Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Are you a control freak? How about a hockey fan? If you answered, “yes,” to both of those, NHL 2K8 might be the game for you.

This game is about hockey – no big shock there. But, what is surprising, is just how much hockey. Other titles have offered franchise/dynasty options, most of which are done well. But it often seems like there are glaring weaknesses such as free agents signing too easily, simple manipulations of other teams in trades and the feature is just too shallow. That’s not the case with this title.

You are the supreme ruler of your franchise and handle just about everything you can imagine…well, except for the wants and needs of the players. As the owner/GM, be prepared to have players hold out because they want more money or a longer contract. Expect free agents to turn you down, walk away from negotiations and sign with a rival team. Be ready to deal with salary cap issues. Basically, if it’s in the game, it’s in the game. Wait, did someone else used to say that? In this case, it’s 2K Sports that can make the claim.

Of course, the main reason people buy a hockey game isn’t because they want to negotiate player contracts. It’s because they want to play hockey. They feel the need to sharpen ‘em up, lace ‘em up and hit the ice. So, when it comes to gameplay, does 2K8 light the lamp? Like Sidney Crosby standing alone in the crease attempting an empty-netter!

One of the best things in this game is the stick control feature. It essentially gives you full control over your hockey stick. Thinking back to the days when the goal in a hockey video game was to drop an opponent and see blood on the ice, it’s amazing to think just how far 2K8 has brought simulated hockey. Skating up the ice and cutting left, all while having your stick move to the right, is amazing. This is done by using the right stick to control your hockey stick. No longer do players have to use their player control button/stick to do everything. With 2K8 the right/left stick actions are independent of each other, just like real hockey.

Are there drawbacks to this game? Sure. Getting used to the stick control feature can take a little while, especially if you’re used to the old style. Of course you can use the practice mode to hone your skills. Another issue is the fact that during games your players don’t seem to have the same resiliency as the computer’s guys. It seems easier for the computer to separate your guys from the puck than it is for you to do the same to the cyber-skaters. Of course, some may feel it just makes for a more challenging game and that’s not always bad.

So, if you like total control and frozen pond action, give NHL 2K8 a try. Chances are it’ll get you fired up enough to drop the gloves, just not the controllers.

GAMEPLAY: The game is smooth and sims a real hockey game very well. The total control functions well and, after time, improves the play over the typical control layout many may be used to. Still might be a little too much for casual gamers. Menu screens leave something to be desired, but they are manageable. The life of this one should be long…at least long enough to last until 2K9.

GRAPHICS: Players are represented well and their movements are fluid. The lines are pretty clean. The same can’t be said for this ice, as the surface shows more abuse as the game goes on. The crowd is the typical blah filler that doesn’t add anything, but who plays a hockey game to see the fans?

SOUND: Announcers are the typical sports game announcers – not cream of the crop, but not bottom of the barrel. Quality soundtrack and pretty good in-game sound effects. I’m not sure there’s a way a sports title can go wrong when Quiet Riot is one of the tracks!

EXTRAS: Practice modes, mini-games and a pond hockey mode all add to the life of the title. The pond mode, for whatever reason, was more entertaining than I anticipated, although it’s probably nothing special if you play it too much. Overall, there are enough options to give you a break from the franchise/season stuff and to extend the replay life of this one.

GRADE: 86%

This game should be safe for all, except for the youngest of gamers, to play. Basically, if watching real NHL games is OK, playing this title shouldn't be a problem.

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