Thursday, September 13

NHL 08 is ooot!

Hey gang (and Greener),

Well, that special time of year for all hockey fans under the age of 40 has finally come. The latest iteration of NHL hockey for whatever video game system you happen to get your groove on with. Poor little EA NHL '0? has long suffered from being a crappy, unfocused, arcade like game, while 2K Sports' have traditionally been much closer to sim hockey without any of the bells and whistles like presentation etc. I had been a 2K convert despite having played the old NHL Hockey on my friend Nicolas Bass' Sega Genesis (which led me to pretend to mow my parents lawn enough to buy myself one) for some time. I always wanted the sim experience, not the race up the middle one timer auto-goal experience that EA offered. Last year I switched back because the revolutionary Total Control right thumbstick controls your stick system was the greatest thing in history. EA's NHL 07 was amazing for that feature and that feature alone. Sadly, it still lacked in many other areas, like the franchise mode, or the fact that your team was made up primarily of retards and mongrels who didn't know anything about the game of hockey. Probably how Moose and Greener feel when playing with me in real life.

I'm here to tell you though that EA has it right this year. They added a new skating system. No Turbos (like last year) to hold down the entire game. But also no skating at full speed no matter what direction you press on your thumbstick. Now its entirely touch sensitive, push the stick a little, you push off and glide, roll the thumbstick right and downwards and you do a lovely cross over turn maintaining your speed. You can actually wrong foot defencemen by catching them leaning one way or another. The pace and the weight of the game all feel so real, finally, its the game I always dreamed of but never existed.

Now I haven't had much time at all with the game as I'm still on my gajillion year sojourn from those sunny shores of Greener's back yard, but I'm told that the AI is adaptive. Score the same way a couple times, move the same places on the ice, make the same passes, and the computer will adjust.

And the passing! No longer can you just hit the pass button three times in rapid succession to get the puck out. If you are skating away from the player you want to pass to, well, its gonna be a weak back handed pass. You have to have your stick and player in the appropriate positions to get that puck to its target. The puck isn't just going to slide through a defenders skates either, they always seem to be in position and they're gonna get that puck if its near em. And they've added the saucer pass! You wanna chuck the puck into some open ice through a couple players, give 'er!

The dynasty mode is not changed really, other than the addition of all AHL teams, so if you have you send a player to the minors they actually go to your farm team. Oh, and they fixed that minor bug where year to year your players wouldn't improve. Yeah. That sort of got in the way.

The last cool little detail is the create-a-play mode. You can create and store up to 70 different plays, and the coolest part is that you don't call the play, your players, when in the correct areas, will just automatically start them. Write in a 2-on-1 play where you cross after the blueline and swing back up the boards while your teammate heads to the slot and next time you are on a 2 on 1 and start that move, your teammate will know where to go.

All in all, whoa. From the second I started playing it felt like a brand new game of hockey. I haven't played 2K8 yet, I understand they've ripped off EA with the "ProStick", but that the game doesn't implement it as well. 2K's franchise mode seems far superior, but its the feel of the gameplay I'm excited about, and the flow and pace of the game.

I'd like to take this opportunity to challenge Greener to an NHL 08-a-thon. Much trash talking and confidence has come from both of us, and perhaps our friendship will hang in the balance, but its time. The game has finally caught up with our imaginations. Oh, and some day I'll post about the not particularly healthy method that Greener has of playing an entire 10 year dynasty as his hated Ottawa Senators in order to run their franchise into the ground. Can you believe that? Admittedly, in the interest of wanting a true sim experience I've played that way with the Oilers, but that's just reality. But greener! He'll play 10 years, trade away all his best players, and lose on purpose! I can picture him in a dark apartment, shades drawn, empty coke cans strewn about, and Greeners face, awash in the blue glow of the TV, cackling wildly. It keeps me up at night...


1 comment:

Amanda V. said...

Does EA have an option for staying home from work, getting really high and rearranging your rosters daily to reflect the stats in the paper? My roommate in Banff used to play that one.