For five years, some Madden players have annually dished out $60 to play a game they wish was simply NFL 2K5 with improved graphics. Since Electronic Arts obtained the exclusive rights to make an NFL-licensed video game, there have been several attempts by various companies to re-create a football experience sans the NFL label. We have seen new versions of the Blitz franchise as well as a new Tecmo Bowl game, but only one game, All-Pro Football 2K8, has even come close to tapping into what most gamers are looking for.
In August 2007, some were filled with hope when another football game, Backbreaker, came to the forefront. While Backbreaker started off as a nameless tech demo, NaturalMotion -- a middleware development studio that decided to try out game development -- later decided to build an entire game based on the technology used in the initial tech demo.
Now, at the start of 2010, Backbreaker has begun to take shape. While no precise release date has been announced, there have been reports that the game will hit store shelves in spring 2010.
The folks behind Backbreaker are promising that the game will change the way you experience football video games. Using the Euphoria engine (most notably seen in Grand Theft Auto IV), the declaration has been made that no two tackles will be the same -- allowing gamers to avoid all of those pesky canned animations. Another new addition is the third-person camera angle, which will follow the ball handler and show off the game’s superb graphics and animations. Clearly, these design choices have been made to make Backbreaker appealing to both the grizzled football gamers and rookie gamers alike. The goal is for anyone to be able to sit down down and enjoy a game that avoids the repetitiveness, and hopefully the frustration, some people find in something like Madden.
The gameplay in Backbreaker has been discussed quite a bit, though, it has mainly revolved around tackling as the title of the game suggests. As mentioned previously, there are no predetermined tackle or juke animations in the game -- it is all based off of how your player and the AI player are positioned when they collide.
The other previously mentioned design choice, the third-person camera angle, will give you the feeling of actually being on the field with the players. You will see a lot less of the field and the defense, which, for example, might lead to you getting blindsided while sitting in the pocket scanning for a receiver.
In addition, while running with the football there will be two separate "modes" you can be in, Evasive mode and Aggressive mode. While in Evasive mode, your player will be more elusive and agile, but is also more likely to fumble if he gets hit. In Aggressive mode, your player will use his power to knock and bowl over other players and run faster.
One of the most anticipated gameplay aspects in Backbreaker is the camera angle while on defense. You will not be experiencing your typical football game while on defense. Rather than seeing the offense at the bottom of the screen and your defense at the top, the team you are controlling will always be on the bottom. It will be interesting transitioning to an angle such as this after playing games differently for the past decade, but most people should be up for the challenge.
One worry that surrounded Backbreaker for while was whether or not there would be a franchise mode. For a while there was no answer, but now there is -- Backbreaker will indeed have its own franchise mode. All the teams and players will obviously be created by NaturalMotion (32 teams in all), and you will also be able to create your own team as well. The franchise mode will be similar to the one you find in the NFL. You will have a regular season, playoffs, free agency and draft to name a few key components.
Going back to creating a team, you will have a plethora of options -- with everything from your team’s logo and colors to the naming of its roster being customizable. Certainly nobody will create their favorite NFL team with these tools at their disposal.
Other game modes being included are the typical exhibition mode and online mode. The online mode does have some perks, but before I talk about that, there is one more mode that is sure to be a hit: Tackle Alley. This mode is pretty much identical to the Backbreaker iPhone game application. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the iPhone game, in it you go through a series of obstacles while trying to score a touchdown. Each level starts with you running towards the end zone while defenders try to stop you. As you advance through the levels, more defenders are added and some parts of the field are taken away. While this mode does seem like it is destined to get repetitive after a while, it should keep you hooked until you defeat each and every level.
Playing Backbreaker online is similar to other sports games like Madden, but unlike its main competition, it will allow users to play in a co-op mode with up to four players playing one game. Since you will have the ability to play with multiple teammates online, the online action will be kept fresh by concocting new strategies with each new teammate.
With all of this hype surrounding Backbreaker, it better be a good game. Otherwise, another football game released during the Exclusivity Era will be added to the Wall of Shame. However, this time I have a feeling the newcomer is going to come through. Backbreaker is using an engine that was not originally created for sports games, but the game seems to be using the engine to its full advantage. If every play does feel completely different than the last, this game will be exactly what some people have been asking for during the past five years.