Backbreaker has been a long, long time in the making. There were lots of times when the release date got pushed back that people started to call this game “vaporware”. For those of you that have been under a rock, Backbreaker is the debut title from Natural Motion. There are a lot of you that are saying, who the heck is Natural Motion? Well you may not know their name, but trust me you know their work and more importantly you know their game changing physics engine called euphoria. Natural Motion’s euphoria engine has been used in such blockbusters as Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and the latest installment in Rockstar’s flagship Grand Theft Auto franchise, Grand Theft Auto IV. But enough background, so you guys want to know the answer to the question in the title right?
So as you start Backbreaker, I definitely suggest you hit the tutorial up and hit it hard because this is definitely not your mother’s football game. The tutorial is simple and easy to follow. The game utilizes several unique controls that just won’t feel natural to most players, but I won’t say they are bad just different. Any football game that comes out will be inevitably be compared to Madden and that just really isn’t fair. Backbreaker doesn’t look, feel, or play like Madden so don’t expect it to. In fact it doesn’t share really any similarity to it at all besides the fact that its a football game. The only way to break a game like this down is in pieces, so here we go.
In Backbreaker, the running game is done pretty much from a first person perspective and its an interesting way to play. The actual gameplay itself is pretty fun, though its a real struggle to gain any kind of decent yardage consistently. This becomes frustrating as you can’t really get into a flow and in order to want to keep playing something you need to feel like you are getting better at it and you just won’t start to feel that way. When it comes down to it this was a great idea it just doesn’t get executed as well as intended.
So maybe I am just terrible or something, but I found passing to be ridiculously difficult. The tutorial on this one is deceptive, well except for the lob pass that is even hard in the tutorial. Backbreaker uses a multi-button combination to effectively pass the ball and this just forces the player to think to much and thus it never feels natural. Again, this is something that is a great concept on paper, yet once applied it just doesn’t deliver.
The defensive controls aren’t as bad as the offensive ones but feel inconsistent at best and erratic at worst. The game’s claim that you will never see the same tackle twice holds true, but there aren’t any really defining tackle animations. Each tackle is unique, but I don’t know if I would call all of them natural. In Backbreaker, there isn’t any user control when it comes to interceptions, its all based on actual player positioning so if you are in the right place then most of the time you make the pick.
The game doesn’t get any easier online, but it is distinctively more fun when playing against another person. The overall performance online isn’t great but its acceptable.
The final call on Backbreaker is that it is a game that had much more promise than it actually delivers on. To make a football title these days is to be compared to Madden and that’s a heck of an expectation to live up to. I think the folks at Natural Motion did a lot to differentiate Backbreaker from Madden which is commendable, however, the cost was that I think they over complicated the control scheme and took away the gamers ability to get into a grove. Backbreaker is a bit of an enigma, its not a true football simulation like Madden but it isn’t quite as arcade as Blitz, it just doesn’t know what it wants to be. Don’t get me wrong, Backbreaker has its moments, just not nearly enough of them. If you just need a football fix and you can’t wait another month for NCAA 11, then pick up Backbreaker though I wouldn’t buy it new. With that said ZoKnowsGaming gives Natural Motion’s Backbreaker a 6 out of 10.