Gretzky NHL 2006 Review

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Graphics: 9.0
Sound : 9.0
Gameplay : 7.5
Multiplayer : 8.0
Overall : 8.0
Review by Bryan Sharp
Hockey videogames have been around for quite a while, and despite many minor improvements over the years, better graphics can only add so much to the same basic idea. However, every once and a while a game comes along that helps redefine a genre. Gretzky NHL 06 is one of those games.

Gretzky NHL 06 takes the underlying design behind hockey and expands it with some new elements. All the basic elements of hockey are intact, like skating, shooting, and checking, but a few new ones help spice up the action.

Gretzky NHL 06 makes high use of its ‘Team Chemistry’ system. This system works by rewarding players for actions in the game. For example, passing the puck to your teammates will increase team chemistry, and can lead to bonus offense or defense ability points. Other things like checking the opposing team and scoring goals can also raise your team chemistry and therefore your team’s offensive or defensive abilities.

Another thing that Gretzky does to improve the hockey format is add little things to the game. One of these little things is the ability to aim where your shot will impact on the net. By holding down the shoot button, a bull’s-eye will appear on the net, which can quickly be adjusted with the joystick before shooting the puck. This aim-based firing system adds a welcome strategic element to the game.

The player can also have control over things like strategy and line changes. By using the directional pad buttons, the player can quickly switch up a play on the fly. The player can select a play and force the defensemen up into attack positions, or tell the center and the wings where to skate. This helps get the player involved in the overall team gameplay, and not just on the individual level of shooting the puck.

The manual control over line changing also adds a strategic element. The player can decide when the best time for a line change is. This can be stressful, but if managed right it can also be to the player’s advantage. Since the players tire in Gretzky NHL 06, a well placed line change can get fresh legs on the ice at just the right moment and help turn the tide in the player’s favor.

Gretzky NHL 06 also includes custom game modes that help keep the action interesting. One mode, called 99 Time, is based around gathering up enough points to get the Great One, Wayne Gretzky himself on to the ice for 99 seconds of play for your team. Points are gathered through teamwork, scoring goals, and big hits against the other team. Points can also be deducted if the other team scores a goal or really slams one of your guys into the boards. When one team reaches 99 points, pushing the L1 and R2 buttons simultaneously sends Gretzky charging onto the ice wearing your team’s uniform. For 99 seconds he’ll play on your side and boost the power of your team. A nice part of this mode is that the announcers also get into the action. Instead of disregarding 99 mode, the announcers talk about Gretzky and about how the teams are doing as far as point gathering. This helped realize the mode and make it just as exciting to play as a real match.

The multiplayer options in Gretzky aren’t too shabby. The game ships with the ability for two players to play against each other or on the same team against the computer. On top of this, the game can go online and the player can compete with other players around the world. This adds a whole new element of multiplayer play and is nice if the single player starts to get boring.

The graphics in Gretzky NHL 06 are well done, and more importantly, they don’t slow down the game. The characters are large enough to see and all other markers in the game are clearly displayed. The camera is also a treat. It keeps up with interesting angles but it never chooses something interesting over something functional.

Another feature that players may appreciate is the immense statistics system built in to the game. It seems like everything that can be tracked, is, and can be brought up with ease. This is great for the player who wants to know everything about the game that was just played or the overall performance of her team.

Gretzky NHL 06 is a fun hockey game. It’s also a smart one, with unique features that keep the game interesting and easy to play. Also, 99 time mode isn’t just a quick mode thrown into the game. It was well thought out, and makes for a nice change of pace from normal play. Overall, Gretzky NHL 06 is worth the buy for the hockey game fanatic and definitely worth the rent for anyone looking for a good time.