Sometimes the mighty do more than fall. They collapse, destroying themselves to the point of no recovery. This is the path 2K’s hockey franchise has taken over the past two years, and the only benefit is that it’s hard to imagine things falling further than this.
NHL 2K6 did nothing to advance the series other than offer the first glimpse of next-gen hockey. NHL 2K7 introduced the hilariously awful “CineMotion.” NHL 2K8 tries to emulate its competition with a new “ProStick” feature, but someone apparently wasn’t watching the competition closely enough.
The ease of use and elegance of EA’s Skill Stick in NHL 08 is missing with 2K8’s right analog system. This convoluted, unusable mess requires three triggers plus the proper use of the analog stick to perform the simplest of maneuvers. By the time you’ve figured out the proper means of taking a slapshot, the puck will be in your defensive zone, stripped as your player stood there dumbfounded.
NHL 2K8 does manage to add in a new face off system that offers depth, certainly more so than the typical button press timing from hockey games of old. Franchise fans will note the addition of collective bargaining, while anyone interested in playing the game can only yawn at having to deal with additional text to find their way to a new season. NHL 08 gains minor leagues, NHL 2K8 adds paperwork.
Aside from the sloppy implementation of a broken copycat shooting system, the on-ice play might as well be labeled archaic. A typical game would be out of place in the deceased Midway arcade series NHL Hitz. Players hit with the ferocity of NFL players every time down the ice. Defensive strategy caters to hit first, ask the coach why he bothered setting up a gameplan later.
Player models have received a facelift, though with the meager number of cameras, it’s hard to see. Presentation is non-existent, and the commentary is obviously being read from a low level script. Of course, there’s always CineMotion if you enjoy cheap left overs from a previous year included only to make it seem as if someone enjoyed it.
This is a tragic fall from grace as EA’s new juggernaut has swept away any blatant attempts at copying their game. NHL 2K8 has managed to fall from a top tier, realistic experience to one of the worth NHL titles in years. This series needs a full restart beginning next year to even be relevant.
NHL 2K8 is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Lyrics and Mild Violence. This game can also be found on: PS2, PS3.