Even if the ridiculous NFL lockout ends within the next month or so, we're still starved for the visceral thrill of 200-pound athletes smashing into each other. Terrific timing for Backbreaker Vengeance to download some smashmouth right up in our virtual grills.
No fancy razzle-dazzle offensive playbooks to bog the action down here, no bells-and whistle shots of the trainers squirting Gatorade into athlete's mouths during timeouts (one of Madden 11's most ubiquitous filler shots). It's just you, an open field and a bunch of speedy defensive backs who'd like to grind you into Astroturf cheese before you can scamper your way to the end zone.
Backbreaker Vengeance boils the gridiron action down to the essence of its most thrilling and dangerous sequence -- the kickoff and punt return. The defenders wait until you enter their tackle zones rather than rushing at you in a mass of 60-mph testosterone, but that doesn't reduce the slo-mo adrenaline thrill of deking, sliding and jumping past them. Preferably in quick and deft succession, so you can maximize your multiplier score and have some kind of prayer of beating the online rival the game chooses for you.
With only three game modes from which to choose -- be the running back, be the tackler, etc. -- Vengeance seems on the surface to be a pretty CFL-sized experience for its $15 price tag. (In fact, the game's actually a super-steroid-sized version of the popular BV iPhone app Tackle Alley). Developer 505 Games has done a terrific job of making it feel like so much more than that, with increasingly difficult wave -- 350 of them, some of which are brutal -- challenging you to concoct a button-mash ballet of moves to keep from being on the receiving end of a helicopter takedown.
For my money, Supremacy's the most entertaining game mode: Four running backs, AI or otherwise, try to navigate an obstacle course of tacklers, hurdles and mazelike out-of-bound zones to hit pay dirt. The back with the lowest score after every round becomes the tackler, which lends a win-even-when-you-lose vibe to the proceedings, as it's actually easier to score more points and vault up the leaderboard when you're the one pancaking the other running backs.
It's only another week or so before EA's NCAA 12 reminds us what a full-fledged football sim (complete with player dreadlocks!) is supposed to look like. Until then -- and frankly, afterward, too -- I'm gonna stick with the Red-Bull rush of a Backbreaker takedown.