|System: Xbox 360|
|Dev: Natural Motion Games|
|Pub: 505 Games|
|Release: June 29, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
When Backbreaker was released to consoles a little less than a year ago, it looked to set itself apart from that other football game series, both in style and gameplay. Instead of focusing on tight sim mechanics, Backbreaker challenged players to loosen up and get a feel for the grittier side of football as a high-contact sport. The game had simple arcade controls, and was definitely a football game for the non-franchise player. Though it certainly had an ambitious premise, there were some things that just didn't work. However, Backbreaker is like any good lineman, and you just can't keep it down!
This year's follow-up, Backbreaker Vengeance, is going to do things a lot differently than its predecessor. First up, the game is taking the simplistic approach that worked so well in Backbreaker, and boiling it down to its deepest arcade-based roots. One of the most common criticisms of the original Backbreaker was that despite its budget price, it didn't have enough content to flesh out its solid arcade-based concept. However, since Vengeance is coming to the Xbox Live Arcade, the game will be able to take on a format that is easy to jump into quickly, without worrying about a lot of superfluous content dragging the game's concept down.
So, what exactly will this new approach entail? Well, if you are an iOS fan and you've seen Backbreaker in action on the mobile platform, you know all about the inspiration for Vengeance: Tackle Alley. This mode, which was previously exclusive to the iOS version is a minigame that challenges players to go after the competition in the most brutal way possible, with tackle mechanics that afford complete player control. Though other football franchise games have you determining routes and pressing a button or two to initiate tackles, Backbreaker Vengeance will have you going full-contact with opponents. NaturalMotion's lauded euphoria engine (the tech that powered Rockstar titles like Red Dead redemption and Grand Theft Auto IV) will ensure that the action never looks boring, and always reflects tactical choices and ensures that you never see the same tackle twice. You won't find any canned tackles here!
Though we don't know much about how the gameplay will work, some early details provide some clues. Much like the original Backbreaker, Vengeance will have an arcade-style gameplay system, and will have a simple learning curve that will make it easy for those who have never played a football game before to get directly into the action. While other football franchises thrive on increasing complexity, Backbreaker Vengeance will offer players a quick and dirty take on the world of professional football, and one that won't take an entire afternoon to learn how to play.
Though Backbreaker Vengeance has only just been announced, the title is being fast-tracked to the Xbox Live Arcade, and should be available sometime this summer. Though it may sound a little weird to downsize an existing console franchise and take inspiration from the iOS version of the game to make it better, I think this move really makes sense for the Backbreaker series. If this franchise wants to separate itself from the pack and go its own way, it is going to have to do things completely differently. Funneling the experience into a super-accessible XBLA title seems like it will be a great way to do just that, and if the gameplay can offer a tight experience unlike anything else currently available, Vengeance will have accomplished its mission.
If you are a sports fan and crave a different experience, or have always been intimidated by the complex nature of bigger football franchise games, Backbreaker Vengeance looks like it will offer a truly unique gaming experience that plenty of gamers can appreciate. If you're ready to tackle something different, this title is going to have your back…literally!
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Senior Contributing Writer