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OS Scores Explained Backbreaker Vengeance Overview (Xbox 360)
Pros
Best animations in a sports title to date, awesome Euphoria moments, innovative and fresh ideas
Cons
Can't save or upload replays, online lag can be quite awful, two-player limit in Supremacy mode
Bottom Line
Backbreaker Vengeance will make you smile. It should remind you that sports games don't need to play by all the rules to be raucously fun.
8.5
out of 10
Backbreaker Vengeance REVIEW

Backbreaker Vengeance Review (Xbox 360)

Read about how we complete our reviews. You can check out the review process here, and then you can scope out the scoring guidelines and scoring rubric.

Gameplay

Remember playing outdoor games like Steal the Bacon, Capture the Flag and Muckle at recess?

Rushing in, you boldly take the ball. Defenders are everywhere, but somehow your body and this ball have to get around the wet mulch pile, over the wooden bench, through the foursquare area and finally into the clear. You turn around, taunt the panting defenders by holding the ball just out of their grasp, and then you flex your muscles just like Hulk Hogan.

Playing Backbreaker Vengeance's centerpiece mode, Tackle Alley, is like reliving a childhood game of recess.

Defenders are relentless in pursuit, running into each other, plowing over tackle dummies and launching their bodies into barricades just to trip you up and reset your score to zero. The defense will break into celebratory taunts, treating each successful tackle like a Super Bowl victory. However, at various points the defenders will inevitably still have to watch you back flip and cartwheel into the end zone while they hug their thigh pads and hang their heads in shame.

Generally speaking, expect the defense to be doing most of the trash talking in Backbreaker Vengeance. By around the tenth challenge, the difficulty reaches the point where clearing each obstacle course requires both an intelligent plan of attack and near-perfect precision on the controls.

Trying to complete the tougher challenges of Tackle Alley forces you to get into that fabled "zone" people always talk about. During those moments, you will watch the bodies swarm around you, falling for spins, jukes and hurdles, with rejected tacklers dropping to the ground as if sniped from the sidelines by an angry, trigger-happy coach.


Forget the Tecmo Bowl remake that just came out on iPhone, Backbreaker Vengeance's Tackle Alley mode is exactly what an old-school throwback should play like. Fans of score-based arcade games like Robotron 2084, Smash TV and Super Monkey Ball have found their next challenge.

One of the other major modes in the game is Supremacy mode. It's kind of like the "track" portions in Konami's four-player Track and Field arcade games, except all four players are on the track at the same time, moving freely instead of being confined to running lanes.

Supremacy mode actually gives you extra points for pushing other players into laser death zones or knocking them headfirst into a hurdle -- take that, sportsmanship. Oh, and the best part is the guy with the lowest score after each wave gets to start at the other end of the course on the next wave and come charging at everybody else, bayonet-style.

Two drawbacks keep Supremacy mode from taking gold:

  • There is a two-console online limit, meaning the only way to have four human players in an online game is to add a split-screen player on each console.
  • Unlike Tackle Alley and Vengeance modes, which have 100 waves, Supremacy mode includes only 50 waves.

Still, for multiplayer hijinks and hilarity, Supremacy can't be beat.

Lastly, maybe you aren't brave enough to play Tackle Alley or Supremacy modes. Maybe what you want isn't to be hurt, but to hurt others. Well, then you might want to check out Vengeance mode.

See that guy over there by the bleachers in the jersey with number one on it? The one with "Jackaus" written on his back? Yeah, he's been going around saying he can beat you in a footrace to the end zone.

I bet that's one person in particular you'd really like to hurt. But to get to him, you've got to go through all his buddies first because he's smart enough to know he'd never last a second in the open field.


So you juke around several fat linemen, blast through a skinny safety, and you sprint to catch up to the high-stepping Jackaus at the goal line. While his head is turned the other way, still high stepping while blowing a kiss to his girlfriend, you pop him right in the mouth.

The ball comes spurting out, bouncing over to the crowd, dying appropriately at his girlfriend's feet. You stand over his shaken frame and yell "How's that grass taste, Jackaus?"

Sure, that's a dramatization of how it all goes down, but you have to take some narrative leaps in your mind when it comes to Backbreaker.

Presentation

Comparing the original Tackle Alley to Backbreaker Vengeance is like comparing the rinky-dinky arcade version of Mario Bros. to its NES sequel, Super Mario Bros. Right away, the graphical improvements are stunning. Stadiums look spectacular, with full 3-D crowds and huge light structures glaring down from above. Rain turns the field into a big green slippery mess, as players go squirting out of each other's grasp during collisions.

The player models, a major complaint in the original Backbreaker, look less like squat action figures and more like average NFL players. Running feels responsive and realistic because you have to develop the habit of releasing the right trigger during sharp turns before accelerating out of the apex, just as you would in racing simulations like Forza or Gran Turismo.

Camera angles are cleaner, creating a greater view of the field. There is slight clipping on the dive and hurdle animations, but it's detectable only on super-slow-motion replays, and most likely it was a design decision to keep the dive and hurdle moves from failing 90 percent of the time due to "shoestring" mid-air frame collisions.

Everything on the field has more presence. Laser death zones light up and flash when tripped. Point markers disintegrate upon contact before teleporting into your on-screen point total. Newly introduced tackle dummies and hurdle barricades play a key role in Backbreaker Vengeance's design. Many levels have multiple paths, forcing the player to choose whether to interact with non-living objects (worth a maximum of 250 points each) or take on live tacklers (worth a maximum 500 of points apiece).

But some of Backbreaker Vengeance's best moments occur when players collide with the course obstacles in unintended, hilarious ways -- an impossibility in the first Tackle Alley mode since the courses were totally bare aside from the conga lines of tacklers.


Even the in-game audio has been remixed, fixing the original Backbreaker's overdone crowd noise between plays. It's also lights out, game over for P.O.D. and fans of cheesy licensed music. Backbreaker Vengeance's soundtrack includes original hip-hop instrumentals, which sets an intense, combative mood for the game without getting vulgar or dopey.

One negative is that Backbreaker Vengeance does not include any way to save or download instant replays. So forget popcorn, in Vengeance you'll want to get your camcorder ready because stunning, stand-up-and-shout moments happen quite frequently, and if you don't capture them right after the play's over, a unique moment will be lost forever.

Online Play

Be prepared to deal with lag if you take Backbreaker Vengeance online. Input delay forces you to time your button presses early, and depending on the connection between you and your opponent, this can either make the game impossible to play or simply a minor adjustment that takes a wave or two to adjust to.

As a tale of two games:

  • It once took me over an hour to complete five waves of a single Tackle Alley challenge against a random opponent, simply because neither of us could deal with the crippling input lag.
  • Playing defense in Supremacy mode online, I had one of the best moments I've seen in the game so far when a friend ran straight at me full speed, tried to hurdle my tackle, but in mid-flight I smacked his left shoe with the crown of my helmet, sending him sprawling to the ground while the forward momentum of my tackle carried me into the defender trailing behind him, taking him out of the wave and awarding me the gold trophy.


The moral of the story is that you need to choose your opponents wisely. If you play with friends who have fast internet connections and are near your geographic location, then you're likely to love Backbreaker Vengeance's online play. If you don't, you'll likely never return to it.


Leaderboards

Online leaderboards are available for all three of Backbreaker Vengeance's game modes. A cumulative leaderboard also totals up all your points across the entire game.

Leaderboards are separated into offline and online, but there's little reason to compete in the online ladder, given Backbreaker Vengeance's latency problems with random opponents, and the fact that a player can quit on you once you build a lead -- the ranking system will act as if the game never took place.

Offline leaderboards, whether you're simply trying to one-up your friends' scores or looking to become the best Backbreaker Vengeance player in the world, offer the most incentive to keep coming back to the game and bettering your scores.

One final note about leaderboards is that an online leaderboard reset occurred a few days after Backbreaker Vengeance's Xbox Live Arcade release. At first this was confusing, but I later found out the online leaderboards reset each month. So don't be freaked out if your scores vanish from the leaderboard each month, it's actually a design decision.

Final Thoughts

Backbreaker Vengeance is the best Xbox Live Arcade sports game since Trials HD, the best sports game so far this year in my book, and the best football experience since Online Dynasty/Franchise mode came to the EA Sports football games.

Technical faults like online lag and the inability to save replays keep Backbreaker Vengeance from Hall of Fame status, but the core gameplay is so satisfying, and the entire experience is so well designed that it's easy to overlook the game's few shortcomings.

Simply put, Backbreaker Vengeance should be considered a new standard for football gaming.


Visuals: You will not find a sports game that animates better on the Xbox 360.

Audio: Slick, original hip-hop beats keep you hyped between plays, while the immersive on-field audio has your brain believing that your body's out there performing on the field.

Control Scheme: Vengeance mode could have used a quick 180-degree turn button, but otherwise, the redesigned controls feel great and do everything they need to. With practice, players will hit "the zone," performing long combinations of spins, hurdles and slides.

Learning Curve: Practice and trial-and-error gameplay might lead to frustration in other game franchises, but the Euphoria physics engine keeps waves playing out differently and feeling fresh. You will replay levels over and over again, trying out new tactics to improve your score. It also doesn't hurt that the reward for failing a wave is getting to watch painful contortions of the human body from multiple camera angles in slow-motion.

Lasting Appeal: With 250 waves spread across three game modes, online leaderboards, online play with friends, four tiers of medals to earn and 30 uniforms to unlock, it will take a while before you run out of things to do in Backbreaker Vengeance. And that's without mentioning the star of the game, the Euphoria physics engine, which creates unlimited replayability by ensuring no two player interactions in Backbreaker Vengeance are ever the same.

Score: 8.5 (Great)


Backbreaker Vengeance Videos
Member Comments
# 1 jaosming @ 07/04/11 01:41 PM
nice review man
 
# 2 Spin @ 07/04/11 01:49 PM
Good review
 
# 3 Sublime12089 @ 07/04/11 02:07 PM
I disagree, but then again, arcade games aren't my cup of tea. At the same time, I do not understand how it receives the same rating as The Show. From what I played of the demo, despite nice animations, vengeance was shallow, repetitive, and overpriced. I, for one, will pass.
 
# 4 EUBlink @ 07/04/11 02:10 PM
Although 8.5 seems a little high, this is the most realistic review I've seen yet for this game. All other reviewers seem to have played five minutes of the demo, and jumped on the hatred bandwagon without seeing its true depth and beauty in the animations.

Again, excellent review. So glad I ignored the initial reviews and bought this game anyway.
 
# 5 jyoung @ 07/04/11 02:42 PM
The depth in this game comes from the scoring system and figuring out the optimal path in each level that will produce the most points.

It takes a lot of thought, practice, and trial-and-error to find the right paths, and in the later levels, a whole lot of precision to pull off the moves in sequence on the sticks.

Definitely not for all sports fans, but if you love challenging, arcade style games, this is the best one to come along since Trials HD in 2009.
 
# 6 StL_RamZ @ 07/04/11 02:47 PM
Luv this game and great write up...they should have a DLC that includes "free for all" or as others call it "kill a man" they could have frm 4-10 players it will really use the engine to the fullest...and I will pay for it...
 
# 7 ChaseB @ 07/04/11 02:50 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by BIGFOOT999
I disagree, but then again, arcade games aren't my cup of tea. At the same time, I do not understand how it receives the same rating as The Show. From what I played of the demo, despite nice animations, vengeance was shallow, repetitive, and overpriced. I, for one, will pass.
You're comparing a downloadable arcade football game to a full-priced baseball game, that's your first mistake.
 
# 8 mestevo @ 07/04/11 02:58 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by BIGFOOT999
I disagree, but then again, arcade games aren't my cup of tea. At the same time, I do not understand how it receives the same rating as The Show. From what I played of the demo, despite nice animations, vengeance was shallow, repetitive, and overpriced. I, for one, will pass.
Agree, I don't think this game is 1.5 away from perfect, and surprised it's an 8.5 with comments like 'but you have to take some narrative leaps in your mind when it comes to Backbreaker' and half the online section dedicated to awful lag (taking an hour to complete 5 waves... ) concluding it's a boom or bust mode... so bad that the online leader boards are characterized as worthless.

The links in this review referring to the review criteria and the Tecmo Bowl Impressions (which was kinda made fun of in this review... also was rated an 8.5...) are broken and just take you to the reviews list.

Also, there's this line:

Quote:
There is a two-console online limit, meaning the only way to have four human players in an online game is to add a split-screen player on each console.
I am pretty sure there's no 4-player under any circumstances... was this written when this was still vague and then impressions were filled in? I can only imagine how bad the game would be with 4 players, given the near universal complaints about lag so far with just 1v1.
 
# 9 Sublime12089 @ 07/04/11 03:03 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChaseB
You're comparing a downloadable arcade football game to a full-priced baseball game, that's your first mistake.
Agreed, but even with the price difference, I do not see it being as worthy of such a score as the show, or within .5 of NCAA 11 and NBA 2k11, especially with the strides those latter franchises made in one cycle.

Again, arcade games like this are not really my thing (Although I did enjoy Trials HD), but I just don't see an 8.5 even through a different lens. I would put it somewhere between the abysmal scores it has received from other publications.

All that said, I sincerely hope everyone who purchases it has a great time with it and is happy with their decision!
 
# 10 Kevin26385 @ 07/04/11 03:27 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by BIGFOOT999
Agreed, but even with the price difference, I do not see it being as worthy of such a score as the show, or within .5 of NCAA 11 and NBA 2k11, especially with the strides those latter franchises made in one cycle.

Again, arcade games like this are not really my thing (Although I did enjoy Trials HD), but I just don't see an 8.5 even through a different lens. I would put it somewhere between the abysmal scores it has received from other publications.

All that said, I sincerely hope everyone who purchases it has a great time with it and is happy with their decision!
He is reviewing it as an arcade title though...Not a retail game.
 
# 11 Sublime12089 @ 07/04/11 04:30 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kev5890
He is reviewing it as an arcade title though...Not a retail game.
Again, I understand that and still respectfully disagree with the score.
 
# 12 jyoung @ 07/04/11 04:33 PM
I am having more fun with this $15 arcade game than any $60 retail sports game to come out this year.

To each his/her own.

Personally, I miss the days when games could just be fun and we didn't automatically have to qualify everything as "sim" or "arcade" like one was a part of a bourgeoisie class and the other was doodoo for simpleton groundlings.

You will not lose IQ any points if you happen to have fun with this game. Heck, you might even have to strap on your thinking cap on to beat some of the later levels, as they are grueling tests of skill and creativity.

Each level in this game is like a puzzle you have to solve, and even after you find the answer, you still have to go out on the field and perform the solution under pressure from a frothing mad defense and a ticking clock.
 
# 13 LingeringRegime @ 07/04/11 06:02 PM
Too bad this isn't coming out for PS3 users. That's a shame.
 
# 14 Tatguy80 @ 07/04/11 06:36 PM
Just letting everyone know, that Backbreaker Vengeance is free right now, in the Apps store.
 
# 15 coogrfan @ 07/04/11 07:33 PM
8.5 for a glorified demo? Ohhhhh-kay.
 
# 16 H to the Oza @ 07/04/11 11:50 PM
tried the trial version. Not bad, was a big fan of vengeance mode
 
# 17 jWILL253 @ 07/05/11 11:58 AM
Not the best review I read. Is he reviewing the game, or is he daydreaming?
 
# 18 jyoung @ 07/05/11 02:04 PM
What a game like MLB: The Show (8.5) is to "sim" sports games, Backbreaker: Vengeance (8.5) is to "arcade" games -- the best at its style of game.

They are two great video games, just different style.

Maybe you don't enjoy the arcade style, but that doesn't make the game bad.

Personally, I don't like MLB: The Show because I find baseball sims to be slow and boring, but I can still recognize the elements that make it a great game and appreciate it for what it is.

It's a shame that arcade sports games basically get treated as the Rodney Dangerfield of our industry:

 
# 19 Phobia @ 07/05/11 03:18 PM
I have held off given my impressions of the game because I wanted to really get into it and get a good view of the game. I been playing it now for close to a week now. This is my honest impressions of the product.

Graphics - The graphics have received a noticeable improvement over the original full retail product. Lighting looks excellent and the player models have been tweaked to have better proportions. Great graphics and excellent little touches.

Presentation & Menu - The menu is extremely easy to navigate, is really clean, and pops off the screen nicely. On the presentation side of things, you have a some what dry presentation. I guess more resources went towards the actually gameplay and challenges than this area. It is not horrible but does feel a bit "empty" at times.

Sound - Sound effects are pretty good. They consist of your typical grunts, groans, and Agggs of tackles and contact. It sounds good, nothing to write home about as being amazing or anything but good.

Gameplay - The true heart and soul of the game. Well lets just say FUN AS ALL HELL!!! I think that is the jist of what Chad's review was also. The game is just flat out a blast to play! I have tend to play online the most and my first time touching the game was online. So the noticeable delay on inputs I did not even know was because of online, I just thought that is how it felt. But played my first time for several hours online just having a ball blasting others, juking guys out their shoes, hurdling tacklers, and making myself look like a idiot while I ran straight into walls without jumping lol.

In the end once I got use to the game, the mechanics of it, how the game modes function and so on. I must say if you have 15 bucks to spare, get the damn game. It is a blast to play, it really is. I really don't know what else needs to be said, yea it is a arcade based game and yea it is not extremely realistic. Clear your mind of those thoughts and go into the game with the mind set of old school gaming. "I am going to sit down and play this GAME and have a blast doing so". You will leave the game several hours later rethinking "How could i have done that challenge differently???" or "LOL WOW that was crazy!!!"

I know this was really short and not in-depth at all. Take it for what it is guys. A arcade game based around football that really came out FUN to play. Nothing wrong with that and takes nothing away from "sim" games.

Score = Lets do this a better route (Since some people don't like numbers)

B+
 
# 20 SportsGamerShow @ 07/05/11 06:05 PM
After playing Vengeance, I want to see 505/Natural Motion give the 11-on-11 game another shot. The Euphoria engine is great and its too good NOT to make a football sim out of it.

Although Vengeance is short-lived fun, the modes get boring fast IMO.
 

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