Natural Motion’s Backbreaker

Posted August 21st, 2007 at 8:34 pm

Today brought the announcement of a new football game coming to the 360 and PS3 titled Backbreaker.

Made by NaturalMotion using their Euphoria engine, the focus is on tackling. Every tackle will be unique.

Of course, with such an emphasis placed on tackling, one might wonder if Backbreaker's gameplay will be closer to simulation, ala Madden, or perhaps an arcade style similar to NFL Blitz. Issuing a sly smile, Torsten shrugged and said, "It's probably not right to go with either arcade or simulation labeling at this point. It's going to be quite close to real football; there's nothing too crazy going on, let's put it that way. But we're not going all the way in terms of simulation, like Madden does."

Rather than compete with Madden, Torsten feels that Backbreaker will comfortably settle into existence as a fun niche title. "People we've shown the title to so far are very excited. They've seen the footage, they get the game; it's not a competitor to Madden, because Madden has the NFL license, and it's a great game. A lot of people buy it; a lot of people love it. What we're thinking instead is, Backbreaker's the sort of game where, if you play Madden, and you like it, you'll also like Backbreaker. We don't think there's going to be anyone who buys Backbreaker instead of Madden, but we hope there will be lots of people who buy both."

I believe there is a place in the market for the arcade-sim mixed games. The BIGS and NFL Street/Tour being good examples. Those have become more appealing to me over the years. Madden, NCAA, and even All-Pro Football already offer the simulation experiences. And APF has shown that another football game is going to have to be unique to be successful.

Continue on to read more details on the game and my thoughts on them, as well as to check out the first trailer and links to screenshots and the full IGN preview.

"We want people to pick up the controller [and be able to play]. The control system is very simple when compared to other football games. When players can pick the controller up and just play the game, learn how it works in about a minute… that's our main design goal, but we're probably not going to simplify the rules too much."

One feeling I got with Madden this year was that there was just too many options. You have the overlays prior to snap with a giant list of things you can do. In the couple seconds you have to evaluate the play pre-snap, it is overwhelming to most people. Simplifying things isn't necessary dumbing them down. 

"It's [Backbreaker's camera system] a third-person camera, very close-up. What we're trying to do is, have players stand on that line of scrimmage, and have them really feel that they're a quarterback after the snap. They should feel nervous that they're going to be sacked at any given second. That's the feeling we want to get across: You are on the field, you feel like you're in the middle of the action."

It sounds almost like the Gears of War perspective. Having gone through First Person Football on NFL 2K5 and Superstar mode in Madden 07, it is apparent that those close-up angles can be extremely frustrating if not done properly. It will be interesting to see how well their camera system works. If it is as bad as those two examples, it could completely wreck the experience. 

This idea is basically what 2K Sports had to do to create a long-term non-NFL football franchise. It had to be something that was completely different and offered things that couldn't be found in NCAA Football and Madden. Instead they went the Legends route with the previous engine and sales have been stagnant because of it.

While Backbreaker isn't going to challenge those other two in sales, there certainly is always going to be a place on the market for games that are different. Blitz the League was a success partially due to releasing on the older consoles, but also because it presented an arcade experience that separated itself from the sim games. The BIGS may not have been a huge seller, but it personally is my favorite sports title of the year as it mixed arcade style with sim and strategical elements. If the game is fun and different, people will give it a chance.

How will the engine work in an 11 on 11 football environment? That is the big unknown. It is simple enough to have the amazing tackling but how it plays outside of that is the concern. With untested technology it wouldn't be surprising to have growing pains, and those would be especially apparent in a first attempt. 


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