The Xbox 360 is known for its focus on the older demographic of gamer with its abundance of shooters and simulation style games. But lately the folks at Microsoft have tried to make the 360 more family friendly by introducing new Family Games which include the likes of television and movie themed games. Well the Backyard Sports series from Humungous, Inc. and Atari is well known for its focus on the younger crowd while providing a great sports experience. Critically acclaimed on the PC, the series has finally made its way to the next gen console, more specifically the Xbox 360 with Backyard Football.
Backyard Football is a fully licensed NFL product which means youíll get real players and real team logo and uniform representations. Over 40 NFL players are included in this game from teams all across the league. Youíll find real life stars such as Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, Tom Brady, and Larry Fitzgerald just to name a few. Each of the NFL Players is represented in a child like representation of themselves. Youíll also get 20 Backyard kids to create the perfect mix of a talented roster as well. The game also lets you create your own players and customize their name, stats and appearance.
The game is basic and simplistic which only makes sense since itís geared toward the younger crowd. There are only 7 players on the field rather than the real life 11. Also players play both sides of the ball, so I had to chuckle when I saw Peyton Manning and Tom Brady side by side on my defensive front. Oh and Jason Whitten was my right side cornerback too, covering Larry Fitzgerald. Go figure.
The play calling is very simple as well and you can actually get help from Chuck, whom is one of the comical in game commentators. Youíll have basic defense and offense formation which are easily identifiable as passing or running plays for the user. The game plays like a football game with things such as first downs, standard NFL scoring and other game basics. Unfortunately the game carries over the ridiculous Sudden Death Overtime rule as well. One day the NFL will get a clue I guess. The only difference is that instead of a coin toss, the home team actually starts with the ball first.>br>
The controls are also very easy to learn. One button presses perform most any maneuver such as jumping, catching, speed boosts, etc. There is also a power meter that fills and allows you to pull off insane power moves. It can be anything from a super speed burst to a player inheriting a bull head for his helmet and bull rushing the defensive players to the ground. Both the offense and defense have specific power moves that if used properly and at the correct times can greatly swing a games momentum.
The kids will have plenty of game modes to choose from as well. Now while there is no online multiplayer, there is however offline co-op for up to 4 players in quite a few modes, the first of which is Pickup Game. You can play 1 vs. 1, 1 vs. 2 or 2 vs. 2 in this game mode. Youíll be able to choose your teams and players as well as set specific options such as length of game and difficulty. There is also a Play Now mode which puts you straight into a game with predetermined teams and players. The game is automatically set to medium difficulty. Again, multiplayer is available in this mode as well for up to 4 players on one console. You also get Tournament mode and All-Pro mode which also allow for up to 4 players.
One last mode I want to point out is that there is an actual season mode. This game mode allows you to play a 16 game season just like in the regular NFL. There is plenty of reason to play this mode as it will unlock new players and fields for you to use in the other game modes. There is some actual depth to this mode as well, even for a simple kidís game. Youíll be able to trade players, practice with your squad on certain plays, view season stats, and manage your teamís roster. Just so you know, the trades can be done at anytime and as many times throughout the season. There are no limitations. Donít get to excited there simulation guys. Your entire goal for the season is to win the BFL Trophy. BFL stands for Backyard Football League just in case you didnít figure that out.
So graphically the game looks pretty good. There is not a whole lot of detail in the characters when viewed up close, but youíll get the general idea of who is who just by looking at their name and number. All names are displayed as first names on the playing field. Come on now, they are kids. Each field has its own characteristics that set it apart from another and while itís nothing breathtaking it gets the job done with bright colors and decent backgrounds.
The sounds of the game can be quite comical actually. The commentary is quite witty at times, especially when Chuck has something off the wall to say. I can see kids laughing hysterically at some of the things he says while as adults we me sit and scratch our head and wonder why itís funny. In game sound effect are what you would expect and nothing over the top. Again, everything is geared towards the younger crowd and keeping their attention and it does that perfectly.
Backyard Football is not for the diehard simulation football gurus, nor even the casual arcade style football player. Itís completely aimed at the younger crowd and it hits the mark completely with what it set out to do. Any child that is an up and coming fan of the NFL or maybe plays in a pee wee league somewhere should have a blast playing this game. Lots of points are scored and the player gets rewarded for good game play and play calling which encourages a child even more to continue playing. One thing that definitely will appeal to the children is the ability to gain 100 gamerscore points fairly easy from the 10 achievement available. Heck, that may even appeal to the gamerscore addicts out there as theyíll grab a quick thousand with only 2 or 3 games played. I highly suggest this title for anyone with younger children that may be NFL fans especially. Itís also a great game to sit down with a family of four and play together which is encouraged by the inclusion of the 4 player multiplayer. You canít go wrong with the Backyard Sports series and I look forward to the next installments such as Backyard Baseball.