorn, racks of meat for the grill, and buckets of face paint. Look for Backbreaker to make the opening kick in Spring 2010 for Xbox 360 and PS3.