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NHL 08 review

Excellent
AT A GLANCE
  • Smooth gameplay
  • Brilliant hockey AI
  • Skill Stick rocks hard
  • Tough to land big hits
  • Repetitive commentary
  • No speed burst button

Sept 14, 2007

Hockey fans have had it rough these last few years, what with cancelled seasons, sagging TV ratings, and commissioner Garry Bettman's continuing reign of terror. However, there's one sure way to put a toothless grin on your favorite puckhead's face this season - hand him NHL 08 and get out of the way.



Simply put, NHL 08 is the best hockey game we've played in eons, and clearly the champion of its generation. It's been a long time coming, but Electronic Arts has hit almost all the right notes this season, packaging stellar controls, gorgeous visuals, and smooth gameplay into a stunner of a title.

The Skill Stick, an ingenious shotmaking feature introduced last season, returns intact with a couple of new tweaks to expand its usage. You still wind up and fire away on the right stick to generate blistering slapshots or seeing-eye wristers - no change there. However, a new deke mechanic adds to its depth by allowing you to slither past hapless defenders with a deft flick of the left stick and bumper. Naturally, it's easier to pull off these moves with Peter Forsberg than Derian Hatcher, but no matter who you're skating with it takes some time to perfect them. Chances are you'll end up turned the wrong way without the puck if you don't hit the practice ice first.

More than anything, ice hockey is a game of crazy bounces and wild caroms, and the Skill Stick delivers these in spades. Thankfully, there are few, if any, "money" plays to be found. If you're going to score, you'll need a combination of hard work and a dash of luck, as it takes real, live hockey smarts to put a puck in the back of the net. Working the biscuit around the perimeter, cycling down low, and grinding away along the boards will produce scoring chances. Even better, the AI uses these same methods and plays more realistically than we've ever seen before.



The other big difference this season is easy to spot, and that's the visuals. No longer chugging at an eye-aching 30 frames per second, NHL 08 runs like a well-oiled machine, from the hyper-realistic skating physics to the spectacular goaltending moves. Other than a few middling annoyances - way too many shots clang off the post and scads of Gary Thorne's phrases get spewed repeatedly - you'll be hard-pressed to find much that'll detract from a superb experience.

EA has even gone ahead and created online leagues to update their formerly no-frills multiplayer offerings, much to the joy of next-gen gamers across the land. We have had some issues with lag and connectivity, though, so until those get completely worked out we're not ready to give online functionality a complete thumbs up just yet.

Even so, hockey fans and casual sports gamers alike will love NHL 08, as its simple yet deep controls invite all comers to the ice. This season, everyone should take a sip from NHL 08's Stanley Cup.

 

More Info

Release date: Sep 11 2007 - PS2, Xbox 360 (US)
Available Platforms: PS2, Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Sports
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: EA SPORTS, EA Montreal, Electronic Arts
Franchise: NHL
ESRB Rating:
Everyone 10+: Mild Violence

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