Backbreaker Demo Impressions

Posted May 25th, 2010 at 10:41 am

After much recent anticipation, largely driven by the lack of gameplay videos and impressions so close its release date, the Backbreaker demo arrived for the Xbox 360. Reaction has been mixed with most gamers enjoying the Euphoria physics, polarization on the single camera angle, and the troubling CPU AI leading to the most concern. Continue on to read through my thoughts on the demo so far and leave yours in the comments!

The actual demo structure is fantastic. Natural Motion built a great demo by including drills, Tackle Alley, and six teams for exhibition. This was a great way to ease people into the game by helping to teach various aspects instead of just throwing everyone in cold. Having only the couple two minute quarters hampers the flow but there seems to be enough plays being called in each demo run-through to get a decent feel for things.

I have been caught off guard by how much of an impact the organic feel of the player interaction and tackling provides. The desire is there to watch the replay after every single event on the field because of it. The variety seen due to the physics system pretty incredible and refreshing. I’ve always enjoyed sports games it felt as though anything could happen at any moment and Backbreaker delivers in that area.

There is no doubt that Backbreaker will be popular with the crowd that creates highlight reels and posts videos. I’ve already watched many of them myself. Too bad we don’t know if they built in a way to easily save and share highlights which probably means they didn’t. Also, sadly, the instant replay functionality is terribly restricted locking in on the exact perspective that was witnessed during the play. There is no way to change the perspective so a lot will be missed.

At first I wanted to turn off the auto-replays but then decided to keep them on. The only way you can see what actually happened on half the plays because of camera positioning is to watch the replay. Unfortunately for some reason there don’t seem to be auto-replays on some first downs or touchdowns and those are instances where I’d likely want to see a replay. I also wish on kickoffs the auto-replays wouldn’t start from the very beginning because there is no way I’m sitting through the entirety of the play in order to see the end of it.

My favorite aspects of the game are kickoffs and kick returns, those are very exciting and usually end with cool looking hits. As much as everyone seems to enjoy Tackle Alley I think a mini-game involving returns would be just as fun if not more so. I also am really enjoying the run game which is a little surprising to me. The camera hasn’t been as much of a detriment there as I had expected. I’ve picked up good chunks of yardage while feeling as though I was being aided by great blocking. I’ve also gotten blown up or tripped up but haven’t gotten frustrated by those outcomes as the results felt justified based on how the plays developed. Overall it is a satisfying feeling that comes with picking up yardage on the ground.

Its a shame they didn’t include any option for different camera angles with at least one being of the more traditional sort. Understanding that the vision was for this to be an on-the-field experience I think the game would’ve played well even from a more standard camera angle. While it might lose some of the intensity it also would be without some of the frustrations and restrictions of using the current zoomed camera. Even though with the controls they wanted to push use of the right stick they still offered a different control scheme as an option. They should have done the same for camera angles. Offering options is always a good thing. This takes me back to how EA Sports had the “vision” of Fight Night Round 4 with only analog controls and they ended up regretting that decision and eventually patched in an option for button controls (but it was already too late).

Control wise there is just too much reliance on the right stick. Oftentimes it isn’t responsive or it registers it as something else because it is difficult to be precise when in pressure situations. The example I’ve experienced the most is when trying to scan receivers side to side with the stick and it throws a pass in thinking I pushed up. The lob pass often doesn’t work too using the stick. Needless to say when those things go wrong they usually doesn’t end well. Thankfully NM implemented a different control scheme that moves the right stick actions onto the buttons and that is much more user friendly.

The offensive output by the CPU has been pitiful. I’ve yet to give up more than a couple first downs on a single drive and still haven’t been scored on. The biggest reason is that the CPU turns the ball over a lot. In four minutes of gameplay it’s been close to an average of three picks thrown by the CPU. In the final demo video I posted I had three picks in three drives off the best offensive team in the game. That was with me being out of the play in all instances and the CPU just making bad passes.

If that were to correlate the same when playing with longer quarters that would be incredibly messy. No matter how great the physics are I would not be able to play a football game if the CPU throws 10+ picks each time out. At this rate in a game with eight minute quarters the CPU would throw around 24 picks a game. That sounds crazy but even going with two picks in a four minute demo would mean 16 of them in an eight minute quarter game. It may end up being that stats aren’t going to be realistic. The game may have been built for something like four minute quarters. The rate of INTs remains a huge problem regardless of quarter length though.

The CPU goes with a jump pass way too often, whether it be springing forward or backwards, many times resulting in an interception. These aren’t instances where jumping to make a pass even would make some sense as the CPU would have been better off with their feet set. Hopefully this is addressed in a patch. While the CPU has gotten at least a few completed passes on me the running game hasn’t been very effective at all. With the high number of sacks the QB takes the CPU has been in a lot of passing situations taking them out of the run game as much of an option anyway.

The passing game for the user is something that is going to hamper the game enjoyment for me, I just don’t think I’ll be able to get past it because of the camera angle and being forced to scan through receivers with the stick. While I’m certain I’ll get a little more comfortable with it and improve, in the end it’s obvious I’m just going to feel like I’m throwing and praying. It’s difficult to scan the field because of the camera angle, too much time is needed to change receiver targets (forget going from one side of the field to the other), and the pass rush gets to the QB very quickly in most cases. This has led to me either just locking in on a single receiver or making a guess and just throwing the ball up. There isn’t enough time to do much else.

So I dislike the process of scanning receivers and I also dislike the lob pass functionality. Understanding that the idea is to replicate the time needed to really get behind a big throw, that is less my issue as it is that the lob doesn’t register most of the time. I end up just throwing a bullet pass when I wanted a lob which means good chance of INT. Actually in the drill I don’t think it works at all (heard from others on this too) but in the game I’ve been able to get some lobs out. Problem is I can’t rely on it and it scares me that in going for a lob pass it may not register correctly so I’ve started to shy away from throwing deep bombs because of that. Again though the alternate control scheme solves some of this.

The CPU defensive back AI has been terrible in instances where they aren’t running in stride. When they continue to run in stride they seem to play the ball pretty well. If they stop (like on a comeback route or a pass lobbed up for grabs) they’ll start to go the wrong way, make a terrible attempt at the ball, or just stand there. Several times I’ve completed passes with multiple defenders in the area who played the ball horribly wrong. They’ve just stood there and watched the ball go over their heads or watched the receiver make an easy catch.

I’ve seen a lot of people talking about how they believe the defensive side of the ball is the worst part of the game due to the camera angle. I actually don’t feel that way, but I think it’s due to my experience in career modes or player lock in NCAA and Madden. The big problem comes in when switching players. So I don’t switch players, I just stick with my guy throughout each play. The camera shifts when switching players are jarring and disorienting. You don’t know who you will be switched to so it is impossible to react properly. There was one time where I thought the play was maybe over (I was on the opposite side of the field) and hit A to switch just to see…only to find out I was then controlling a guy who had picked off a pass and I ran out of bounds accidentally when I may have been able to return it for a TD.

Penalties have been really iffy to say the least. I’ve seen roughing the passer called in multiple situations when it shouldn’t have been. I have seen a pass interference properly called in two instances, called once when there was clearly no interference, and in several other situations seen receivers taken completely out before the ball arrives and no penalty called. There also seems to be an issue with roughing the kicker (primarily on punts) where your CPU controlled players commit the penalty way too often and out of the user’s control. I haven’t seen this one much but it has been widely reported.

Exploits have already been found with QB sneaks and the blocking of punts and field goals. These things could really damage the online play experience. The QB sneak problem, combined with the ability to no-huddle because of the lack of fatigue and not having to worry about injuries, could ruin online play. If blocked punts and kicks are prevalent online everyone will end up going for it on 4th downs.

  • Since the CPU hasn’t scored on me I can’t confirm this but I’ve heard that the CPU misses a lot of extra points and field goals.
  • Need to stop the clock while on defense and short on timeouts? An encroachment penalty actually results in a clock stoppage.
  • Things like no fatigue, injuries, hot routes, and sliders wouldn’t really bother me in a demo. Those things will certainly affect my feeling on the full game however.
  • Really neat having the ability to change the camera positioning when in certain presentational situations like the team walkout and on kickoffs. Unfortunately its the same scene every time so it’ll be skipped past in most instances but a cool idea that could be expanded on for the future.
  • Anyone else find it ironic that Backbreaker has a similar Jumbotron animation after plays (such as “First Down”, “Sacked”, “Timeout”) that has gotten such hatred towards in Madden the past few years? Get rid of it please in both games!

Euphoria is implemented very well and the game is exciting and refreshing primarily because of that. Camera issues, unfriendly default controls, and terrible CPU AI are dragging down the overall experience. If there is a Backbreaker 2 then additional camera angles, vastly improved AI, better presentation, and refined controls will likely be where the focus needs to be (just based on what we’ve found with the demo).

Hopefully some of those things could even be worked on through a patch for Backbreaker. Certainly at the very least the exploits that are being found and the CPU AI are necessary areas to target in a patch. I went into the Backbreaker uncertain if Euphoria would work for a full-fledged football game. I now feel confident it can, which is an achievement in itself, however it doesn’t make for a complete game on its own. Based on the demo it just isn’t enough due to the wide ranging issues on hand. We’ll have to wait and see how those issues carry over into the full version of the game.

  • Gregg

    Totally agree. The AI is horrible. And I can see why some might like the camera angle but I hate it and won't buy the game because of that.

  • kris

    Great write-up Pasta. Thanks for taking the time to really judge the game with a level head. Ive read way too many people who are overhyping the game and others who are just bashing it.

  • u_2

    the number of turnovers is probably my biggest worry. but that the cpu offense sucks so bad at least there would be online play. then i read about the exploits lol. so maybe this game just isnt worth buying and ill just wait for ncaa. plenty of other things to play until then.


    I personally like the game but understandably it needs work in order to compete with Madden series for over 20 years. Which says this game doesn't stand a sporting chance because the legacy of Madden. Now if they lower the price and continues to improve the gameplay and less on other stuff. What this would do is entice people to play the game more because of gameplay. Remeber when it comes to sports games it is ALL ABOUT THE GAMEPLAY. Everything else is extra.

  • “Since the CPU hasn’t scored on me I can’t confirm this but I’ve heard that the CPU misses a lot of extra points and field goals” The first 7 words are great. What a joke of a game!

  • DonVCorleone (PSN)

    if this game stinks, ill go back to apf 2k8 & nfl 2k5

    in no way will i buy another madden 2003 with updated rosters.

  • UNEE

    I gave it a fair shot but other than the tackling it was no good so deleted and forgotten about.

  • Keith.

    Can't wait for this game. It's been a dark 6 years of videogame football with Tiburon at the helm. Finally, we'll get a game where the football actually spins the right way, and the OL/DL interaction isn't ridiculous looking like it is with Tiburon's mess of a game.

  • Chris

    Saw this one coming. What was funny was on OS the 100+ posts of “OMG BEST DEMO EVER MADE F**K MADDEN!!!!”

  • Kevin

    Well, I agree with some of what you said, and some I just think you were misinformed. The replay system in the demo was a very limited version of what will be included in the final version. How do you think they make the video using cool camera angles? They have a more in depth version of the replay system so that's not too bad. Also, the difficulty of the game is something you questioned, so I'll comment on that. The Euphoria engine isn't a physics engine, the Havok physics engine is what's being used in conjunction with it. I didn't know this until I actually read the screen while the demo is looking. Euphoria is just an intelligence engine, basically, which grants each player with an awareness of the field and play as well as can be used to link certain tasks to each player based on position(i.e., lineman blocking, QB reading the field and throwing, RB running). They talked about this in one of the Dev Diaries when they said they put a simple “bring the ball carrier down at any cost” instruction in, and the players went straight for the facemask, so they had to modify it not to do that.

    My point about that is this: it's very difficult to ramp up the difficulty when your players are already acting like they should be. Sure, on Hard difficulty, they probably break through the line more, are a little faster and a little stronger, but for the most part, they are going to do the same things, just do them a little better. In Madden, the difficulty settings amount to the game basically being unfair in what the CPU is allowed to do or knows how to do. It's almost like the game is cheating you. So kudos to you for figuring out how to play, but go play online if you'd like to have a bigger challenge. I believe that's what this game was created for anyway…to be fun.

    Now, the roughing the kicker is my biggest frustration. I had a 4th and 20 that I stopped that offense for, and on the first 4th down, #99 ran into the kicker and got the 15 yard penalty. No harm no foul as it was still 4th and 5, but the same player did the same thing on the next play giving them a 1st down. Suffice it to say that that was rather annoying, but not something that makes or breaks the game for me. They can easily patch that with a simple instruction for the special teams players not to do that.

    And the passing game is hyper realistic. The only thing that frustrates me is time in the pocket. It's almost too realistic. What's ironic though is that the only reason that QBs in the NFL can switch the sides of the field is by knowing so intimately the play they are running and who is running which route that when they turn, they know exactly where he is and make that decision. That is where we need to get with this game so we can actually read the field quicker. It's not a fault of the game that none of us are that in-tune to football plays that we can do this, but playing more often will allow us to get there.

    I agree with your write-up about the camera, but I know now that going back to Madden, I will want the lower camera because I feel the weight and momentum of each player I control, as well as what they can do on the field. It gives me that intense feeling they were going for, and I love that. I don't necessarily agree with you disorienting feeling by switching players because I've switched several times on every play and I feel fine. In fact, it's quite easy for me to make the adjustment needed and find the player I need to tackle. I think some people simply have poor reaction time and like to complain.

    Overall, I'd agree with about 70% of what you said, and I'd give the demo a 9/10 because of all that is offered and how well it makes me feel about the game. The game could get a lower score, but due to how well this game portrays real football, way better than Madden does, I'd say this game should be a contender for Sports Game of the Year due to all the technical additions to the game to make it the most realistic simulation of a sport yet.

  • whodey09160

    I'll be interested to see what issues the game has in player vs. player modes… the AI might not be as big of a deal which (for online league purposes) could negate the issues and make the game playable…

  • I agree with your impressions, Pasta. The lack of CPU offense is the biggest issue to me (their turnovers wouldn't be an end-all if they could at least score on occasion). The only suspense/tension I felt during a game would be to at least put SOME points on the board, and not tie the CPU 0-0. While I appreciate Natural Motion's attempt to make the game more immersive with its “Gears of War” leveled camera angle, I wonder how much more fluid the gameplay could have been with a Madden-positioned camera. Overall, the game is a good first try. If the developers are going to make a sequel, I hope they read the forums…it needs a lot more than a little tweaking.

  • andy

    and then the gradual turn to realizing there is more to a game then just cool tackles.

  • MNM1013

    I can give two f**** about peoples impressions anymore lol. Seriously its 2010 and I make up my own choice about a game now. Thats just me. Especially when it comes to this game and Live 11. BTW can't wait until that game.

  • Incinerator

    I'd pay $5-$10 for Backbreaker. It's definitely not worth $50 and i feel sorry for the people who pay the $50 mainly because of their pure hatred towards Madden and EA or just because they want something different. Alot of the people who will be buying this game day one will be the people from the official forums. They really give off the impression that they're buying this game because of all the time they devoted to it as well. In my experience with demos, they're not all that different from the final version. For example, NBA 2K demos give you a really good feel for the gameplay and what's usually missing is the commentary, instant replay, stat checking(i think). Stuff you know will be there so it's not a big deal. NM hasn't confirmed alot of stuff so close to it's release. In my opinion, if you're buying Backbreaker on day one then you're buying it with a blindfold on and not a level head.

  • Somewhat related information here; got a Direct Message from the official Playstation Twitter account in reaction to my question of when the demo will be out for PS3 users:

    PlayStation: “Hey Brian! 🙂 I was looking forward to this too, but I think it's another week or two off. More timing details soon! Thanks for Tweeting!!”

    Looks like the reports from earlier this month about the PS3 demo possibly not hitting until Tuesday, June 8th might not be too far off. Truly a shame that PS3 gamers won't be able to test-drive the demo until at least the release day.

  • kevin

    this game is crazy never played anything in my life but it would be better if you can play seeing the whole field because some of the time u have no idea know what u are doing.

  • hoss

    How about people on the PS3 who now arent getting the demo before the game is out? I think they are going to care.

  • blondeviking64

    Then seriously dont read the impressions. Congrats on commenting about how you think that these impressions are useless. How about just dont say anything, and maybe these werent ment for you.

  • Normally, I would be willing to give the developer the benefit of the doubt about demo releases because Microsoft and Sony can sometimes have their heads up their nether-regions when it comes to getting games out on a reasonable time schedule, but this smells fishy to me. As stated in the information at this forum link (…), an email sent out from 505 Games to a Backbreaker forum member gave two dates for demo releases:

    Xbox 360: May 28th
    Playstation 3: June 9th

    That thread was posted on May 6th, 2010, so the email has to have been sent even before that. In the past few days, we've seen a lot of comments from the NaturalMotion team about the “demo being in Microsoft and Sony's hands” so they couldn't confirm or deny any release dates. However, it would appear that 505 Games knew well in advance that the demo would be available to ALL Xbox Live accounts by this Friday, May 28th–since Silver accounts can access the demo on Friday–and that the PS3 demo would not be out before the retail release date.

    If the information I got from the official PlayStation Twitter account is to be believed, it may actually be over a week after the game hits stores before PS3 owners get to try the demo.

  • You scrolled a long way just to say you couldn't care less.

  • Kevin

    You wouldn't happen to be the same idiot who does nothing but talk trash about MLB 10 on this site would you? You sound like him anyway.

  • YosT

    had a few friends who tried it and basically said they would never play it cause of the camera.

  • Noted that some people at the Backbreaker forums were calling me out as a Backbreaker-hater and Madden-fanboy, so here's a screencap of the message I received as some measure of proof until the store updates tonight:

  • SP

    I couldn't agree more. I've been on the BB forums for years watching the game progress, but I'd be kidding myself if I thought the final product was worth $50. Let the wait for BB2 begin…..

  • Keith.

    Nope — The Show has been sports game of the year for the past several years, IMHO.

  • killerb

    Actually, the replay system in the demo is the final version, according to a dev PM to someone on the official forums. Really weak if that's truly the case.

  • Dont worry about it lol. I got flak from some for informing everyone that there is a media embargoed blackout. Comes with the territory of breaking news that won't make people happy.

  • I think I can see now why you like the job, despite the trouble it can bring. Even though I had to break some rather ugly news today, it was pretty exciting to get it out there, see the word spread, and then be able to defend myself against the people saying that I was a fanboy and full of crap.

  • MG

    There is actually a resolution to the camera problem on defense, when holding focus down, the camera always points to where the ball is, so when you decide to switch players, you have an idea who you are switching to making it less disorienting.

    Passing game takes getting used to, but I've been to put up 100+ yards in the demo. Though I wouldn't use focus too much or else you'll get destroyed by the pass-rush.

    Hopefully Natural Motion implements a better instant replay function, and we all they can because of the highlights shown after the plays.

    The player fatigue/injury problem is apparently very difficult to put in because of the nature of the Euphoria engine(that's what I've heard anyway).

    It's a really good demo, and has secured a buy from me.

  • Kevin

    It saddens me that people are complaining about the camera, which isn't too restrictive in the first place, when if this is the same camera Madden has had since day 1, no one would care at all. However, just because it's not easy, everyone is complaining about it. I'm sorry, but realism just isn't desired anymore. We'd much rather have Madden's God view when this is by far 100 times more realistic. Face it, if you were to play football in a real helmet at the speeds the game is played at, you have far less of a view of the field than even this game is giving you. Just view it as something to get us closer to the action than ever before. I view the camera as a huge success and something that I wish Madden would do more of. Stop complaining simple because you want it to be easier.

  • Mykal94

    Thought I would like it, and honestly it sucked overall. Nice tackling though.

  • That's what I've been trying to tell people on here is that if you hold the left trigger you can see where the ball is at all times. But nobody wants to listen. They just want to say “nope, it sucks”. It's a shame really.

  • TreyIM2

    Uhh, I'm just not happy that the demo DID NOT come with today's PSN update. Maybe next week I'll get my hands on the demo.

  • Genny

    Theres a lot more to a football game than cool looking hits.

  • Kevin

    Fair enough, I know he's here some wheres….waiting to strike.

  • NeNo Black

    LOL none of you madden fanboys would have liked the game anyways. it's funny you people talk about bad AI, when madden AI is isn't any better. the fact the game has better OL/DL interaction, hardly any morph, or no tron jugging, and a more realistic passing game, and physics, makes this game better then that garbage EA game. every time I play the demo I'm wowed, Madden is in real trouble once the NFL officially lose the American needle case. you madden fanboys enjoy your outdated game for now cause when 2K comes back and backbreaker get that NFL license Madden will go the why of NBA Live.

    Bank on it Bitches

  • Roklan

    I played it and all I could think is. “I cant wait until madden picks up this engine and incorporates the good parts into a maddens game” sorry 505 team, i tried and I really wanted you to succeed but at the end of the day I want to play the closest thing to a football game that I can, maybe its me being used to madden but I felt so out of control with backbreaker.

  • Lol this pasta guy just has no skills. The QB sneak glitch was exposed as the best o-line getting huge pushes on the worst d-line in the game. I sucked for 2-3 games and then started getting the hang of it. I think your batteries may be dying too, because the stick system is very responsive, I think you may just be angling the stick funny because you're not looking at it. Oh well, being that this isn't an EA Product I'm not surprised you only played one or two games and gave up when it wasn't easy and before the law of averages kicked in.

    I'm also kinda disappointed in the attention spans of people who play EA games… this is actual football. You have to play your position like you actually would in a game.

  • TigerFan

    I disagree with you Kevin on the camera angle being realistic, I have played the demo and I have played 4 years of high school football and college football and this camera angle does not work because you do not choose where to look, if I'm playing in a real game I can easily scan the field because I can turn my head and move my eyes. The camera in BB is fixed, I think it would have been better to use maybe the bumbers or triggers as a way to scan but I must say BB still brings the intensity that I have not seen in any Madden game yet. I think Madden's camera angle works just because you can easily see the whole field without doing anything, not because it's what we have been forced to use for 20 years.

  • lol.

  • Wow, i had read this article and the Backbreaker demo which comes on Xbox 360 is really very interesting. It's graphics are superb for me. The actual demo structure is fantastic i agree that.

  • lol why you mad though? Get your skills up. Just a snippet: “The passing game for the user is something that is going to hamper the game enjoyment for me, I just don’t think I’ll be able to get past it because of the camera angle and being forced to scan through receivers with the stick. The pass rush gets there too quick.”

    translated to english

    “I want quarterbacking to be easy”

    I've stood in the pocket for 10+ seconds in madden. That's unrealistic. Ask someone who's played quarterback how long on average they get to make a read and deliver the ball. 3-5 seconds? Which is about how long it takes in backbreaker if your line does well on the play. You're just a little rushed because the game's different. Presnap reads help a lot, that's why they give you the overhead cam before they play starts. Try a hard count to check for blitzes. Holy balls, stuff actual football players do to gain an advantage, its mind blowing.

    This isn't an arcade football game, its a sim one. I understand if you don't like some stuff, but don't play it off on the game, say you don't like it because you actually have to think and play the position like they would in real life and you just want something arcad-ey like madden.

  • Kyle

    CPU never scored on Pasta… zomg no skills!!!!

  • Kyle

    10+ seconds? Now you are freaking reaching. Well, then again I don't play on rookie. Even onm all-pro, 5 seconds is a damn rariety.

  • Natural Motion was the team that made Backbreaker. 505 games is the publisher.

  • There's actually an achievement/trophy for standing in the pocket for 10 seconds. It's not a reach unfortunately. And I don't bash Pasta at all, but that is pretty ridiculous about what he said for the passing game. The point is to put you in the proverbial pressure cooker. You have to make quick reads and that also makes picking your play more important due to the fact that you'll have maybe 3 seconds to cycle through receivers, and also putting importance on reading the defense before the snap. You can also switch you key receiver before the snap so that if you like the routes on the left side of the ball more, you can cycle through quicker by starting with the LWR. The stick has been very responsive for me and throwing lob passes have worked fine. The only problem I can see is that sometimes I can't see that far down field, so it's sort of a gamble. It seems to me like you need to spend some more time in the training mode, Pasta. Also, I've seen some weird things in BackBreaker, such as blatant block in the back and PI penalties not called, as well as the computer going for a 76 yard field goal, but I haven't once encountered a roughing the kicker/passer or a single blocked punt or field goal.

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