Backyard Football ’10 Review (Xbox 360)
Posted by Jim Cook, Nov 19, 2009 01:10
I feel sorry for today’s kids. When I was their age, we had Tecmo Bowl and Front Page Sports: Football for our (American style) football video games, and they were awesome. Conversely, Backyard Football 2010 (or ’10, I’ve seen it both ways) is simultaneously simplistic and ridiculous; the result is an unsatisfying mess.
To be fair, this game is aimed at kids and families. It doesn’t pretend to be a hyper-realistic Madden clone, and doesn’t need to be one. It instead admirably tries to be a ’pick up and play’ game, an ideal that I can support. The game gets this part right, as there’s an option in the main menu to just immediately start playing with random teams. Or if you want more detail, you can pick teams and players before starting, and even play a full NFL-style season if you want. The problem lies in that Backyard Football 2010’s action is mostly too simple, and attempts to add depth actually made the game worse.
Most of the football controls are very arcade-like; you pick plays from a basic list, then you use an analog stick to move along with a few buttons for passing, stiff-arm attempts, and so on. On this level, Backyard Football 2010 can easily be compared to the likes of Midway’s NFL Blitz games or the aforementioned Tecmo Bowl. There would actually be nothing wrong with this, except for the addition of ’power moves’ that let players do ridiculous things. A power move on offense might give the player a bull’s head and let them slam right through a defensive line, while on defense you might force a fumble or do a flying leap tackle that automatically homes in on the ball carrier. This might sound cool, and in moderation it could be but these power moves often occur every other play, making matches extremely chaotic.
Worse, the game’s idea of color commentary basically revolves around insulting the player’s intelligence. I can understand that Backyard Football 2010 is aimed at younger players, but the game’s voiced commentary and advice often has nothing to do with football at all. On very rare occasions it’s relevant with suggestions like "It’s first down, let’s do something totally unexpected and go for a Hail Mary pass!" On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of it is nonsense like "hot dogs are nature’s candy!" and "is it nap time yet!?" Far from being funny, this just comes across as off-topic and absurd. Children may not have the most nuanced sense of humor, but this goes too far in the opposite direction and treats them like they don’t have a brain at all.
Despite this, it’s obvious the developers at least tried. You have several teams and players to pick from, a passable season mode, and even an all-star game. There are also a variety of fields to play on, so while the game has a very low-budget presentation I will give them credit for trying to give us a fair amount of content. The problem is that it’s wasted on a game like this, since all the interesting field design in the world is irrelevant if the game is dominated by ’wacky’ power moves disrupting the flow of play all the time.
While they were busy coming up with various power moves, they apparently forgot to do proper testing. I have seen receivers completely freeze up on their route for no reason at all, and also had running backs get caught against what looks like nothing but empty air, halting their progress when there should be plenty of room for them to run between the defensive line. Making a whimsical, arcade-style football game would have been fine if they got the basics down right, but problems like these are pretty hard to forgive.
Perhaps the biggest issue of all is the misleading Xbox Live logo on the box of the 360 version. It’s true you can play this game while connected to Xbox Live, but only in the same sense every other game on the system can be; you remain connected and able to speak to people on your Friends List, but there is no online play. While I admit I wouldn’t want to subject any of my friends to this game online in the first place, the lack of play over Xbox Live is still another blow against this game.
All of this leaves us with a flawed football game that costs $20 on the PS2, $30 on the Wii, and $40 on the Xbox 360; I have trouble recommending it for purchase at any of those prices. On the other hand, Tecmo Bowl on the Virtual Console is around $5-$6, and is a superior take on this game’s premise of simple, arcade style football so you might want to give that a try.
Rating: 4.0, votes: 1