NHL 08 Review

I grew up in southern California. Mention hockey around me, and the first things that come to mind when the dreaded "h" word is mentioned are Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robitaille, and having my nose almost slashed in half in 6th grade PE via an errant street hockey stick. Some reason, hockey just never became something I liked…

With that in mind, I really wanted to give NHL 08 a chance. Years ago, I gave soccer a shot with Pro Evolution. I came into it not knowing anything at all about soccer beyond the few Sportscenter highlights, but came out actually wanting to learn about the game; to become part of the craze the rest of the world has been a part of for generations. NHL 08 didn’t do that, though.

While it’s not a game to convert non-fans into fans, I will admit NHL 08 is a fairly solid game where sports games are considered. For NHL fans, it’s certainly a more enjoyable game than 2K’s offering, and will likely be the way you go. For non-NHL fans, it’s a fun game, but you really shouldn’t feel pressured into buying it based on critical success alone.

What makes NHL 08 fun to play is just how well it controls. Now, I’ve never skated around an ice rink or played a game of ice hockey, but I’d like to believe this handles relatively realistically; it certainly looks that way. The skating is just intuitive, and it’s a blast just moving around the ice. (With an engine like this, I really wish they’d remake Mutant League Hockey…)

Shooting and the dekes are also fairly easy to pull off, since it primarily uses the right stick. Think of the freestyle controls and hit stick used in the other popular EA titles, and you’ve basically got how NHL 08 controls. The only difference? It’s actually very useful and not just tacked on here.

Basically, the game controls well for what it offers. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, though. Now, I’m not a huge hockey fan (and I may have over exaggerated a bit up to this point for dramatic effect – I am a sports director for my other job, after all) but I understand some of the concepts. For starters, I know a lot of hockey takes place with people being pushed into the boards, held there, and just flat-out slammed into them. In NHL 08, it’s pretty much nonexistent. In fact, trying to check an opponent into the glass is so erratic that you’re better off just trying to hit people on the open ice.

Poking with the stick to try and steal the puck also doesn’t work very well. I can’t recall many situations where I ever used that over open-ice checking, and that’s just sad. Various clipping issues make it harder to pull it off, so that could very well be a large portion of the problem.

Outside of those gripes, my biggest complaint is the complete lack of a fantasy draft in the franchise. I don’t follow the NHL, I’m not familiar with 99% of its current roster, and I have no allegiance to any specific team. So why can’t I begin a franchise, draft my own, and build connections that way? This is the next-gen, EA – is it that hard to implement a fantasy draft? With the lack of a fantasy draft in franchise, some very cumbersome roster editing menus and long load times, the franchise mode just isn’t nearly as good as it can be. Seeing what the other EA Sports titles offer, I can’t think of a good excuse as to why that’s the case.

In the end, NHL 08 is a game NHL fans should buy (it’s the better of this year’s two hockey franchises). If you aren’t an NHL fan, though, you may want to try it first. While the gameplay is solid, it’s nothing to make you go "OMG AWESOME!" EA really hit the nail on the head in terms of controls, but the little things all add up and ruin what otherwise would be a great game to help create some more hockey fans in the States.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Myspace
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Technorati
Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

Leave A Response

You must be logged in to post a comment.