NHL 08 - game review

Date: 2007-09-27 13:10:00
The review was based on the PC version.

The advertising slogans of the new NHL gave hope. Improved Skill Stick system. Record your hand-made tactics in Practice Mode. New Goalie Mode. The new AHL league. And the next-gen graphics announced a year ago.

My smile slipped from my face when I saw the note PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360. Not a word about the PC version. Still full of optimism, I thought that it is impossible to make two completely different games with the same title. Errare HopkinZum est.

A classic menu welcomes us. The music clinks but does not captivate. No strong sound. There is no expressive sound here. The commentators remained the same. Options, game rules - the old way. The players and teams creation zone is a carbon copy from the previous edition. You can also play online, play in tournaments, season, playoffs and penalties. There are four standard difficulty level options for everything. It only takes a few moments to notice that it is in vain to look for a Skill Stick system as refined as on the next-gen, next-gen graphics or at least Goalie Mode.

I also have to whine about the interface. It is opaque and confusing. You have to click a lot to get where you want to go. Plus, the menus are sometimes freaky. The most convenient way to navigate through them is with the mouse, but this is not always possible. Sometimes the computer responds only to keyboard cursors, and in other cases only to the analog joypad knobs (if one is connected to the computer). The journey through the menu takes longer than several thirds.

The novelty is the AHL - American Hockey League - which I mentioned earlier. The player has the opportunity to play the season with youngsters, whom he will lead to winning the Calder Cup. Exactly: only the season. It is impossible to lead a young team in Dynasty Mode. I'm betting that we will see something like this in a year, and EA will announce it as a revolution.

The second new option is Fantasy Draft in Dynasty mode. We can start our career by mixing players from different teams and choosing those who suit us. But remember about Salary Cap, which is the maximum amount that we spend on contracts with players. The team of the stars themselves does not exist.

A certain innovation is the Skill Stick. What's under that name? Well, with the right analog knob it rains (it is - it only rains, because the Skill Stick on the keyboard does not exist) you can make basic feints, shoot and pass. It sounds cool, but you can't - unlike the next-gen console - throw the puck into the air and hit it like a baseball bat. Or to release the puck between the opponent's legs. In short, in the PC version, the Skill Stick has been deprived of what is the coolest. Of course, you can still play the keyboard. Shoot, pass, accelerate, make feints and use the Open Ice Support / Control action.

The pad has two function settings to choose from. The first is Classic, which is what we have seen in previous editions. The right analog stick is responsible for dece (flipping the disc from one side of the "shoulder" to the other - this is a poorer version of the Skill Stick). The difference is visible only when we choose the second set, called Hybrid. Here it is interesting because with the right analog stick we shoot and pass. For example, you move the stick left / right and roll it 90 degrees up to shoot at the goal. Or you move the knob to the left and immediately all the way to the right to make a spinning feint.

There is also Custom, which is a manual configuration of the keys. These, however, cannot be saved in any way, and every time you start the game, the Hybrid key set is set by default.

The difference between NHL 07 and 08 can be seen when you go out on the ice. The biggest positive change is the players' behavior on the ice. With the naked eye you can see that AI has been elevated to the heights. Example? When the computer loses, in the last minutes of the game it starts to play more aggressively, more nervously. When he wants to keep the score, he throws the puck as far away from his goal as possible. And what was my surprise when I hit the goalkeeper while racing at high speed, and my player rolled in the air and fell onto the ice!

Playing on ice is the biggest advantage of the game. It is fast and effective. The players miss the puck, they bump into each other, put themselves in convenient positions, push under the goal. You can always play with "sliders" and adjust the behavior of hockey players to our whims.

In addition, the goalkeepers' game has been refined. These are no longer the same turtles that just a spin-deke could stun you. It's much harder to find an empty part of the gate. Simple "one-timer" shots, which always end with a puck in the net, are less often successful. The improved game of goalkeepers can also be seen in multiplayer games.

Finally, a few technical matters. The game has problems with Vista. At the same time, it does not support some Xbox 360 controllers under Windows. In addition, there were no bugs, losing 2: 3, a dozen or so seconds before the end of the match, I took the goalkeeper off the rink. I started on the opponent's goal and realized that ... it was HIS goalkeeper who had left the pitch, not mine! In subsequent games, I tried this trick again - the same situation was repeated often, and I had a "free" goal ...

Briefly about graphics. This one remained without major changes. It is still the old current-gen. What's more - the game does not support widescreen monitors.

The sound on ice is, as always, first class.

NHL 08, although secondary, is a good game. The AI has been improved and the ice rink is a lot of fun to ride. However, it is impossible to turn a blind eye to the annoying policy of EA Sports. The game for Xbox 360 and PS3 is fully next-gen, supplemented with a complete Skill Stick system and many other extras. The PC version was neglected, just like the PlayStation 2 edition.

It looks as if EA assumed that PCs are outdated gaming devices that are becoming a thing of the past. It remains to be hoped that it will be better next year.

Paweł "HopkinZ" Fronczak

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