Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Game Rating: E10 (Everyone +10)
Walking down the hall to your dressing room, passing the numerous reporters on the way. You take your seat beside Sundin, and slowly get changed for the big game. Tightening the laces of your skates, pulling on your navy blue jersey, grabbing your helmet and stick, you take to the ice of the Air Canada Centre. It’s hockey night in Canada baby!
Hockey is to Canada, what the church is to the Pope. And with EA Sports latest revision of NHL 08, we have something here that brings you as close to the game as you are going to get, without leaving the comforts of your couch!
The Pro-Stick system introduced in NHL 07 is back, and more refined then ever. Movement of the puck on your stick has much more feel and accuracy. Improved defensive AI learns from your attack behavior and counter acts with changing its defensive decisions, making you try different offense.
Dynasty mode is back, and you control the team, finances, farm teams, contracts, and player development. Making this sim complex on how your organization will develop for future cup runs.
Presentation – 9
NHL 08’s layout is clean and concise. Menu’s are easy to navigate, and provide you with all ability a coach or gm requires to control it’s team.
Playing the actual game, really makes you feel like you are watching a televised game.
Anthems are song, game warm up skates are taken, and stats of several star players are shown. Concluding with the first face off.
Player customization is also fun, giving you the ability to select from a plethora of equipment, faces, facial hair and so on.
Graphics – 8
Hockey games always seem to disappoint in the graphics department. And this is not necessarily the developers fault. Rather, it is just hard to make these games look anymore realistic than they have the last couple of years.
NHL 08 is a polished version of NHL 07. Graphics are a little bit more clean, and player likeness to their real life counterparts look a bit better. But we still run into the generic faces for medium to low end players. Kind of sucks when half your team looks alike.
Lighting and shadowing on the ice is done real well, and even shows wear on the ice as the period continues.
Sound – 9
Its real nice when you are getting blown out after two periods, and your team takes to the ice for the third period to the boo’s of the home crowd. This really makes the game authentic, especially if you are a Leaf fan! 😛
Commentary is not too repetitive, but play a season, and you will soon get their comments burned into your memory.
Shots hitting the boards or goal posts provide the ewws and awws from the crowd. Great saves by your goalie will provide the chant of his name by the crowd.
Gameplay – 8
Getting used to the pro-stick in NHL 08 is key. You can switch back to the classic control schema used in prior NHL games to NHL 07. But the pro-stick does provide the game with a sense that you are really stick handling the puck through your opponents. It also has been refined from NHL 07’s pro-stick. I simply could not get the hang of this new feature in last year’s version and ended up trading the game in. But with NHL 08’s pro-stick the feature just seems more easy to use.
Player AI has also improved. And is very challenging at the higher levels. One frustrating bug in this game, is every time you score at a higher difficulty, the 360’s AI will score on their first shot following your goal. It doesn’t matter if you are out shooting your opponent 30 to 5. This catch up bug really burns you, especially in close games.
Defense is a drag in this game. Poke checks are pretty much useless, and body check usually result in a penalty. NHL 08 really forces you to use positional defense. Which is good for today’s NHL. But frustrating as well.
Multiplayer – 9
NHL 08 is a blast online. And there is no lag to report (depending on your internet connection). Most sport games seem to hiccup with it’s connection, but NHL 08 delivers steady connection during game play. Unless of course you are playing someone over seas.
The bugs are out too. With previous versions of hockey online, I always found that people would discover the cheap goal bugs. Shooting the puck in from along the boards, or the infamous slap shot from the top of the face off circle have been corrected.
Lasting Appeal – 9.5
Really the question here is, do you like hockey? If you are into controlling your roster moves, scouting, and developing your youth. NHL 08 is a great hockey simulator. I usually only replace my current version of hockey, if something dramatic has been changed from the previous version.
I really could not get into NHL 07. But NHL 08 has brought me back, and will stay in my game library until the next revolution of hockey games is introduced.