Even though Electronic Arts owns the NFL license exclusively up until 2012, and will likely renew it beyond, that doesn't mean developers can't get creative and still release football games. As 2K Sports proved last year, not only can you still release a football game, but you can also get hall-of-famers into the action to retain an authentic experience. While All Pro Football played well, it didn't feature much in terms of value and depth, and suffered for it. So here comes a new football game from software house NaturalMotion, it's called Backbreaker.
Backbreaker takes it name from a specific goal that's been set for it: to deliver the most realistic, most dynamic, and unrepetitive tackles a football game has ever seen. Where as other football games use canned-animations, a term used to describe the repetitive, pre-determined nature of animations, Backbreaker uses NaturalMotion's Euphoria engine to the fullest. Euphoria is currently one of the physics engines that can be found in Grand Theft Auto IV and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed -- it was designed to dynamically simulate physics related to the body of a being. In Backbreaker's case, the physics will be simulating impact between 200-300lb athletes, and because Euphoria makes calculations on the fly, tackles will always be different, as opposed to pre-determined.
This helps create a more immersive and realistic experience that no Madden game will be offering any time soon. And because Euphoria is a product of NaturalMotion, they get to say who's allowed to license the physics code, and who isn't. Euphoria works with a combination of biological and robotic research, and utilizes the calculating power of today's powerhouse processors to simulate the nervous system, muscles, and biomechanics of football players...all in real time, of course. While we've seen Euphoria partially applied in games like GTAIV and Force Unleashed, this is the first time it's being applied in full force to a football game - and NaturalMotion promises you'll never see the same tackle twice.
Sure I just spent a good deal simply detailing the physics and tackles of Backbreaker, but it is an integral part of the game, as is the case in the actual sport. Moving on, NaturalMotion promises gameplay that does away with proper sportsmanship, and instead focuses on fast-paced gameplay, with punishing hits (thus the name), for an experience that is brutal and raw, as opposed to slow and monotonous. But don't get the wrong idea, an NFL Blitz clone this isn't, as Backbreaker will not be as over-the-top like Midway's past franchise - so football aficionados should still be able to find Backbreaker highly enjoyable.
From the early footage that's been presented so far, Backbreaker looks fantastic. The animation really does come alive, and the tackles are out of this world. Backbreaker's impacts are like nothing that you've seen from any sports game to date, and unless somebody either buys NaturalMotion out, or creates a code better than theirs, sports games will have no choice but to look up to Backbreaker.
NaturalMotion is still secretive about the offerings of Backbreaker, and we hope that a dynasty or franchise mode of some sort is offered in the game, so as to avoid the crippling flaw that hurt All Pro Football. Additionally, with no publisher picked, that means no release date has been set for the game. In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled on this one, and stay posted for more information as it comes our way.
5/22/2008 Arnold Katayev