NHL 08 Xbox 360 Review

May 30, 2010 by Simon Wigham  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

Over its many years, EA’s NHL Ice Hockey series has fluctuated between accessible arcade gameplay from one year and more thoughtful simulation based gameplay to another year. This year’s edition, NHL 08 is amongst the most realistic Hockey games ever conceived, so it’s obviously simulation this time around then.

NHL 08 is certainly a more cerebral game than last years version was. 08 takes a much slower and considered pace, but still offers a rapid and thrilling game of Hockey. Your AI opposition have seemingly been in training as they’re much smarter and will alter their tactics based on how you’re playing, clever lads that they are. So if for example you’re incessantly sliding through the centre, the AI will learn of this and will send their men to reinforce this area so as to prevent you from cheaply using this tactic again and again.

But at least you’ll now have an idea of what you’re doing right and wrong against this rather merciful lot and perhaps any human competition that you may have to contend with. At the duration of each period, you’ll receive tips from your coach letting you know what aspects of that particular game you’re getting right and more importantly what you need to improve upon. A pleasing new addition.

What isn’t new is the controls, but they didn’t need to be. The excellent skill stick, which was introduced last year, is present and correct and has seen some refinements that makes for smoother controls. A new move is the ability to deke, which essentially pushes the puck past a player, allowing you to gracefully slide round them to retrieve the puck, this can have a bit of a learning curve but once you pull it off, it’s a thing of beauty, and a highly effective evasion manoeuvre when you’re in control of the puck.

NHL 08’s primary game mode, the dynasty mode meshes both the playing and managing of your team and allows for a rather generous fifteen seasons of play. New players can be signed and traded, players can be trained up and more, all in the hope of getting your frosty hands on the Stanley Cup.

New to the online landscape this year are shootouts and the much requested leagues, which can be played by up to 32 players. Cooperative play has also been included for those who like to team up with their friends and relatives as opposed to knocking them silly and can be played on a single console or online.

Graphically it’s rather nice. Ice looks cold, helmets are shiny and faces are emotive. Aurally it’s even better. The eruption of the crowd during particularly exciting moments and the intelligent and typically hyperactive American commentary from Gary Thorne and Bill Clement (which it must be said pleasingly informs the people who aren’t familiar with the sport of all the rules, always a plus in our book) really adds to the atmosphere and excitement of a match.

NHL 08 is a brilliant representation of the sport of ice hockey and it’s hard to see 2K Games effort bettering it at least for this year. Since we enjoyed ourselves so much, we really hope EA have settled on this style of play this time around, but going by the history of the series we guess not. Enough of the speculation and more of the recommending. Buy it!

9/10

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