Back: Broken

I played the demo of Backbreaker on the Xbox 360 this evening, excited to have the chance to play with a non-_Madden_ version of football. Frankly, any kind of football that isn’t the real thing – where the Dallas Cowboys are one of the worst teams in the league – is good for me right now. I see from the internet that Backbreaker‘s been around for a while, which is fine.

The various reviews I’ve read since are all pretty accurate, I guess. Cool ideas, but a bit dead-eyed and not so featuriffic as we now expect football games to be, thanks to Madden. And, of course, thanks to Madden again, no NFL license means the ol’ “generic teams and players” curse.

With all that said, I was super impressed by the basic premise that the game operates on, which is to provide a player-centric rather than “game”-centric perspective of football. Backbreaker eschews the more clinical view of football as being made up of routes, blocking patterns, strategies, in favour of presenting a version of the blooming, buzzing confusion of actually playing on the field.

And that’s something I think they’ve done quite well, not that I’ve played football to gain a comparison. In my brief experience with the game there’s a delightful lack of understanding what the hell’s going on if you lose track of the play for even a split second. It did lead me to suck pretty bad at the game, but in a way that made me feel like I was sucking in similar ways to how I might in a real game of football. I lost track of the ball, I overran the play, I held onto the ball for too long and got crushed, I missed tackles, and on and on in a litany of incompetence.

Most of all, Backbreaker makes me think of how interesting it is to try and channel a sporting or athletic experience rather than a simulation of the game itself. In that way it reminds me of games like Call of Duty, which are fixated on recreating at least some of the freaky confusion surrounding war, including the dirt and ringing ears, etc.

I think it’s a winner, anyway.

20 November 2010
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