Friday, November 2, 2007

Review: "NHL 2K8" hits ice with new features

If you are looking for some pretty sweet arcade fun slightly chilled, "NHL 2K8" is your game.

This year's offering from 2K Sports faces off with EA's "NHL 08" for video game ice supremacy. "NHL 2K8" offer fast-paced action, stats galore and more options than you can shake a stick at.

As I wrote earlier, there are several modes and options gamers can choose from. There are several game modes, including Quick Game, Franchise, Season, Tournament, Challenge, Training and the Extras mode. The Extras mode is pretty cool because it offers Battle Mode, Pond Hockey (a huge rink in the middle of a ... you guessed it ... frozen pond) and Mini Rink, which has a small ... very, very small ... rink in various (and rather strange) locations. The training mode is very helpful - it teaches you offense and defense on the ice. My favorite part of training was sailing the puck past the goalie and into the stands. Oh, to watch the glass shatter so perfectly was to die for!

You can do deeper into the features and create a player, use "2K ReelMaker" (a video editor that lets you share your sick moments with folks all over the world), change rosters and even create teams.

Multiplayer? Got it. Go against a friend or compete online. Up to 8 players can play online, and you can even compete on the same teams.

New to "NHL 2K8" for this year are ProStick (you use the right analog stick for authentic controls and puck handling), Face-Offs, Franchise and Superstar moves. Oh, and talk about deep features. The franchise mode offers CBA features, including waivers, two-way contracts, signing and releasing free agents and several off-season options. If you are looking to get into the game fast, cool, but these features shouldn't be overlooked. I could dedicate the rest of this review to the tons of features.

As far as gameplay, even if you are a whiz on the ice, I'd definitely recommend going through training. You can also unlock some achievements by finishing training too.

During the game, the action is very fast and intense. The framerate is steady and the graphics are killer. I laughed at the coach animations the most - they also borrowed them in NBA 2K8 - and I can never get tired of the coach pointing in cutscene, with a 'you are the man!' expression on his face. The crowd is rather comatose.

The soundtrack is a good mix of classics and new hits. The hits on the ice are crushing.

Arguably one of the sickest features in the game is the Challenge mode. Here's the rub - you have several different hockey scenarios you are dropped into. Basically, you can play in a historic game and duplicate key plays in the contest. If you succeed, cool. If not, you have to do the challenge again. It's pretty cool to relive some of the key plays in hockey history. I hope 2K keeps that feature in their NCAA hoops title.

The 360's AI - and maybe it's a 2K thing - hates losing. Initially, I was using the old-skool Chicago Blackhawk - Chris Chelios, baby! - and of course, him and his crew scored 3 goals initially at will. As the game wore on, the 360-controlled Blues went on a tear and nearly won. You never have to worry about the AI being an easy opponent.

2K's "NHL 2K8" offers a ton of features, good skating and worthy opponents. If you are looking for the best arcade action on the ice, look no further.

Why should I care: If you love hockey, have a 360 and love tons of stats and a wealth of features, this game is for you.

The good: Fast-paced action, excellent graphics, intense gameplay, tons of features that will boost replay value into orbit, a chance to play classic matches, a pretty cool training mode, tight controls and online leagues.

The bad: The crowd is in serious need of a set of defibrillators, high learning curve but that's about it.

The ugly: The smiles of the average NHL player, but the virtual ones have smiles that look like a million bucks.

Overall: 8 (out of 10): "NHL 2K8" skates circles around EA's "NHL 08" with faster gameplay. If you want a simulation, head to EA. If you want to have fun, with enough options to keep the experts at Sandia Labs busy, check this title out.

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