2009: PS3, Xbox 360 Violent ground-acquisition games get a kick in the pants with the delightfully named Backbreaker. Here, the cutting-edge Euphoria physics engine ensures all movements in the game are rendered in real-time, which means that no two in-game tackles or dislocated knees will appear the same. Euphoria technology has seen action in Grand Theft Auto IV, where the protagonist Niko has rocketed through many a windshield and then skidded, rolled, or bounced off the concrete, and will also be seen in the Stormtrooper-tossing simulation Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.
Backbreaker, for now, rides on the strength of its gimmick. But it's an admittedly good gimmick: recently released film of Backbreaker's "Tackle Alley" minigame, showed a lone runner dashing upfield past a horde of enemy defenders. It remains to be seen, too, if Backbreaker will live up to its name in terms of injuries. But it's hoped the game will include them-as well as these five football staples:
• 1) Some kind of draft mode. Please!
• 2) Online play, with the inclusion of Tackle Alley playable as either the rusher or one of the defenders.
• 3) A disabled list to emphasize the game's bone-crunching tackles.
• 4) Real-world teams...even if they have to be from the CFL.
• 5) Create a character mode.
#101: Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
November: Xbox 360 Nuts & Bolts reunites the goofy and beloved bear-and-bird combo Banjo and Kazooie on the Xbox 360 for a different kind of adventure. Unlike the duo's previous Nintendo 64 adventures, Bolts focuses not on Mario-style platforming, but rather on building wacky vehicles. Now, the sky really is the limit; Banjo may be dumber than your average bear, but with the right doo-dads, he can cobble up cars, planes, monster trucks, boats, tanks, helicopters, and jets. You can use vehicles to explore the game worlds, smite enemies (both in the game's story mode and its multiplayer challenges), and solve in-game puzzles.
#100: MotorStorm: Pacific Rift
Fall 2008: PS3 By far the arcade racer of these twin speed demons, Pacific Rift's claim to fame isn't its damage model or its realistic vehicle suspension; it's the big air you get off jumps, the destruction you rain down on opponents, and the jaw-dropping jungle circuits. Evolution Studios' MotorStorm made superb use of the PS3's graphical prowess, and in Pacific Rift, the visuals are getting a big bump with races moving out of the desert and into the lush tropics.
The in-game competition is getting diversified, too, with the usual lineup of trucks and bikes welcoming a new addition: monster trucks. Though a little slow for their size, monster trucks can handily crush the competition, punch through vegetation to uncover new race routes, and shatter track elements such as motorcycle ramps. If you're hankering for a racer with eye candy, explosives, and split-screen multiplayer, then Pacific Rift will be your new best friend.
September: PS3, Xbox 360 Pacific Rift might get the big trucks, but Baja gets the real ones. Its graphics engine can't hold a candle to MotorStorm's dazzling visuals, but what it lacks in bling, it makes up for in authenticity. Its tracks are based on the raceways of the Baja 1000, a Mexican off-road endurance race that's all about rough running, big suspension, vehicle sponsorship, and hundreds of miles of adventure.
Unlike MotorStorm's high-flying acrobatics, the key to Baja's racing is staying low and close to the rocky ground. Getting air is easy enough, but not having all four wheels churning the horsepower tends to slow you. What goes up must come down, too, and with the game's incredibly realistic damage model, coming down means busting up your shocks and scraping more than a little paint off your body. With personality-driven A.I. and a physics engine based on the real thing, Baja is the off-road game for the realist racers of the world.