Early Backbreaker Impressions

Posted May 28th, 2010 at 5:51 pm

I’ve spent the majority of the day with Backbreaker (PS3 version). For those of you who played the demo on the 360 the final version is comparable to that. I haven’t noticed any obvious differences in gameplay between the two though things have opened up a little more with the extended quarter lengths making it much better for evaluation purposes. Continue on for some of my thoughts on Backbreaker so far!

All games have been played on Pro-Hard (the highest difficulty). Needless to say I’m not sure anyone will lose to the CPU even on the toughest setting. I don’t consider myself good at this game yet, I’d maybe say I’m decent, but if I played the CPU 100 times I’m confident I would beat them 100 times. The ineptness on offense even from the best offensive squads is startling.

Being able to stretch out the quarters did seem to help as the CPU does not make mistakes at quite the same rate. The way the CPU threw INTs in the demo would have meant 10+ INTs in a game with five minute quarters. So far I’m seeing an average of about five INTs by the CPU per game with five minute quarters. The INTs were my biggest concern going in but along with that has been the inability of the CPU to move the ball on offense and put points on the board.

The first full game I played was with a mediocre Seattle defense up against one of the best teams in the game New England. You can look at the stats below. Given it was my first time through I wouldn’t expect to be able to beat a good team on the hardest difficulty but I did so with ease. New England has one of the better offenses and threw seven picks. They got one big pass play when an AI controlled DB played a throw poorly and they took it the distance.

So far I have yet to feel threatened in a game even against the top offenses because they are so inconsistent. The best offense, Philadelphia, did move the ball on me some as you can see in the stats below. However they would take untimely sacks, throw a bad pick, and waste downs running unsuccessfully. My defensive philosophy has been to just make the CPU run as many plays as possible because they will screw up sooner or later. Some of the passing yardage can be attributed to me going into prevent mode. I have yet to feel like there is any reason to respect the run game from the CPU.

Penalties are implemented so poorly in the game. They are often called wrong especially with roughing the passer. Pass interference is called many times when it shouldn’t have been (or the wrong side is flagged) and ignored other times where receivers get plastered. I’ve yet to see any holding calls.

I’ve had two instances where passes were caught in the back of the end zone where I think the game believed both feet weren’t in because a “no gain” message popped up. Unfortunately instead of granting the TD or even just going to the next down it gave the ball to the opposition. Basically like it was a touchback. I have one of those times on a video I’ll be posting later.

CPU time management is brutal. The funniest instance of poor time management was when I was driving for a score late in the half (under a minute and in field goal range). The CPU had one timeout left and used it after I got a first down. They run a lot in passing situations then use timeouts when they have the ball late in a half.

I’ve started getting frustrated some in being tackled by my teammates. Running into them at all usually results in my player getting knocked down to the ground.

It is a very satisfying feeling making plays on offense in Backbreaker on both the ground and through the air. Not as satisfying on defense cause of the detached feel. CPU teammates make most of the plays including the majority of INTs.

Some really cool moments where I tried to cut back and got tripped up. My favorite tackles are probably where players get tripped up or grabbed by their extremities.

Playbooks are the same as in the demo and each team has the same playbook.

There is really no reason to run no-huddle. With no accelerated clock and such limited playbooks it is just as fast to go to the playbook and select a play quickly.

The CPU loves to run draw plays. I’d say a good third of the plays they run are draws.

The CPU catches punts in the end zone AND runs them out.

Slight framerate drop on kicks and punts.

The crowd is disappointing. With the focus down on the field I expected more out of the crowd.

Quarters are limited to minute lengths of 1, 3, 5, 10, and 15. Would’ve liked more options than just those. If you’re going to offer 1 minute quarters (worthless) then why not 6-8 minute quarters that would get some play?

There are 13 stadiums but 3 of them are locked!

There is no way to view stats during the game. Only at halftime and after the game is over.

No in-game saves or even a way to sim to the end of the game.

The Replay functionality is the same as in the demo which is disappointing.

Really wish there was a way to save replays. A method to then upload them would’ve been a bonus to that. With some of the things that happen I’m surprised there isn’t a way to at least save replays because that would have been really valuable.

On a positive note the loading times are pleasantly short.

Online: No one is online yet. Will be doing a write-up with online impressions over the next few days. If there is any lag at all the games will be filled with sacks and INTs.

Will add some videos in tonight. Youtube decided to double their speed so now I have to reprocess and upload them again.

Backbreaker would be a really fun game if it played cleanly without the bugs that have already been experienced, had penalties called correctly, and had massive improvements to the AI. I just can’t take it seriously as a football game in its current state. All the additional content in the game such as Season Mode and Road to Backbreaker are practically worthless because the CPU doesn’t put up a fight in the actual games. The physics engine is impressive…that just makes it all the more frustrating that the problems make Backbreaker difficult to enjoy as a football game.

Update #2: Two gameplay videos below. The first includes a TD catch in the back of the end zone ruled as a touchback (one of the two times I’ve seen that happen). Otherwise I thought they were entertaining stretches of gameplay to watch.

Update #1: Taking a terrible team up against one rated much higher on Hard difficulty will at least provide for a challenge. I played one with the 26 rated defense of Nashville (against 64 rated Arizona offense) and the one below with the 21 rated defense of Oklahoma (against Birmingham’s 69 offense). While I still was able to win I had to sweat it out. Playing ultra-conservative seemed to be the key as the CPU offense can get big plays but has trouble being consistent so I tried to prevent that.