Published Nov 21, 2007EA Sports perennial hockey franchise returns with NHL 08. The changes from last years instalment are minor, focusing on improving last years innovative "Skill Stick shooting mechanism, adding minor league teams to Franchise mode and developing enhanced support for co-op multiplayer games online.
2007 saw the implementation of the new "Skill Stick function on the Xbox 360. For the first time in EA hockey history, players were able to use the right analogue stick to control their shots on net. The idea behind the new control scheme was to allow for more sensitive and realistic puck control, but the system felt clumsy compared to the traditional button controlled shot mechanic. The development team at EA has greatly improved this years "Skill Stick, making it more responsive and natural feeling for the 08 game. The other major addition to play control allows players to take control of their goalie in a new third-person "Goalie mode. "Goalie mode is more of a curiosity than a useful way to play the game, unless you are really interested in seeing what it feels like to lose by many points.
This years franchise mode also allows players to play as any of the 29 AHL teams for the first time, guiding a rookie minor leaguer towards NHL success as your Dynasty progresses. Disappointingly, the 360 and PS3 versions of this years game are missing the Fantasy Draft option, though the PS2 and PC versions are equipped with the ability.
Visually, NHL 08 is not noticeably better looking than last years game, though character animations have been improved, making the players move with more fluidity. This years computer AI is smart and tough, even on the moderate Pro setting, making you work hard for every goal.
EA has also created a new team-oriented online game-type, where groups of up to three players join together against an opposing team. Players can lock to a specific position (including goalie) to decrease the confusion inherent in constantly switching to the player closest to the puck. The inclusion of a multi-player option shows that EA is moving in the right direction but this mode would be further improved by allowing full five-on-five games next year (or six-on-six, if their are any masochists willing to risk their team's wrath for letting in goals).
It must be noted that some Xbox 360s have been experiencing problems with NHL 08, causing the game to freeze during game play. Reportedly the issue is not due to faulty discs but a hardware problem that has yet to be addressed by Microsoft. So, make sure to keep your receipt if you purchase NHL 08.
The improved controls, online multiplayer and deeper Franchise mode make NHL 08 a great addition to any Hockey fans game library, especially if youre just making the switch to a next-gen system this holiday season. (EA)