One of the great things about the Backbreaker Football games is that you don’t have to be a fan of the sport to enjoy them; they’re simply great arcade games. NFL Rivals offers up pretty much the exact same experience, only this time it’s clearly geared towards die-hard NFL fans, not only due to the license, but also in the ways that the license is integrated into the game.
As with the Backbreaker games, NFL Rivals isn’t a full-on simulation, but more of a riff on some practice drills. You won’t be picking plays or throwing passes–instead, the basics of the sport have been boiled down to their basics. As with the previous game, you can play both offensive and defensive modes (though, thankfully, both are unlocked from the beginning this time) and the goal in each is simple. While playing offense, you simple want to run the ball down the field for a touchdown. Defense, meanwhile, puts you in the role of a player trying to stop a touchdown from happening.
Handle that pigskin.
Of course, it’s not as easy as it sounds. There will be other players trying to keep you from doing what you need to do, as well as obstacles that need to be jumped over or ducked under. You control the action by tilting the direction you want to run and using a number of on-screen buttons to duck, jump, sprint, and spin to avoid being tackled. While on offense you can even do some showboating, which slows you down but earns bonus points. There’s a star-system in place that offers plenty of incentive to replay levels as you try and go for the highest score you can.
It’s all well and good, but there’s not much here to differentiate the game from the Backbreaker series. No new modes or moves, just a slew of new levels to play through, which is probably more than enough for fans. But the one big addition, of course, is the NFL license. And how much this affects your experience really depends on how big a fan you are of the sport.
An open field to glory.
You’ll get to pick your favorite team to play as, and as you play through the different levels you’ll progress as if you were moving through an actual season, taking on one team after another. It’s a nice touch, though it doesn’t affect the gameplay at all. What’s really interesting in NFL Rivals is its unique social networking features. As you play and earn points, you’ll be adding to the cumulative total of everyone else around the world who is playing as the same team. This creates an interesting meta game where you’re not only trying to beat the levels for fun, but also so you can help put your team at the top of the rankings.
What’s great about this set-up is that these features aren’t necessary to enjoy the game. So if you enjoyed the Backbreaker Football games and simply want more of the same action, you’re free to ignore the team-based meta game. But for die-hard NFL fans it provides an extra layer of interactivity that gives you some extra incentive to keep playing. After all, we can’t let those Patriots stay on top of the rankings forever.