Backbreaker review

  • Two-player split-screen
  • Hard-hitting running
  • Deep create-a-team/logo/uniform mode
  • One camera view. And it stinks
  • Controls could be simpler
  • Shallower than Madden in every way

Not many games are marketed on the strength of their physics engines, but then not many physics engines have the brand recognition of Natural Motion’s Euphoria. It’s the thing that makes bodies collide with weighty authenticity in GTA IV and Red Dead Redemption, and here it makes a first sporting venture into Madden territory.

Funnily enough, though, it’s the camera rather than the slick animation that separates Backbreaker from other football sims. If you were playing from a typical camera angle and weren’t watching the animations closely, you probably wouldn’t notice little touches like players stumbling over an outstretched leg, or a flattened quarterback struggling under the bulk of the linebacker who’s flattened him.

But you do notice in Backbreaker because you have no choice but to watch the action unfold with the camera hovering low and close behind you, at almost the same position it adopts during Gears of War’s roadie run. While this is the most dramatic camera angle when you’re a wide receiver, taking a catch and running head-on towards the last line of defense, it’s just a bit of a mess in crowded areas.

You can’t see which player you’re going to switch to next. You can’t tell who’s in space and who’s being marked out of the play. And if you’re the quarterback peeking over a sea of towering linemen toward a receiver on the left, you can’t see anything at all on the right hand side of the field.

It’s a shame, because there’s a competent football game to be coaxed out of Backbreaker’s basic concept. The simple twin-stick controls work okay - though we'd much rather use the face buttons rather than the analog stick to select a receiver. But thanks to its arcade camera, shallower AI and sluggish responsiveness even in the statistically fleet-footed players, Backbreaker favors quick reflexes over strategy. The developers probably should have leaned more towards something along the lines of Blitz: The League.

The basic graphics, incessant crap rock music, weak stadium commentary and shortage of bonus modes make this questionable value at retail alongside the likes of Madden, but it would have made a high-end downloadable title. Despite that, it’s certainly different, and if they don’t persist with a sequel maybe they could sell the tech to EA.

More Info

Available Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
Genre: Sports
Published by: 505 Games
Developed by: NaturalMotion
ESRB Rating:
Rating Pending


  • MitsuharuSan - June 9, 2010 9:52 p.m.

    PS.: Just would like to clear up that I was referring to both Backbreaker and Madden when I was talking about my friend.
  • MitsuharuSan - June 9, 2010 9:50 p.m.

    @infestedandy: the problem is that the intention is different. This is not meant to be a Madden-sim-even-to-ridiculous-details thing. It would be fair if they were both trying to do the same thing, but they're not, at least that's how I see it (and other people, who are complaining about the same thing I did). It's like comparing Smackdown vs. Raw to this new game announced, WWE All-Stars. Can you REALLY compare both and say wich one is better since they're aiming at different things? IMO, no way. A friend of mine who has the game is enjoying both and that's what I'm trying to point out here. I hope you don't get me wrong and understand what I'm saying. I think people should be less Madden-biased, that's all. Some people take reviews as the Bible and that's why I think they (reviews) should try to see things from different angles. Saying it's "not as good and people should know about it" is exactly what is proving my point.
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  • JohnnyMaverik - June 9, 2010 9:55 a.m.

    @ infestedandy - 10 hours 18 minutes ago Gears is a third person shooter and Haze is an FPS... other than that I see what you were trying to say.
  • ultimatepunchrod - June 9, 2010 3:11 a.m.

    i really thought the idea was really cool for this game. you play as the player you have selected. you see what they see and first person would have been dumb so they put it in third person. i really think this was a cool thing, but i havent played it. the general consensus is that its got good ideas but its not polished. also, it cant be as deep as madden because they have no official teams; i think its a little unfair to compare them. this seems like a fairly low budget game, so i think they did there best with what they had.
  • AngryAmoeba - June 9, 2010 2:45 a.m.

    i wouldn't say it's shallower than madden in EVERY way... obviously the one point where that isn't true is the physics. i haven't seen any past sports game that so convincingly portrays the physical, athletic aspect of the sport. physics are so, so right for sports games. i can't wait to see more physics in more sports games, until every aspect is governed by physics simulation—player movement and contact, the power of their muscles, the point at which their ligaments tear and their bones snap, etc.
  • Jayler - June 9, 2010 12:33 a.m.

    ive been watching this game since the videos first started coming out. i bought it as soon as it came out and have been playing it since. the only problem i have with it is how easily barely tapping the back of one of your on lineman when running the ball can send you crumbling to the ground. but i abolutely love the analog stick controls, it just feels more realistic to twist the right stick around rather than just press b to spin
  • infestedandy - June 8, 2010 11:33 p.m.

    It's a football game thus comparisons to Madden are inevitable. They know it's different than Madden, it's just not as good and they want people to know that. If someone were to ask if Haze or Gears of War is better, what would you say? While they both have nothing in common besides bullets, dudes, and being a shooter, one is clearly the better game. You nor anyone could defend Haze anyway. I just vomited.
  • MitsuharuSan - June 8, 2010 11:07 p.m.

    I'm not even into football... But could people PLEASE stop comparing this to Madden? Different game, different intention. Move on.

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