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Gaming DeathMatch: NHL 2K8 versus NHL '08

October 11, 2007

By John Powell - G4 Canada

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Please remember to take our deathmatch poll and give us your two cents!

The new NHL season is upon us and with it comes the latest instalments of everyone's favourite hockey game franchises. When it comes to annual sports games the obvious question is always...Are there any improvements? Wonder no more as the whistle blows and the puck is dropped on our hockey gaming deathmatch.

 

NHL 2K8
Platform: Xbox 360

NHL 2K8Overview

The grizzled old veterans are back proving they have some tricks up their collective sleeves but the series has been getting a little long in the
tooth over the years. The biggest change 2K has brought to the table is the reworked control scheme which is a letdown. The 'ProStick' function of controlling your stick handling with the right analog stick returns better than ever giving the game another notch of realism. Although kind of arcadish, the 'Superstar Moves'' which allow players to replicate some trademarked hockey techniques such as the 'Double Deke' and 'Spin-O-Rama', are kinda cool.

Sights and Sounds

As the 2K franchise announcers, Bob Cole and Harry Neale's familiar voices bring an air of authenticity to the proceedings but the repetitive nature of their commentary soon wears thin. The in-game sounds of steel slicing through ice and bones being crunched are all truthful to the experience. Where 2K made some significant renovations this year was in the graphics department. As compared to previous editions, everything from the uniforms to the arenas themselves have been visibly upgraded but there is still room for enhancement when it comes to the player's faces and the cut-scenes. The colours and details in both are bland and washed out. They are just not up to par with what next-gen gamers would be expecting to see.

NHL 2K8 - shoot!!Gameplay

Rapid fire action from end to end but not as crisp and clean as in NHL '08. The new control scheme makes things a whole lot more difficult and confusing. Having the left trigger modify shots confuses matters. For
example: To let a slap shot go, you have to press the left trigger and the right bumper. That's not exactly convenient when you are fighting off attackers as you crash the net. Until you have sorted the new combos out, prepare to be fumbling around as you are the victim of many giveaways and intercepted passes.

The 'Superstar Moves' are fun if you can manage to squeeze them off and at least 'ProStick' really allows you to have full control of the puck. That alone gives 2K a discernable edge over other hockey games.

Since they are the veterans, 2K by default has more depth and more options for the hardcore fan. Franchise, season, tournament, challenge and all those entertaining mini-games. Thing is, none of those selections have been expanded in any meaningful way in 2007.

 

NHL '08
Platform: Xbox 360

NHL '08Overview

This franchise has come a long way from the days when a quick skate through the crease and a speedy wrist shot would beat out any goalie each and every time. Just like 2K, the pace and momentum of the game itself has been perfectly replicated. The arcade feel is gone. This is now a true hockey simulation. The most notable enhancement is in the clever AI who aren't as easy to fool any more.

Sights and Sounds

Already one of the best looking sports games ever made, EA's graphics engine has been tweaked even more with better player movements and everything just seems to have been sharpened up a notch. You gotta love the scuffed up ice and boards. It is great to hear Gary Thorne and Bill Clement on the mikes again. They are far less cyclic than their 2K counterparts but they tend to speak in more generalities about the teams and games themselves.

NHL '08 - defensive assignment....score on my goal....Gameplay

You can forget about employing the same tried and true techniques to deke out your opponents. EA's enhanced AI gives your computerized foes the ability to adapt to the strategies you employ. You can still fake them out here and there, it is just they won't fall for your tactics all the time. You will find you are rewarded for working the puck well to set up shots instead of blazing in and peppering the goalie hoping one lucky shot will go in.

The 'Skill Stick' option of using the right analog stick to snap off wrist shots and slap shots seems far more fluid and natural than 2K's shooting system especially when you push the stick down to wind up and press up to let the shot go. The dekeing techniques are far more complex. They need to be practiced to get your timing right.

Although you will have AHL and international teams to pick from, all of the modes just aren't as deep as 2K's.

 

Conclusion

NHL '08 and NHL 2K8 are two very different games for two very different gamers. With more gameplay options due to its longevity, 2K8 is more of an arcade style sports game. NHL '08 is going for simulation not recreation. With the superior AI, NHL '08 is more challenging and therefore more gratifying.

Final Score

NHL 2K8 : 7 / 10
NHL '08: 8.5 / 10

Winner: NHL '08

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