When you think of American sports, you think of football, baseball, and maybe even basketball, but very rarely do you see hockey being considered among these top tier sports. With the recent revival of the NHL, hockey is back and hoping to gain more of sports fans’ heart. Well now we have one of the first hockey games to make their way onto Sony’s Playstation Portable in Gretzky NHL 06. Can this game help bring hockey back to life?
Surprisingly, this is the second Gretzky NHL title this year since the first came out in March. I’m sure we want to know how much improvement can be made within this very short period of time? It seems unlikely, but let’s check out Gretzky NHL 06 for the PSP.
Speaking of the original Gretzky game, which was one of the original sports titles for the PSP, it was a game that was just plain average, nothing more than that. The developers of Gretzky NHL 06 are going to try to take this mediocre game and make it much more accessible. One of the things that I noticed right off the bat was that the hockey experience was a lot less sketchy then it had been in the previous game. In fact, when I sat down to play Gretzky NHL 06 just to get my feel for the game, I could see that this was not the same hockey title that I saw at the PSP’s launch.
One of the first modes that really caught my attention was, of course, the Wayne vs. Wayne mode. This on paper may not sound all that great, but wait tell you see it in action. Basically the better your team does, for example having more shots on goal, or the more checks you make, your bar fills up, which will take you to 99 Time. Now once you get your meter filled, then you get a 6-5 power play, with your sixth player being the great one himself, Wayne Gretzky. The mode of course isn’t all that exciting in the long sense, but it is a fun mode nonetheless.
The game once again has a Season mode, but this mode is just pretty standard. With Gretzky NHL 06, you get basically what you would expect from a handheld season mode - some basic management features and just your standard full season. It is good to have a season mode in the game, but I would have liked this much more had the developers put more time and effort for a deeper gameplay. And even the chance of having a franchise mode would have been great!
Gretzky NHL 06 still suffers from a lot of the problems that were found in the previous game. For example, the controls in the game still feel pretty touchy and don’t feel smooth at all. There are still small areas of Gretzky NHL 06 that just don’t feel like a great hockey game. For example, just skating around the rink feels too mechanical, kind of like it doesn’t flow as well as you would want a hockey game to. The hockey has been improved tremendously from the previous game. Yet there is still a lot more they need to do to improve this game. Sure the game is much more accessible, but I still think there is a long way to go for these developers to get Gretzky NHL 06 into a high quality game.
The biggest improvement for Gretzky NHL 06 is actually in the visual department. One of the immediate noticeable improvements is the environments, which have so much more detail in this game. This can be seen on the actual stadiums themselves, all the way down to the character models, which all have a lot more detail. The game also sports a much better frame rate, so the entire game looks like a huge improvement over its predecessor.
Of course, the game still has a ways to go in this category as well, as Gretzky NHL 06 still needs a lot more work, particularly in getting the animation down to a tee. For whatever reason, the game does look a little too robotic, and this does hurt it. However the improvements were strong enough to definitely make this game a decent looking hockey title.
Hockey, in my opinion, is one of the most entertaining sports to play on the consoles. But thus far it hasn’t done the same on the handhelds. Gretzky NHL 06 is a good game, but it doesn’t feel smooth enough to really make this game that fun. Playing as the great one is a great idea and is fun at first but this is not one of those modes that will really keep you entertained for a while. Sure the game has good multiplayer, but the actual core gameplay just does not translate into an overly fun experience.
Gretzky NHL 06 has been improved from Gretzky NHL, but still has a long road ahead of it to make it to the top. There are some great ideas, like the 99 Time, but nothing in this game amounts to a great experience. Unless you are really a diehard hockey fan, you can probably take a rain check on this game. Gretzky NHL 06 for the PSP is a rental at best, but besides that most of us can probably pass on this title.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.