Compared to EA’s Madden or NCAA Football franchises, Backbreaker is still far from becoming a staple in the sports gamer diet, the series only having been in circulation for less than two years.Developed by Oxford-based animation specialists, NaturalMotion, Backbreaker was originally an iOS title which became a fully-fledged American football title in 2010 with 505 Games on publishing duty. The goal with Backbreaker was both simple and ambitious: to primarily focus on gameplay, bringing the action to life with NaturalMotion’s superb Euphoria engine.[drop]In terms of game modes, Backbreaker had just about every base covered. Exhibition matches could be launched within seconds of hitting the main menu, and for those who sought a more in-depth and rewarding experience leagues were also available. Gameplay was also fairly impressive albeit fairly different from what Madden/NCAA die-hards are used to.
Instead of going with the traditional aerial perspective, Backbreaker opted for an over-the-shoulder view, keeping the action focused but at the expense of the player’s field of vision and general awareness.Needless to say, Backbreaker felt very weighty but what the gameplay lacked in finesse was more than made up for in terms of brutality and the sense of power.
Thanks to the Euphoria engine all animations are based on in-depth simulations for each 3D character instead of being stuck with a small selection of pre-sets. This means that no two collisions or interactions are the same, players reacting as one would expect them too in real life. If you’re still sat there scratching your head, cast your mind back to Grand Theft Auto IV which also used the same tech; a number of sources also suggest that Rocktstar’s Max Payne 3 will also use the Euphoria engine.[drop2]Though a plausible console debut for NaturalMotion, Backbreaker still had a hard time finding the right audience. Without any licensed teams, players, or stadiums, the majority of Backbreaker’s target demographic probably went for their jackets after the first play and haven’t returned since. On the other hand, those who grew fond of the Breaker series through the original iOS title may have been equally as disappointed.
Why disappointed? Well, instead of actually playing matches, the mobile game focused entirely on an arcade mode dubbed “Tackle Alley.” Here, players would simply have to make their way from a starting area to the touchdown zone whilst weaving in and out of defenders. Though still present in the console version as a mini-game featuring 100 waves, NaturalMotion should have stayed clear of turning Backbreaker into an actual sports game, developing its arcade foundations and releasing it as a budget title akin to NBA Jam or even smaller (3 on 3 NHL Arcade.)