Gretzky NHL '06
Hockey's back. Woo.
Notice my sincere lack of enthusiasm there. Not that I dislike hockey or anything (it's actually my favorite sport), but after spending a weekend with Gretzky NHL '06 for the PlayStation 2, I find it hard to muster any form of sincerity for the coolest game on earth.
See, Gretzky NHL '06 has a lot going against it. First, it's being sold for $40 bucks, the highest priced hockey game on the market. And second, it doesn't bear the same 'Great One'? title as its namesake.
The one thing you might notice from the start is just how fast everything plays. And not good fast, either. The default game speed makes the game play spazzy, with nearly incomprehensible action on screen. It might hearken back to the days of old, when hockey games were all about bone crunching action, but that overly fast paced action just doesn't translate well into the world of 3D.
Fortunately, you can set the game speed lower (or higher if you're looking for a quick way to get a seizure), and there, the game hits its stride. It's not a great stride or anything, it's kind of wobbly all around, but it works out just fine. As with Gretzky '05, this year's version plays like an old school hockey game, with the shoot first, strategize later formula going for it. There's not a lot of realism to work with, so you can penalize other players at will with little fear of repercussion. Sure, you can mess with the gameplay options so that it plays like a regulation game, but do that and Gretzky NHL '06 just doesn't work so well. You can see the flaws in the AI for both sides, goalies especially, and the fast paced nature of the game just doesn't play out so well when trying for a slower paced and realistic slant.
The presentation has been upped a bit, with a few neat features thrown in the mix like multi-angle replays, but it's still being shown up by some of the bigger contenders out there. And the visuals, likewise, feel bland and insipid. Worse yet is that the default camera feels shaky, which might be another result of the overly fast pace of play.
In the end, it's hard to really confidently recommend Gretzky NHL '06 because there's a much better alternative out there: NHL 2K6. In all honesty, it's just a much better hockey game, offering up both realistic and arcade style gameplay that's far more satisfying than what you can find in Gretzky NHL '06. So unless you have a thing for Wayne Gretzky (he is a handsome fellow, you know), then you might want to skip Gretzky NHL '06 in favor of something less mediocre.
The Great One shoots' !
' and he misses.