NHL 08 Review – The ice stays fresh the entire game.

NHL 08

Electronic Arts, EA Canada

Ps3, Xbox 360

For quite a long time, EA’s NHL franchise has played second fiddle to 2K’s NHL franchise. However, the tables have harshly turned this time around, as NHL 2K8 is possibly the worst hockey game we have ever witnessed, and it also doesn’t hurt that NHL 08 is possibly the best. That’s right. NHL 08 is possibly the best hockey game we have ever played, as it is nearly perfect in every aspect.

One of the first things you’ll notice is the switch back to the skill stick for shooting. This works unbelievably well, and it is amazing fun. The skill stick requires some real skill, but with some practice, it can be perfected, and you’ll be able to pull of the Pavel Datsyuk deke in no time. The animations for the moves are really fluent and add that huge sense of realism and style, that the players deserve to be recognized for. The only problem, is that the hockey stick still goes right through a player, instead of not do that, as it would in real life. But this is such a minor prob, because the overall execution of the skill stick is a great addition that works really good.

nhl08.jpg

What’s also great, is that EA has finally started to utilize the power of the next gen systems. Not only is this one of the best looking sports games ever, but it also happens to be one of the best looking games of this generation. Players’ and coaches’ faces all look photo realistic, and their animations show all sorts of emotions that bring them to life. Everything reflects in the ice perfectly, not just some cheap image that’s supposed to pass as a reflection. If a player lifts his leg, his reflection will do the same. The glare in the ice is really greatly placed. The full body animations are also really life like, and there are no seams to any of the movements.

08 also sounds amazing. The crowd noises are loud and vibrant, and the announcers do a terrific job of doing the play by play. The soundtrack is actually one of the best ever in an EA game, as there are virtually only one or two songs worth switching off.

Probably the biggest addition is the new AI system. The opposing team will learn your routines, and will actually put up a big fight. Every player on the ice has this AI, and it makes for some of the most realistic gaming in recent memory. Now, playing through a season is actually realistic, as you will lose games frequently, and all the goalies will actually try to stop the puck, usually doing so with success. In previous games, the top save % would be 89, and in NHL 08, that would be around the middle of the pack. Yes, that means that 20 goal games are very rare.

In dynasty mode, AHL rosters have been added, to increase the realism of being a GM. Also, signing free agents has become a difficult, but worthy topic, as it can really pay off for your franchise. The scouting system has also been upped, as you can scout all throughout the season focusing on the players you want to look at.

There is also a new create a play function that works well, although it is probably only for the hardcores. Just winging it usually works out. Also, there is now the ability to go to practice, with a bunch of training sessions that will raise the attributes of your players, and help you get a feel for your new lines.

Keeping it short, the focus on NHL 08 was to add that sense of realism. With great audiovisuals, great physics, and great AI, EA has finally done that. If you are a fan of hockey games, or looking for something to showcase your system, definitely pick up NHL 08.

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~ by smithbubbajones on February 9, 2008.

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