To go along with that visual perspective, Backbreaker also allows you to fully play the different roles on the football field. The developers know and have implemented a system where gamers can play just as important of a role away from the ball as those who have their hands on it do. You do not have to control the character with the ball at all times. You can let the AI control your ball carrier and you can run a blocker for him to ensure that he gets the first down or even scores. This is an incredibly nice change of pace for football enthusiasts as it allows the action all over the field to be experienced.
The control scheme used in Backbreaker is also light years ahead of the traditional controls used in football games. Many other game makers have tried to move their sport games to utilizing only the analog sticks and the results have been disastrous. Backbreaker nails the analog only control scheme for both offense and defense. Aside from using the A button to snap the ball and the right bumper to switch your mode (passive versus aggressive), everything that you do is controlled with one of the two analog sticks (gameplay-wise). I absolutely loved the kicking and passing mechanics in particular. Everything is done on the fly while the game is in motion; there are no “pre-set press A to stop the meter” style mechanics here. Again, much like the camera angles, it may take a little getting used to, but once I became familiar with it I grew to appreciate it immensely.
All of this sounds really, really good... and it really is, but unfortunately, Backbreaker also suffers from some serious issues that will likely turn most gamers off. First and foremost, the penalty calling in the game is not effective at all. Penalties exist in the game, but the “refs” don’t call them until well after the time in which they occur. Offsides is a perfect example; I was able to move my entire line past the line of scrimmage and behind the opponent’s quarterback and the play was allowed to continue. It isn’t until after the play has been run to completion that the penalty is called. This became very annoying when playing online against someone who would legitimately try to use it as a tactic; you end up wasting a ton of time because the game never really makes them aware of the penalty.
Backbreaker also contains a pretty limited playbook compared to the competition. Gamers should note that there is a difference between the playbooks offered in arcade versus the pro modes; in the arcade mode, the playbook is constantly being rotated and a different assortment of plays is offered depending on your situation. Switching the game over to pro mode will allow you to access the entire playbook at any time. The game, unfortunately, doesn’t spell this out for you. It wasn’t until a few hours in, when I noticed a “tip” on a loading screen that informed me that the expanded playbook was available. I can imagine that a lot of gamers will be turned off by the fact before they ever even realize that it can be rectified with a simple options change.
The worst thing is that the game is very “glitchy" at times and some of them are serious game breakers that can ruin the whole experience for you. During my time with the game, I experienced a few phantom interceptions and other turnovers. This happened on more than a few occasions; following what appeared to be a dropped pass or perhaps simply a tackle during a run, with no information provided by the game,
I would notice that I was suddenly on defense when the play selection screen came up. Needless to say, this was very annoying,
More annoying than that and the worst thing that I experienced is the games biggest Achilles heel: roughing the kicker. You should hope and pray that you never put the computer, or any opponent for that matter, in the position of kicking a punt. When your opponent punts the ball, the computer controlled defenders on your team will likely, and I mean at least 40% of the time, be called for roughing the kicker. The first time it happens, the opponent will choose to re-kick the ball... which will lead to the penalty once again. The second time, the opponents will be given possession and a first down. This became an inevitable loop for me on at least 5 occasions over the past week. The only option I would have to regain possession of the ball would be to force a turnover or let the opponent score. It is my sincere hope that this is something that can be rectified with a simple patch of the game because when it rears its ugly head, it can suck all of the fun out of Backbreaker.
It is issues such as these that I have mentioned that keep Backbreaker from reaching its true potential. The truth of the matter is, 505 and Natural Motion are onto something with the formula that they have concocted here but they still have a ways to go. Backbreaker takes most of the things that the Madden series is criticized for and shows us how it should be done. The animations, the camera angles, and the games ability to show that there are roles to be played away from the ball are just a few of the things that set this game apart. Unfortunately, the game messes up on a lot of the simpler things that it will need to nail before it can be a true contender in the market. There is a lot of fun to be had here and the customization modes will give it some long legs in terms of its lifespan, but unfortunately gamers will likely be headed back to EA’s camp when Madden 11 launches in the fall because of the shortcomings and problems with the game. Maybe next year Backbreaker... you truly have the potential to do it.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Backbreaker football leaves a lot to be desired this year, but gives gamers a TON to look forward to in the future. This game / series has more potential than perhaps any football game that I have seen before it. 505 and Natural Motion have laid a very impressive foundation for an incredible football series; unfortunately, the game has some painful glitches and issues that will keep this edition from showing the series’ true potential. The physics engine is there, the camera and gameplay changes are there... now they just need to work on some of the simpler aspects and go for Madden’s crown...
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