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    Last summer, NaturalMotion announced the development of their new football game, Backbreaker, and the nature of the game has been shrouded in mystery since that time. We've known from the beginning that Backbreaker looks to become the first sports game to implement the euphoria engine, heralded for its realistic physics simulation. Information regarding the game has come in small doses since the initial announcement, but let's take a look at what we know about Backbreaker.

    Backbreaker uses the euphoria engine, also a NaturalMotion product, to feature realistic interactive tackles produced by the engine in real-time. This technique runs in sharp contrast to the canned animations used by the other football games we've seen in the past, and it essentially means that we will never make the same tackle twice. Backbreaker utilizes motion capture animations for movements such as running and catching, but makes use of another NaturalMotion technology called morpheme to manipulate these animations in real-time. These new technologies should provide not only realistic tackles, but the most genuine all-around animations we've ever seen in a sports game. Because these movements rely on the engine rather than scores of motion capture animations, the hope is that these technologies can also save time and resources that can be better devoted to other areas of development.

    In addition to the revolutionary animations, Backbreaker employs other methods to contribute to a stimulating experience. Rendering techniques such as full self shadowing, motion blur, and color correction bring more detail to the action on the field. The impressive graphics don't stop there, as they extend to the stands where nearly a hundred thousand 3D fans respond appropriately to the game in progress. While other games settle for 2D textures for the crowd, which often stick out like a sore thumb when compared to the models on the field, Backbreaker animates the crowd in 3D. The crowd also boasts a collective AI that assures that fans react realistically to the different types of events that transpire on the field.

    In keeping with the focus of delivering a rich on-field experience, the game's Dynamic Audio system generates sounds to match the different types of collisions. The sounds heard depend on the force of the contact as well as the elements involved. The sound of clashing helmets can be clearly distinguished from the wrap tackles, leg tackles, and other distinctive sounds of the game. The aforementioned crowd enjoys the benefits of Backbreaker's sound system too, as the crowd's mood reflects in their volume and cheers. With no mention of in-game commentary as of yet, it remains to be seen whether the game will feature an announcing crew or concentrate instead on the player's perspective. Given that a third-person chase camera broadcasts the action, the latter scenario isn't out of the question.

    Right-analog stick controls have taken on a greater role in sports video games over the last few years, with much success, and Backbreaker looks to continue that trend. Madden has made use of the right analog stick for running and tackling, but Backbreaker takes these ideas to the next level. While Madden adds running controls to the right analog stick because they seemingly ran out of buttons, Backbreaker makes the sticks the primary focus of its control scheme. The right analog stick controls all moves in an intuitive fashion. A spin move, for example, is performed with a circular movement of the right analog stick.

    The notion of relying on the analog sticks for nearly all of the game's controls seems complicated at first, but NaturalMotion decided to split the control scheme into two separate modes to keep things simple. Players operating in agile mode execute moves such as juking and spinning, while players in aggressive mode – which is activated by holding the right trigger – opt for more physical solutions like stiff-arms to escape defenders. This type of control scheme applies to all aspects of the game, even passing. Quarterbacks switch between available receivers by pressing left or right on the stick, and throw by tapping up for a bullet pass, or down and then up to air it out. Holding the left trigger allows quarterbacks to zero in on the selected receiver. This ability increases the accuracy of a pass to that receiver, but it also leaves the quarterback open to a sack as the third-person camera targets the receiver.

    Earlier this month, I explained that non-licensed football games such as Backbreaker can achieve success by distinguishing themselves from Madden and creating their own niches. Backbreaker seems to be following that blueprint. Its camera and control schemes, along with the impressive physics and graphics, prove that NaturalMotion's game will be different than anything we've played before. Developers have drawn inspiration from movies like Any Given Sunday and Friday Night Lights, as well as the Nike Gridiron commercial that featured Michael Vick and Terrell Owens. These influences have brought upon a more cinematic feel and focused the action on the field rather than your living room. Regardless of how the final product turns out, we're in for a football game set on creating its own identity.

    Backbreaker releases later this year. Be sure to check back with Operation Sports as we continue to learn about Backbreaker.


Backbreaker Videos
Member Comments
# 1 DocHolliday @ 04/30/08 03:23 PM
I hope this game is cool
 
# 2 studbucket @ 04/30/08 03:33 PM
I have to say I'm excited to see how this will turn out!
 
# 3 Stroehms @ 04/30/08 03:39 PM
Hopefully all that mumbo jumbo about realistic tackles and stuff doesn't take away from gettting the game of football down IE: Rules, fields, uniforms.
 
# 4 CM Hooe @ 04/30/08 06:44 PM
The control scheme sounds pretty interesting. I'm definitely gonna give this one a try.
 
# 5 turftickler @ 04/30/08 07:06 PM
This game will own. EA sports finally has some competition outside the NFL. EA is already stepping it this year so far. Gonna be a great year for football sims.
 
# 6 Sausage @ 04/30/08 09:18 PM
I am looking so forward to this game and Prizefighter so much. I know with Backbreaker we won't get a super "franchise mode" YET, but it can't be perfect in the first try (think about it Madden is in its 20th anniversary). I believe it can do well, but it starts with us, giving it a chance.
 
# 7 Trojan Man @ 04/30/08 11:23 PM
Good article. I really liked the info on the control scheme. I have been waiting for the days of scanning for receivers again, like that old Sega game where you had to work through your progressions, and the implementation of the analog stick sounds interesting. If this game is complete, meaning if it has a full franchise mode and is relatively smooth in its playing style, I think it will have a good chance of success on the market. It certainly won't outsell Madden, but it will certainly give those of us not willing to spend another dollar on EA an outlet.
 
# 8 burnwood @ 05/01/08 12:01 AM
Digg the article folks!
 
# 9 Jethown @ 05/01/08 12:04 AM
This game has a lot of potential. I really hope it's good.
 
# 10 J-Unit40 @ 05/01/08 06:45 AM
This may be a silly question, but is this only on XBOX360? I want to check this out.
 
# 11 Behindshadows @ 05/01/08 08:28 AM
All I have to say is, if it has referee's, chaingangs, etc.

Then I'm done with Madden! Especially if the presentation and commentary kills Madden's outting this year!
 
# 12 coogrfan @ 05/01/08 08:46 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Behindshadows2
All I have to say is, if it has referee's, chaingangs, etc.

Then I'm done with Madden! Especially if the presentation and commentary kills Madden's outting this year!
As the article points out, Backbreaker's focus on the "on the field" experience makes it possible (indeed likely, imo) that there won't be any commentary at all.

Quote:
Developers have drawn inspiration from movies like Any Given Sunday and Friday Night Lights, as well as the Nike Gridiron commercial that featured Michael Vick and Terrell Owens.
Well, shoot.

So much for that...
 
# 13 orthostud23 @ 05/01/08 09:31 AM
Lets just hope it RELEASES a few weeks before MADDEN.
 
# 14 therizing02 @ 05/01/08 09:44 AM
Meh, not enough details for me yet.

The new engine sounds great though and I credit the developers for having the guts to implement it, but there are so many little things from playcalling AI, clock management, roster management, fatigue, scheduling, yada, yada....that need to be there for a football game to have longevity.

What's the big secret guys? Release the info.
 
# 15 ewto16 @ 05/01/08 10:00 AM
Unless this game is $20, I'm not buying it. It is really just a glorified tech demo to put pressure on EA to buy their technology. Assuming EA actually implemented it, instead of just sitting on it like they do the ESPN license that would be great.
 
# 16 DJ @ 05/01/08 11:03 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by ewto16
Unless this game is $20, I'm not buying it. It is really just a glorified tech demo to put pressure on EA to buy their technology. Assuming EA actually implemented it, instead of just sitting on it like they do the ESPN license that would be great.
I kind of feel the same away about this game.
 
# 17 Sausage @ 05/01/08 07:04 PM
I am also tired of people calling a demo as well. They purchase every rehash of the NFL game, but won't give this once chance. We must remember this game will not have everything perfect on there first try, but are building a real next-gen foundation in my opinion.
 
# 18 SeaNNyT @ 05/02/08 06:49 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by GTheorenHobbes
Compared to the half-assed product that EA/Tiburon charges $60 every year for, I'll take it!!
Exactly.
 
# 19 Cyros @ 05/02/08 11:48 PM
Tech demo.
 
# 20 spit_bubble @ 05/03/08 03:26 AM
Even if it were just a demonstration of a new technology it's still a lot more intriguing than any other sports game for this generation.

Sign me up.
 

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