Backbreaker Gets A Makeover With Enormous Patch Due SoonS

New plays, better AI, a suite of replay cameras and new "focus modes" are among features coming to the football title Backbreaker, possibly as soon as Wednesday, through one of the largest patches I've ever seen for a sports game.

That's the good news; the bad news is sort of that they were needed in the first place. But with the patch - dubbed "Greathouse" for one of the Backbreaker forums' most dedicated contributors - NaturalMotion Games looks to have a more respectable offering available just as Madden NFL 11 releases on Tuesday.

The passing game was one of the original game's biggest complaints, and it has been addressed in two areas: adjusted passing mechanics, stronger pass blocking, and tuning to the secondary to reduce the easiness with which interceptions were made. Naturalmotion vows longer time in the pocket to complete passes, increased quarterback accuracy across the board (especially when throwing to receivers not in "focus mode") and a relocation of the pump-fake command to a shoulder button in hopes of making the frustratingly difficult lob pass easier to execute. In the defensive backfield, corners and safeties "now fully respect their visibility cone, only seeing interception opportunities when appropriate."

However, users on defense now have full control over interception attempts, with the extension of "focus mode" (by holding the left trigger) to defensive players. "Focus mode" catching is also applied to user-controlled wide-receivers. It's also been applied to running backs, where holding the left trigger will turn the camera upfield to see oncoming defenders, while you're headed to the sidelines. Previously, focus mode was applicable to quarterbacks only.

Also of note, the game will now allow you to show or disguise a blitz formation with a pre-snap adjustment on the shoulder button.

As for skills tuning, running backs' trick moves - spins and jukes - will be executed more commensurately with their skill ratings. They'll also react less violently to collisions from teammates, which should allow for better running behind your blockers and between the tackles.

In terms of fixes, NaturalMotion promised a "comprehensive review of penalty complaints" that has reduced the frequency of penalties int he game, including roughing the kicker, which had been a particular problem. Online lag has been reduced "slightly." And a slew of embarrassing inconsistencies with the rules of American football - such as spotting the ball correctly after a missed field goal, accurately calling pass interference, losing a down on intentional grounding, and the implementation of the "Holy Roller" rule (restricting how fumbles on fourth down or after the two minute warning are advanced).

Oh, and, "Boom" by P.O.D. no longer plays after every kickoff, just the first kickoff of each half.

These are only the highlights of the patch update, which 505 Games expects to be available in the coming week, possibly by Wednesday, I have been told. A .pdf describing all fixes and changes in detail can be downloaded here.

While it's good to see such robust post-release support for this kind of title, early Backbreaker adopters - especially those who sold or traded in the title - have good reason to wonder why they got a game that took more than two years to develop and still needed this kind of an overhaul. The gesture toward its loyal community - Greathouse's name now appears in the title screen logo - will no doubt be appreciated. Whether this is enough to recruit new players or bring back disaffected ones remains to be seen.