NHL 08 First Look

Hockey may be in poor shape, but EA's new hockey video game is looking good. We've got the details as EA Canada unveils NHL 08.

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There's little denying that the sport of hockey is in flux these days. Televised games here in the US have had some of their worst ratings in years, while the league is considering expanding into such questionable territories as Las Vegas and Kansas City. Perhaps oddest of all, the NHL Finals ended up last week with the Stanley Cup in the hands of the Anaheim (formerly Mighty) Ducks. While the future of the sport is uncertain, isn't it nice that the state of hockey video games is as strong as it's ever been? Last year, EA Sports turned heads with its next-generation console debut of its long-running NHL series, NHL 07. This game did more than look great, thanks to an innovative analog shot stick, and it also played well. The next version of the game, NHL 08, is on its way later this year, and we recently had a chance to see how it's coming along.

Two defenders? No problem. Improved manual deke controls will help you slip your way through traffic.

With such noticeable changes to the series last season, the overarching goal for NHL 08 seems to be refining the new-look controls and adding depth to the overall experience. A big part of that refinement will be in improved skating controls, which look to add more variety and depth to how you move your players around the ice. As producers readily admitted when showing off a work-in-progress build of NHL 08, one of the difficulties in playing last year's game was on the defensive side. Keeping close to offensive skater or better yet, really laying into him with a good, stiff check was difficult because you didn't have enough control over the defensive skater. If those producers are to be believed, that won't be the case in NHL 08, thanks to some new controls that help you decide how a skater carves up the ice.

Being able to distinguish between carved turns (where a skater digs in and turns on a dime) and crossover turns (a wider arc that has a skater crossing his skates over one another) is one of the biggest improvements made to the skating model. You'll be able to choose what kind of turn you want in NHL 08, depending on how you move the analog stick that controls your skater. Turning in the traditional manner--moving the stick left or right--will result in a standard carved turn, which is a sharper, quicker turn but one that requires a lot of momentum. However, rolling the analog stick along the outside edge will cause the skater to perform a crossover turn; a quicker, wider turn. Though we didn't get a chance to try out the game for ourselves, it seems like the implementation of the two turns is seamless, so that you can break from a wider, crossover turn into a quick carved turn at any moment. Skating speed will also play into the mix because how far you push up on the analog stick will determine how fast you skate, giving you that much more control over how your skater moves along the ice.

The direction and speed of skating is just part of the story; puck handling, which changed dramatically in NHL 07 with the innovative skill stick, looks to improve in NHL 08 as well. This time, you'll be able to make the defender look silly as you deke around him with deft moves all controlled with the skill stick and the left button modifier. You can also tap the puck into space or through a defender's legs before scooting past (complete with some excellent player avoidance animations) before opening up for a shot on the net.

The new skating and skill stick moves seem have to been developed, at least partially, with NHL 08's online game in mind. As producers said, online play in NHL 07 had a tendency to be frustrating because the player could deke around the goalie using the skill stick, but it wasn't really possible to do the same thing against a regular defender on the ice; all the defender had to do was switch to the closet player and lay you out with a check. While you could only deke with the puck in one of three directions (left, right, or behind) in NHL 07, that number has expanded to 10 in NHL 08. With this wider variety of angles, improved deke moves, and those slick animations, you'll be able to unleash your inner Sidney Crosby with a flick of the analog stick.

Checking in NHL 08 will be more momentum-based than in previous versions of the NHL series. Collisions in NHL 07 were ported directly from the old-generation versions of the game, so that when a player was hit and went to his knees, he'd still more or less stay frozen at the point of contact. With the new collision system in NHL 08, the momentum of both players will factor in, so that a checked player might slide out of the play; thus, opening up a lane for the player dealing out the punishment.

The new skating engine will differentiate between carved and crossover turns.

Shooting has also gotten a facelift. This time around, the game will depend more on user skill than ever before. As with a golf shot in Tiger Woods PGA Tour, you'll be more accurate in NHL 08 if you make the analog stick shot straighter. If you move the stick at an angle, it will cause your accuracy to drop and the puck to go wide of its target.

Of course, these are just the first details to come for NHL 08. The production team behind the game is promising more information on the improvements to the artificial intelligence (though they did say both offensive and defensive AI have gotten a lot of attention this year), the new practice drill minigames that have been designed to help your individual or team-play skills on the ice, and improvements to the dynasty mode. The game's graphics are looking typically sharp, with lots of player-specific visual idiosyncrasies (Jaromir Jagr's "snazzy" tucked-in jersey look? Yep, it's in there) that should keep the diehard NHL set happy. If you couple that detail with a 60 frames per second frame rate, you've got another visually solid game on the way. We'll be bringing you more on NHL 08 in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Discussion

76 comments
michael_campos
michael_campos

08 looks very good , hoping its gonna run at 60 fps , not like madden 08 that is still running at 30 fps on ps3!!!

bleeblooman
bleeblooman

This game looks absolutely incredible. If NHL 08 just adds the fantasy draft and possibly online shootouts, oh baby this game will sweet. Can't wait to play online, watch out people...im gonna be good.

Metallica_Dan
Metallica_Dan

I was really curious to find out how they were going to make NHL 08 for the Wii and how they would utilize the controllers for a cool experience... Now I have my answer: they aren't.

alex1127
alex1127

I can't wait to play this game. The NHL 07 was awesome but this one looks even better!

-Saint
-Saint

I feel like the dynasty mode in NHL 07 could have been way better than what it was. After a while it got quite boring and repetitive so hopefully EA Canada will add more depth to the dynasty mode.

darkmatter13
darkmatter13

probably has to do with licensing and stuff.

sguidolin
sguidolin

I wish EA would add the AHL to this game.. it would be great to have players go down to the minors and get points, then you can bring up who's hot. MVP 06 did this the absolute best with have AAA,AA,A farm systems that you could play or simulate. Something like this is so easy to add, I don't get why they don't do it.

jandogg
jandogg

uuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh........................................................................ who u....................?

PbrghSteelers86
PbrghSteelers86

Put JORDAN Stall on the front!!! Or better yet... Sid. ..and yeah, I never thought when I was playing NHL '94 and drinking Mountain Dew all night that this series would come so far. I can't wait for this game.

sik_wit_it65
sik_wit_it65

graphics look good. theres alot of detail to it. pic # 14

dashizy666
dashizy666

Staal was 40th in scoring this is bull.

feirlessleider
feirlessleider

Can't wait for this. I tried playing 2k7 after playing NHL 07 and just couldn't do it. The skill stick was such a good innovation and I can't wait to see how the dekes and shooting will work in NHL 08. The only thing that's missing is Daniel Briere on the cover...

sargentpsgamer
sargentpsgamer

Finally we are not stuck playing crappy 2k sports games anymore ps3 is getting real sports games.

Parker_M
Parker_M

Not entirely sure why they chose Staal for the cover (they could have at least done both Staals, that would have made more sense) but I'm stoked for this game. I REALLY hope they improve the dynasty mode. Shake it up a little bit, make it a lot more in-depth and way more polished. Please.

BikerPunk
BikerPunk

this sounds amazing. who would of thought, when we were all playing ICE HOCKEY on our NES system, that we would be controlling the turning styles, and dekes/shooting styles 15-20years later. oh god i feel old. I held off buying 07 to see the 08. it looks like it will pay off.

tehcris
tehcris

Love EAs NHL series cant wait for it

D6rkFire
D6rkFire

This game is going to get a better rating then NHL 2K8 for sure.

Philadendron
Philadendron

I cannot wait for this game. I've pretty much been playing 07 nonstop since it came out. My list of desired improvements: 1. Better presentation - stat overlays, more relevant commentary 2. Better overall AI - defenders should be on the correct side of the blue line when attacking, goalies should let in fewer soft goals, and plays should stop fanning on one timers 3. More involvement in training in dynasty. i.e. mini games. Even if they only make a few changes, I'm sure I'll still love the game.

haloman92
haloman92

online league play would be great but doubtfully going to be included

ohjtbehaaave
ohjtbehaaave

I thought NHL 07 with the R stick control/shooting stuff was a great innovation and step forward. Now for 08 the game needs POLISH in many gameplay areas to tighten it up. I'd like to see more puck physics where the puck really seems to have a life of it's own... and doesn't stick like a magnet to sticks. I'd also like to see better collision detection and animations. For some reason I can line up a great hit on the puck carrier... but when I may the hit it looks like MY player gets the worst of it. Horrible animation and collision detection. That needs major work. Overall I think EA finally has an NHL hockey engine that can now be tuned and polished and made realsitic as hell. please EA... concentrate on REALISM and making great AI... don't waste your time on GIMMICKS like the Madden game has done for years. Good AI and Solid GAMEPLAY = Killer game!

Dexmeister
Dexmeister

Meh...The NHL can blame themselves for not signing with a well known network(ESPN) as opposed to an unknown channel that people are unaware of(Versus). Ugh...If only the Rangers brought the Stanley Cup back to New York.

alexdd01
alexdd01

Close all american hockey concessions and open up some more in Canada if it's so bad, Bettman can go back to his basketball. Edit : who watches hockey in the US anyway ? Besides my friends/rivals from Beantown and Motortown ? (Habs fan btw, hey buds)

Osirisox
Osirisox

To Maverick128: Thanks a lot. To grand17: Hey, the intro says "For the X-Box 360, and i just thought that they would include the other platforms if it was for them aswel. Chill.

qlcoffeecup
qlcoffeecup

It's become popular in the American media to bash the NHL, and then point to the putrid NBC ratings. NBC only has themselves to blame for those ratings... they don't advertise the NHL at all. I watch NBC all the time, and I never see commercials for anything as mildly important as the Stanley Cup Finals. NBC has also pushed the NHL into doing Sunday afternoon games... which is h0rs3h1t. Who the heck plays hockey on a Sunday afternoon? Who wants to watch it? The sport has never been more popular in Canada, the salary cap is going up another 4M dollars this year to 48M (at least, if the player's union doesn't push it to 52M) and the game is in good hands with young stars like Crosby, Ovechkin, Malkin, Spezza, Heatley, Perry, Statsny... these guys all started playing within the last 5 years. And yeah, the Ducks won the Cup. It's called 'parity', and the Ducks happened to have the best team in the league this year. The only people surprised that they won it all are those who don't actually follow the league. In want my NHL08, still the best sports video game on the market. You stay classy, San Diego.

haesuse
haesuse

honestly considering the drop in NHL's popularity and the fact that Madden has competition now should prompt these guys to put more work in that instead of this. heck, they should work harder on either madden, fifa and specialy NBA. no ofense to hockey fans, but imo there are more important things to worry atm for EA than NHL

powerbutton
powerbutton

Main thing they need to do is to improve the puck, and goalie AI. Because I had some close games only to be totally ruined by the puck being tapped in after the goalie saved it and got up. It's ridiculous.

csachaoskid24
csachaoskid24

soccer or futbol is the greatest sport and always will be but NHL 08 still looks good

mgraham97
mgraham97

i hope they put in "free 4 all" this time, Nhl 07 for the 360 didn't have it

YoUnG1991
YoUnG1991

i bought 07 a couple weeks ago and its amazing hopefully 08 will b better

SKOM34
SKOM34

Hockey is the greatest sport on earth. It's good to see that the games aren't total garbage like Madden is.

grand17
grand17

Osirisox "is this game on the Playstation 3? And because im almost positive it isnt: WHY THE HELL NOT?" juts look at gamespots "vital stats" and it lists ps3, noob

onewiththegame
onewiththegame

NHL07 is the best sports game out and 08 looks to beat it I can't wait to pick this game up

sdkingsht
sdkingsht

if i was a hockey fan i'd care but i'm not.

Klinkcow
Klinkcow

Very excited to pick this up. I'm such a big hockey fan, I can't even grasp watching other sports. And the video games are so fun.

Maverick128
Maverick128

Osirisox "is this game on the Playstation 3? And because im almost positive it isnt: WHY THE HELL NOT?" Well, seeing as I'm reading it under "Playstation 3 News at GameSpot" I'd most certainly say it's on the PS3. Last year's wasn't because EA couldn't find the time to do a crappy port. Hopefully they've learned and will start leading on the PS3 when developing making it easier on them and better for all of us.

DrewBlood08
DrewBlood08

If dynasty mode sucks yet again, I'm gonna be pissed. I could care less about all this other stuff.

mobius5010
mobius5010

i'm very excited for NHL '08. missed out on NHL '07 last year so playing a game similar to it with improved controls (as is hoped) and with Malkin in the roster is sure to entice me to buy it. the only thing I hope they do is making a more in-depth dynasty mode.

Jamie_1987
Jamie_1987

sweet, i missed out on nhl 07 ao will pick this one up on my ps3 and hockey why all the hockey bashing??? sure some games can be boring to watch on tv but if you go in person then you'll love it.

Spartan9797
Spartan9797

This looks sweet. anyone know who might be on the cover this year?

jgon_9
jgon_9

This looks amazing so far. We've come a long way since the SNES days :)

zilcher
zilcher

The one thing I wish they would include is the ability to watch an online match between two other players on EASO. That way you would be able to see other players styles and avoid the players that try to score the same type of goal all the time.

Ugotownedo
Ugotownedo

! The graphics are amazing! But the textures on the ice could be a bit better. And I know no one really pays attention to the audience, but just to make it a bit more realistic they should look better; you know, it'll put you more in the game. Can't wait!