Gretzky 2005

Review

posted 12/28/2004 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: PS2
If you’re like me, you’re probably depressed over the NHL labor lockout. I’ve been desperate to find some hockey; even going so far as to watch the replays of the classic Kings games that appear on Fox Sports West in the time slots that were supposed to be filled by the actual games. It’s not all that bad though, thanks to the miracle of modern technology you don’t have to say “what if” in regards to the season. Who needs a bunch of spoiled toothless millionaires anyway? There are a couple of choices available to you but which one is the right one? As far as we’re concerned, it’s a two horse race and none of the competitors are named Gretzky 2005. That’s not to say that it’s not a decent game, the foundation has definitely been laid, but the game just isn’t ready to compete with the prime time players, yet.

This year’s game throws away the tainted Face Off moniker and replaces it with the name of hockey’s greatest legend. It’s a great move that shows the world that 989 Sports is demanding its rightful place in the world of hockey video games. Right off the bat the game gets off to a running start with a video that showcases the accolades of the Great One. Generally I like to skip introduction videos but this one was so well done that I couldn’t help but sit through its entirety. The level of quality holds up well throughout the menus as well. Instead of giving you a static background, the backdrops are composed of action shots utilizing engine rendered skaters. You’ll notice that there are a bevy of modes available to you including the online mode and the Gretzky challenge. Gretzky challenge is WG2005’s little point-gathering system that rewards you for fulfilling tasks and accomplishing goals. Upon gaining enough points you can obtain access to classic teams and a bevy of other options and goodies.

If you’ve ever taken a 989 Sports game online before you’ll know what to expect in terms of level of quality. 989 has gone to great lengths to ensure that its online applet is convenient, stable and solid in all respects and it shows in WG2005. Finding a game is simple, chatting with others is easy and it’s always convenient to search around and find what you’re looking for. Best of all, most online games tend to be highly stable with very little lag to speak of. Oh and speaking of which, you can talk trash with your opponent if you have the USB headset. A must-have for when you need to school a buddy from across the United States. You’ll also have some pretty good stat tracking utilities at your disposal, although none of them rival the VIP system found in the ESPN games.

The problem with Gretzky is that it doesn’t feel like real hockey. Players don’t behave and react like they would in real life. Defenders don’t rush the puck; attackers don’t crash the net and the entire pace of the game is just wrong. It’s actually easier to spend the game in your defensive zone because the forward’s breakout speed allows them to blow past the defense. All you need to do is lure the opponent into your zone, stop his attack and head up the ice for a quick odd-man rush. It’s as if the game grasps the basic tenets of the sport, but fails to embellish the finer intricacies that make the sport what it is. Some minor tweaks here and there could fix things up a bit, but the game needs a real AI overhaul.

It’s like your team is comprised of Gomer Pyle, Gilligan, Screech and Anna Nicole Smith. They’re stupid and they actually do the complete opposite of what they’re supposed to be doing. When the opposing team attacks the AI actually moves away from the action, presumably to watch it on the jumbotron. They don’t clog passing lanes, they don’t alter shooting lanes and they can’t cover their men. Players have a tendency to stand around while A-class players like Sergei Federov blow past them en route to the net. And that’s just the skaters; the goaltending in the game is an entirely different enigma.
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