Positives: Great improvement over last years game, game play has been improved by leaps and bounds, the game is soo deep you could drown your cat in it, and the added extras are great.
Negatives: Presentation is plain and unfulfilling and having to go to work rather than playing this game really sucks.
Learning Curve: 1 hour or so, depending on past experiences with hockey games.
Years have passed since EA has made a successful hockey game. Which their older instalments being the best (’95 for the win). In the past, NHL games were more arcadey, full with a lot of action, hits and goals. But, in this new day and age of added realism and high definition game play, the consumer is looking for the most realistic experience they can get without actually strapping on the pads. Fans are just as passionate about the real game as they are about the video game, and if EA’s famous line of “It’s in the game” was ever going to be used in life, it should be now.
The models and animations in NHL 2008 are eerily realistic.
Gamers builded a strong case against early next gen sports instalments with little improved play over the last gen versions. But, this year is different. Now that the developers have had time to work with the new consoles, they have been able to put out vastly superior products. As I previously mentioned, NHL 07 wasn’t a bad game: they changed the wheel of shooting in hockey games, which was adopted quickly by the gaming community. Throw in some bad AI, over powered checks and an overall shallow game, and there you have EA’s last years offering.
This year, everything has been reworked for the better. They have added a new skating engine, tons of new features, and improved upon everything from last year, oh yeah, and it works.
Presentating a sports game isn’t easy, just ask EA. They have never gotten the presentation right and still haven’t figured things out with NHL 08. The menu is very plain, the transitions from game play to menu screens aren’t special and the whole presentation of a live hockey game is rather blah. EA is still a long way from impressing us when it comes to overall presentation.
As a gamer, and fellow hockey player, sound is very important to me. I know the sounds of the rink and like them to be perfect when I play the game. And oh boy are they! The on ice sounds are fantastic. Skates hitting the ice, pucks getting thrown around, they all sound spot on. The announcing during the hockey games are fantastic and easily rank as the best announcing ever in a sports game.
One thing that was good in NHL 07 was the graphics, and they have even been made better. The facial maps are excellent. All the players and coaches look exactly like they would in real life. The animations sets are stellar: when you score a goal, shoot the puck, even flinch a muscle… it all looks perfect.
The main nagging problem that needed to be fixed from NHL 07 was gameplay problems. EA took it upon themselves to do it and they did. The have change the whole skating engine, and made it realistic not just relying on speed burst to get on a breakaway. Shooting has become more smooth and even more intuitive. When I first played this game, I was blown away. Literally. 7-0. It was pretty sad. The reason being that the game has changed so much. No more running at a player and checking him from across the ice, no more skating around players easily, no more easy set ups in the zone and no more easy goals on brain dead goalies. The first thing I found out was how slow the skating was, and first off, I was already calling this game shit. But, after a lot of missed checks and horrible plays on my part, I began to catch on, and I loved it. The game surprises me every time I play it with how realistic it is. Everything has been made better in the gameplay department, and I think this time, they have it right.
Among all the extras there has been some really key things added. My favourite addition is a custom play creator that actually works. Just like a coach’s dry erase play during a timeout, gamers can draw up their own plays and record them on the fly in NHL 08. The custom play system is completely user-friendly, too, as skater’s movements are illustrated with bright telestrator-like graphics and also uses the same control scheme as the actual game does. Further customization in NHL 08 can be had in the Creation Zone, which (finally) enables players to be made nearly from scratch. Performance items such as sticks and skates affect player attributes, too, just as they would with a real player looking for that competitive, ahem, edge.
The popular Shootout mode gives love to the goalies in NHL 08, as they can now be controlled in a third-person camera view. Shootouts can be settled online, but it is features like three-on-three (six different consoles) and 32-team custom leagues that will make gamers do a double take and wonder what took EA so long to get on the trolley. And last but not least, NHL 08 includes the complete AHL lineup, with the ability to develop talent and sign them to NHL contracts. With 29 AHL teams on top of the NHL squads, NHL 08 is like playing two very good games in one, and should be a deal maker to those that care about the semi’s (read: Canadians).
EA has made some pretty good hockey games to date, but this one beats them all. Unparalled gameplay and realism make this game one of the best. No other games can match the fun and depth this game creates. EA set out to fix the NHL franchise and I give them props for doing so, because they have made playing this game fun all over again.
Bottom Line: If you love hockey or just sports games, pick up this game. I can safely say, (hopefully without having any 2k reps trying to kill me,) this is the best hockey game ever made