|System: X360, PS3, PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Visual Concepts, Kush Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: 2K Sports||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 11, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Tom Kelly
August 20, 2007 - With enhanced visuals and revolutionary gameplay, 2K8 seeks to plunge head first into the upcoming NHL season gloves dropped and challenging all comers.
For the past few years, 2K Sports has exercised its dominance in the world of virtual ice hockey. They have consistently provided the deepest and most engaging game of puck, sure to satisfy any longtime NHL fan. Although that may be the case, it is also true that each year it has become harder and harder for a franchise to remain fresh every time out. Yet even with the odds stacked against it, 2K8 seems to be steering itself in the right direction. End of overtime and shootout looming, all signs are pointing to this baby going top shelf for the win.
With no exclusivity when it comes to the rink, it is safe to say developers understand this is one sport where you cannot simply rest on your laurels. Advancements and changes must be implemented to stay that ever-important stride ahead of the competition. With EA back in the running after a vastly improved NHL 2007, it is clearly time for NHL 2K8 to show it still has juice left in the tank, and it is not simply the Jeremy Roenick of the next gen era.
With the upstart EA franchise in mind, it is not hard to see where the developers over at 2K got some of their inspiration for this year's title. Much like EA Sports last foray into the hockey world, 2K8 will feature the ever-expanding total stick control -- players guide their favorite NHLers with the left thumbstick and control their stick with the right. This critical addition puts them once again on an even playing field in the gameplay department, a place where 2K had outshined its opponents through so many previous titles. Unlike 2007, shooting will not be done with the stick but rather the right bumper. The stick is used exclusively for making Sidney Crosby-like moves through opposing defenses. It will also play an integral role on the defensive side of the puck, yielding poke checks and hooks. 2K8 has always been known as the more realistic of the games, and here that will not change as the more skilled players are exactly that. You give Jaromir Jagr the puck, and you can expect magic to happen; as for Bob Boughner, trying to get fancy could result in an odd man rush the other way. Another important feature concerning the stick will be the brand spanking new face off system, which will encourage players to position their center and time the drop of the puck better.
Another important feature that may firmly entrench 2K8 atop the standings is the vastly expanded franchise mode. Much like in the latest installment of Madden, 2K8 is going all in here, yet unlike Mike Matusow at the 2006 World Series of Poker, this looks like a safe bet. It appears it is shaping up to be not only the deepest franchise mode in Hockey history, but maybe sports games in general. From dealing with out of control agents to calls from the owner concerning player grievances, the user might actually have to bring in Commissioner Bettman to avoid messy labor disputes, on second thought In this buffet of virtual ownership, players can expect team chemistry to play a large role in the success of their franchise, and as they say, practice makes perfect. Yes you will need to practice; you can even send players through specific drills to improve on the weaker components of their game. Careful though; you don't want to work the team too hard as they can become fatigued and as a result their overall performance may suffer. Molding star players into leaders and building lines that can work together effectively will all be part of the process.
Aside from gameplay mechanics, and tweaks to existing modes, it is a safe assumption that graphically this title will deliver. Based on 2K Sports impressive track record, there seems to be little doubt that they will show marked improvement here. Year in and year out they deliver the goods (we will ignore the first 360 installment), so it is hard to believe that this incarnation will be any different. Added to this year's mix will be an increased focus on the small details. All the players will be wearing the actual equipment style from their real life counterpart, and the game will boast refined player models and faces. Too bad Theo Fleury is no longer around to flash that all too charismatic toothless smile. Not to be overlooked, the goalies will also boast new animations, and 2K has upped the ante on the strength of the goaltender A.I.
Come time to drop the puck, 2K8 will surely be an imposing foe to any Stanley Cup contender. Throw in the most advanced online network from any publisher, and you may just have yourself the Ducks of this year's class.
CCC Freelance Writer