There is another football game in town, and it's a new one: it's called Backbreaker, and it's been developed by NaturalMotion. It doesn't have an NFL license. It's not Madden. So why should anybody be interested? Well, there's the real challenge.
Madden's sales have been dropping off. Its stronghold monopoly on NFL video games remains absurd and tends to result in laziness in the game's innovations. However, there are a lot of things Madden still does right. Statistical engines, play-calling realism, and online play are still second to none. We have a soft spot for the days when 2K Football actually had a better game, and kept Madden honest. And, at first glance, Backbreaker reminds us of that game's debut back in 1999.
Scott: Backbreaker's real claim to fame is its physics engine, the same Euphoria system that's in games ranging from GTA IV to The Force Unleashed. Tackles and player motions are astonishing and fun to watch, and have less predictable outcomes than the sometimes canned-feeling Madden tackles. Backbreaker also lowers the perspective closer down to field level, creating a shaky-cam realism that aims to shake players out of the complacent eagle-eye Madden view that turns plays into living schematics.
Because Backbreaker has no NFL license, it's created a bunch of fictional teams and stadiums in the spirit of NFL Blitz. Stadium designs are often overexaggerated and colossal, and the borderline reckless feel of the game is a nice break from Madden (although it's not as vicious as Blitz). The playbook, however, is far smaller than Madden's, and the control scheme is reinvented. It's not fully explained or easy to use.
Players can customize their teams with a graphics-editing engine, inviting a lot of risque designs. Playing online against others might lead to discovering some interesting acts of creativity. It's clever, but a gimmick in the long run. Not having an NFL license is a deal-killer for any game that wants to be about football.
The real moments when Backbreaker shines are on scrambles and running plays.… Read more