It’s far from unusual for retired sports legends to appear in video games. That being said, most games do very little beyond inserting a highly-rated counterpart who bares little resemblance to that player beyond his name – or worse yet, just his jersey number and position. There’s a big difference between doing that and actually capturing something of the essence of that player or vintage team.
That’s the thing that made NBA 2K11’s use of Michael Jordan so special. The game featured a mode in which you could follow the basketball legend’s career high points, but it was the obvious dedication to replicating the style and feel of classic Bulls teams (and their rivals, such as the 1994-95 New York Knicks) that gave that game such incredible replay value. As a jilted Phoenix Suns fan, it was rewarding to try to take on those great Bulls teams in a way that felt like the real thing. (Although I must admit that I was saddened by the absence of Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson and “Thunder” Dan Majerle.)
As great as that game and feature was, I couldn’t help but yearn for a hockey equivalent. While it is unclear how much hockey legends will be implemented, the latest teaser for EA Sports’ NHL ’12 game reveals that some of the NHL’s all-time greats will be included in the game. This Game Trailers.com video hints that Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux will be included while Sean Leahy points out some Accomplishments that hint at the inclusion of Gordie Howe and Pavel Bure as well.
That could be a lot of fun, but the most important thing with this feature – for me at least – is that they capture some of the nuisances of each player. If Gretzky is just a playmaker with high ratings, it won’t be as satisfying as it would be to slice opposing defenses apart from his “office.” Lemieux needs a ridiculous reach advantage. Howe needs to be tough as nails (and if they’re really going over the top) the ability to shoot both left and right-handed.
The impression I got from that trailer is that they’re focusing solely on individual stars rather than classic teams, although a previous edition of the NHL series featured an all-time team of Montreal Canadiens stars to commemorate their 100th anniversary. If it’s a legends-only feature this year, maybe they could work on a handful of great teams for a future iteration if the feature becomes popular. After all, how much fun would it be to pit dynasty-era Oilers teams against the dominant Montreal Canadiens groups and so on?
Perhaps the hinted-upon August 11 reveal will give us more information about the legends and other aspects of NHL ’12, which will release on September 13. Either way, we’ll keep an eye open for the most interesting details.
(H/T to Puck Daddy.)