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Author: Franky Moops
Monday, 19 November 2007
Xbox 360
2K Sports

Slap-stick-whacking fun just got prettier but a confusing control system leaves this game skating on thin...

This is a fun game. Really. 2K Sports for years have produced the best hockey games around and this one is no exception. It’s a fantastic looking game that looks even more fantastic on my new giant LCD TV. Granted, anything looks fantastic on a new LCD. But NHL 2K8 has really boosted in the graphics department since the last outing (NHL 2K7).

Thing is, you normally expect these big brand games to look better and better every year, so it comes down to the little details and the way the game feels and plays to make all the difference. For example, taking shots has become a bit hard to nail, but hitting the life out of another player has gotten much easier. So you win some and you lose some.

NHL 2K8 has an updated control scheme which is terrible. Nothing you do feels right and even after you learn all the controls inside out, it still feels forced. Game controls should be intuitive – you should be able (especially in a sport game) to just pick up the controller and start playing. Instead I spent three or four games trying to work out how to shoot while sprinting (my demo review games come with no manuals, sob).

Once you have worked out the basics, there are some great new superstar moves to learn. These moves can only be performed by top-flight forwards. They almost look comical but the animations are worth seeing so try it out. If the new controls still don’t gel, you can always just revert back to the original control system from last years title. 

On a brighter note, 2K8 shines when it comes to managing the players market. Managing your team through salary caps and negotiating salaries with free agents makes owning and running a winning team a blast. You still have to play, score and win. The addition of the player market simulation control adds to level of play, and you even set ticket prices to your games.

Back to the little details again: crowd members are now individually animated. So when you stuff up you actually see thousands of different people booing and hissing you. You also get to see sweat drip off players and the jerseys have amazing rendering details with fold and crease marks when you move. Not all the details look good though: take the player’s faces. Seriously, take them. It looks like 2K Sports designed every player using an ugly stick. But hey, it’s hockey – these guys don’t need to look good, just hit the crap out off each other... and the puck.