Gretzky NHL 06
Score: 7.0 / 10
October. Another hockey game, this time under the proud name of my spiritual leader: Wayne Gretzky. Gretzky NHL 06 is a return to the franchise that brought some neat ideas into the hockey video game genre, and this time they certainly spent more time on the polish. Besides the traditional NHL and Olympic teams, we also get the addition of AHL Teams, so the Franchise mode lets you take the game into greater consideration (much like actual GMs have to do).
game just looks much better than last years’ version – the menu
system is much improved and the in-game graphics not only are less blah
– they actually provide more useful information. At the end of every
shift, instead of getting the perpetual stream of information (which
they still give a bit of) you will get a rating on the chemistry shift
of specific players or lines as they switch out. On shifts with small
mistakes or good moves – small changes; when you let a goal go by –
bigger losses. The chemistry stat does have an effect on how well a
player does the individual talents: hitting, shooting and so on and so
discuss game modes.
Usual suspects – Quick Mode (let the computer do the random choosing), Single Game (self-explanatory), Wayne vs. Wayne (play a regular game, but if you do enough positives on the ice you can unlock the chance to have Wayne Gretzky for a short while), Franchise (take a team and run it – not just through games, but trades, Free-agency, and drafting of new talent), Rivalry (play as the same teams multiple times in the ultimate grudge match), Tournament (choose the format and whether it’s an NHL one or a World Cup), and Practice (allows you to work out the kinks of gameplay and maybe stop dumping the puck when you really mean to pass). The Franchise mode is usually the bread-and-butter mode for most people and it’s handled adequately – no big surprises, but I found a couple of weird holes that I could abuse to stack my roster; the biggest being the signing of minor league talent then making a trade for the best players in the league (it ends up costing your franchise nothing but the new player’s salary). Otherwise, unbalanced trades are regulated and there are no other big surprises. Also included is the fact that you have to consider the minor leagues and your AHL affiliate – drastic changes to the rosters by bringing players up or demoting them can have an adverse affect on team chemistry, so you have to be careful and deliberate of your moves. The Wayne vs. Wayne mode has probably the most uninteresting description, but it’s deceptive. The mode is really fun and reminds me a lot of a barn-burning game of NFL Blitz than a traditional game of hockey – it certainly is a fun diversion after a bad day. I don’t recall Wayne being that much of a threat to hit, nor do I remember him smoldering on the ice… but it’s all in fun.
The gameplay shows an interesting duality – the quickness of the game and the nature of how skaters actually re-act on the ice surface has never been better captured by anyone before this game, BUT, the game’s AI completely ruins this. I was impressed the first time I saw a defender actually skate properly and not peel off while back-pedaling to deliver a hit, but after seeing that same defender hopelessly out of position and watching the defense routinely be skated around as if they were standing still. Because of this, the game has
become very offensively dominant and loses validity as a simulation game. Goaltending is its’ own horror story. Goalies will make the most impossible saves one moment then blow a simple open ice slap-shot. On the offensive side, we still have the gorgeous give-and-go passing, icon passing (for high traffic areas), and new pinpoint shooting (when cranking a shot we can direct its’ location). Bad defensive AI combined with schizophrenic goaltending and offensive tools equals football scores. It’s just hard to get excited about 14-7 games. All of the in-game commentary is again handled my Mike Emrick and Darren Pang – they are decent commentators and not too obtrusive. However, they still haven’t worked out Emrick’s proclivity to describe every hit as a cross-check nor the pregnant pauses in Pang’s listing of names. It’s minor, but it annoys me to no end.
most sporting games lately, we have the usual challenges to complete.
Some will be completed as you play… others will only be completed by
having no respect for your opponent’s dignity or by refusing to leave
your console for a month (not recommended). Usual goodies like
additional game modes, modifiers, alternate jerseys, and so on and so
forth can be unlocked by diligently completing these tasks.
things to complain about… still not very happy about the required open
memory. 3 Megs is a lot of space on an 8 Meg card and with that size,
saving and loading certainly isn’t instantaneous. Dead spaces for the
puck seem to occur near the net – for some reason, every 2nd
or 3rd game I get a delay of about 30 seconds to a minute
where the puck remains in play near the net but no one can pick it up
and the goalie refuses to freeze it. Team rosters are incomplete,
however, they can be updated on-line… but that certainly doesn’t
explain why some of the coaches are incorrect (that’s the weirdest
thing I can remember on a game that actually listed most of the players
on the farm team correctly).
in all, Gretzky NHL 06 showed some serious improvement graphically over
last year’s version but otherwise all the same flaws remain untouched.
So it gets a slightly better score, but if they actually FIXED those
things it would get a much better one.
(November 3, 2005)
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