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December 21, 2007
NHL 2K8 - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
2/11/20072K2K SportsKush Games1-42-8
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Check out the background crowds.
Now let me be honest from the start here. I'm not a fan of sports titles in any way shape or form, nor am I a fan of Ice Hockey. I'm more your standard gamer who would rather sit inside and shoot things... So I was fairly surprised back in March this year to find that I quite enjoyed 2K's NHL 2K7 for PS2, and when I got offered the chance to pick up the updated NHL 2K8 for PS3, I found myself having a hard time finding reasons to turn it down. This year's newest addition to the annually updated franchise is fairly well on par with the last one. If that's not enough detail for you, well, you know where to look for more (see: down).

This year's rendition continues much in the same vein as previous releases. That is to say that there is no story mode or plot, so instead of talking about that here, let's get straight onto the important stuff...

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Players look even better this year!
NHL 2K8 comes with all the bells and whistles that you have come to expect from the highly regarded series. The teams, rosters and stats have all been updated to reflect the year onwards since 2K7, there's a deep franchise management mode, as well as quick play, multiplayer mini-games and more. As far as value for money goes, little has changed. In fact, things have gotten better this time around, with two extra, albeit it average, modes added in allowing you to take your NHL experience even further. What has changed is, well, almost everything else.

Actually that's not true. Realistically, only one thing has changed, but it is so significant a change that it alters the entire game to the point where players are going to find themselves feeling like they are in completely unfamiliar water. But rest assured, we can say with 100% confidence that it is a positive change... once you have adjusted.

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The new Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.
Allow me to explain. At the moment, a big focus in the current gen games is innovative game play mechanics. This has lead to a few things, ranging from motion sensors, through to different control schemes. In particular, sports titles have turned to using the right analogue stick as more than just a camera a lot more. Sure it's been there for ages; games like the FIFA Street series on PS2 were using this way before the X360, PS3 and Wii hit the shelves, but pick up any handful of popular sports releases, and you're bound to find at least a couple of games where you have to change the way you think about that particular sport. In this vein, 2K has introduced what they call the ‘pro-stick' control.

The basic idea behind this is that you still control your player using the left analogue stick, but you control your hockey stick, and through this the puck, using the right stick. It's something that hockey games have been playing with a little for a few years, but it's never been implemented to this extent. Now let me say this now; it may not sound like that big a deal, but consider that all hockey fans, and all fans of sports games that work on similar mechanics, have had a very ‘arcade' style in their games since day one, where its mass X so many times, hold down O to build up power, push a direction as you go for a goal. All of a sudden, this is no longer the case. You literally have to forget everything you ever learnt about playing sport with a controller!

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A fantastic looking game, no doubt about it.
It's a massive risk 2K have taken here, but we are glad to say it's one that, in our opinion, absolutely rocks. Sure, we are still constantly moving our fingers to the action buttons and wondering why it's not working, and sure we got absolutely flogged for the first few matches, but the moment we ‘got it', there was no turning back. It simply makes you feel like you have absolute control over how to hit the puck. You want to aim for a particular corner of the net behind the goal? It's never been easier. The danger is, of course, that it is likely to scare off hardcore hockey gamers as well as gamers who are not willing to relearn the game.

This control scheme changes everything, but it's really probably the only noteworthy change/addition in this year's release of the game. Controls aside, it's honestly just another yearly update to the series. Some different stats here, a few extra fairly meaningless modes and mini games, and multi-player, both online and offline, making its return - there's a lot of content there that you already have if you have the previous release. Nonetheless, it's a nice update, and if we are to be honest, outside of this fact, coupled with the overwhelming nature of the control change, there is very little to fault the game. It ran smoothly at every point we were playing it, audio never seemed to fault and we found nothing else to complain about!

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Another impressive screen.
Speaking of which, something we definitely couldn't complain about is the graphical quality of this incarnation of the series. This is, hands down, the best looking NHL game out (yes even better than that other series that we won't mention). Player models and animations have been knocked up since last year's impressive release, as have environments/rinks. Simply put, everything here looks awesome!

Likewise, audio, not exactly a prime feature of any sports title, is still at about the same level as the last time we visited 2K for some Ice Hockey. A few of the rock tracks still seem out of place in the overall game but there's nothing horrid about the aural content of NHL 2K8.

Let's get this straight – NHL 2K8 doesn't give you a lot more than you got from 2K7, but the one major change that is there is worth the price of admission alone, if you can deal with it. Personally we loved the new control scheme, and overall I'd definitely say this is a move in the right direction for an already decent series. Looks and sounds the part, and plays better than any other hockey game we've had the chance to play. What more could you ask for? A large wad of cash you say? Well... uh... good luck with that!

Review By: Michael Hutchesson

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GRAPHICSLooks as good as Ice Hockey has ever and better.
SOUNDOn par with last year – nothing to complain about here.
GAMEPLAYNew controls are overwhelming and difficult to learn, but play like a dream after that. Otherwise, it’s the same deal as usual here.
VALUEMore modes than you can poke a stick at... plus online and offline multiplayer and an incredibly deep franchise mode as per usual. Great value here.
OVERALLA positive change from 2K7, though it will inevitably lose some traditionalist fans due to the changing control scheme.

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