Even though the NHL lockout, and the subsequent historic season cancellation, has been disappointing to many ice hockey fans, this hasn’t stopped the flow of 2005’s hockey videogames. 989 Sports is preparing to hit the ice on the PSP with Gretzky NHL, which is due for release this spring. Players will be able to take their favorite teams and players on the road, while engaging in several modes of play.
The meat of Gretzky NHL lies in its Season Mode, which allows players to go through a full 82-game season while assuming many roles. Obviously game results are important as players try to finish the season in playoff positions and battle for Lord Stanley’s Cup, but team management responsibilities loom just as large on the gameplay roster. Signing free agents, promoting players from an AHL affiliate, and making the right trades to shore up team weaknesses are all part of the plan. In fact, one of the more interesting features of this game is that there are, in addition to all the registered NHL players, about 400 AHL players in the game’s database. This means that it’s possible to take real hockey players from your local AHL team and promote them to the big time. For players looking for a less-involved experience, Exhibition and Quick Play modes are also offered.
Much like its PS2 counterpart, Gretzky NHL incorporates a gameplay option which allows players to aim their shots. This way, the decision to go five-hole or top shelf lies solely with the player, leading to improved shot selection and accuracy. Combine this with deadly one-timer combinations and a power meter to gauge the speed of a slap shot, and it makes Gretzky NHL a potential offensive powerhouse. There’s also the option of calling plays on the fly for players who have a little bit of strategy up their sleeves.
In order to extend replay value even further, 989 has incorporated the Gretzky Challenge mode into Gretzky NHL. With this mode, players can accumulate Challenge Points by accomplishing specific tasks. These tasks range from winning a faceoff or scoring a goal, to shutting out opponents or scoring within a specific time frame. The Challenge Points can then be spent on a variety of unlockable items, including classic jerseys and the ability to play as