EA Games NHL 08 vs NHL 2K8

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EA Games NHL 08 vs NHL 2K8

Pros

  • NHL 08

Cons

  • NHL 2K8

Bottom Line

It's no surprise that NHL 08 is this years best hockey game offering. Adding vastly improved gameplay to last years impressive control scheme ensures EA's hold on the title of Best Hockey Game Yet Devised. 2K Sports is relegated to a distant second-place, plagued by overly complicated controls, a badly designed interface, and sub par gameplay. Another year will have to pass before we can see if 2K can turn the tide once again in their favour.

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It's only been a few months since the Stanley Cup finals ended, but the hockey season is back already, meaning one thing - it's time for another round of games developed by EA Sports and 2K Sports to go head-to-head.

Last year was a surprise upset for those that follow each series, for the long standing trend stating 2K Sports was the more innovative of the two, was broken as EA simplified and strengthened their controls by putting stick handling and shooting controls into the analogue sticks. So, after an off year can 2K reclaim its title of best hockey game? Or will EA begin a winning streak of innovation like what we saw last year?

Period 1: Graphics

As always, NHL 08 takes an impressive lead over 2K8 in the graphics department, but not in the way we've come to expect. In contrast to other years, the base graphical level between the two is not that different, the new uniforms look great in both games, and while players look marginally better in 08, the difference is not awe inspiring. Where 08 has made great strides is in the gameplay animations; players now flow with an almost natural grace, resembling their real-life counterparts far more than anything we've yet seen.

Period 2: Controls

When it comes to controls, 08 is once again the undisputed champion. Nothing has really been changed in this year's edition, so returning veterans will feel instantly at ease. The analogue sticks are still used for all purposes such as stick handling and shooting, and though it does take some getting used to, placing shots where you want them to go becomes second nature after only a few games. 2K8 in contrast can be charitably called a muddled mess. Stick handling is controlled with the right analogue stick, but shooting remains oddly separated, and there are several more baffling control issues -- for example, why are there two speed burst buttons? While some innovation have been seen in regards to stick handling, overcomplicated controls ruin what forward progress seen by 2K.

Period 3: Sound

Both games offer some great in-game sound effects, but the area in which the two really differ is in the commentary. For the second year in a row, EA has decided to go with Gary Thorne and Bill Clement for their play-by-play, and while they do a competent job, much of the audio has simply been recycled from last year. Some new voice work has been tacked on, but most notably only in regards to specific players. 2K Sports, on the other hand, has gone with veteran Hockey Night in Canada announcers, Bob Cole and Harry Neale, and while their chemistry is somewhat stifled in the game, it still comes through. More emphasis is also made by the pair to note specific items about players or teams, but the pair are remarkably quiet during actual play-by-play.

Overtime: Features

Not surprisingly 2K8 offers the larger variety of gameplay options. Among other things there is pond hockey, unlockable historical teams, and the like. The largest feature of course is the franchise mode, which as always is the best thing about the 2K series, and its back again this year with as much depth as always. However, if anything serves to handicap it, it is the cumbersome interface -- probably the worst one we've seen in several years. There are a lot of great features in the franchise mode, but it takes far too much to even get to them. In comparison, NHL 08 looks sparse with only the standard exhibition, tournament, practice, and a relatively depthless franchise mode to go around.

Penalty shootout: Gameplay

Everything discussed up till now of course has only been secondary to the actual game of hockey itself. Last year we saw the stunning reversal of fortunes between 2K and EA, and this year EA continues its dominance. Many subtle additions have been made to 08, including a far better AI that -- to a high degree -- mimics what players might expect to see from a real NHL level game. The removal or severe reduction of other items, such as speed burst, has also done much to ensure EA maintains what is the best video game depiction of hockey yet. 2K8 does its best to match this, and while much can be done to narrow the gap via slider customisation, on the whole the gameplay is inferior to the latest offering from EA.

With all said, it's no surprise that NHL 08 is this years best hockey game offering. Adding vastly improved gameplay to last years impressive control scheme ensures EA's hold on the title of Best Hockey Game Yet Devised. 2K Sports is relegated to a distant second-place, plagued by overly complicated controls, a badly designed interface, and sub par gameplay. Another year will have to pass before we can see if 2K can turn the tide once again in their favour.

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