NHL 2K8 Hands-On: Superstar Moves and Franchise Updates

Under the leg, flip the puck, spin-a-rama...NHL 2K8's focus is squarely on the superstars. We've got an updated look at the game.

If the NHL really wanted to reinvigorate the flailing sport of hockey, it would pay special heed to the incredible videos of such populate sites as YouTube, featuring NHL players pulling off the kind of moves in real life that were previously reserved for… well, video games. Think of Marek Malik's round-the-leg shootout goal from a couple of years back or seemingly any shot by Sydney Crosby these days. It's that insane talent that makes the NHL--at its best--one of the most exciting sports to watch. And those kinds of moves are a big focus of 2K Sports' upcoming NHL 2K8, as we discovered after some recent hands-on time with the game.

NHL 2K8 looks to focus on the game's best players...and all their hottest moves.

Part of the focus on player skill comes from the new pro-stick controls, which let you move the puck anywhere along the ice as you skate along with your controlled player simply by moving the right stick in any direction. The more skilled a player is, the better he'll be at controlling the puck, giving you access to moves that you might not otherwise be able to pull off. For example, with an elite center like Joe Thornton, you can toss the puck from left to right and behind the player simply by quickly moving the right stick along the lower, outer edge of the stick.

Another cool move is the kick to stick. By holding down the left trigger and pressing the right stick in any direction, your player will kick the puck off his skate, a great move to make your defender look silly as you skate right past him. You'll also be able to use pro-stick controls on defense too, which is a great way to clog up the passing lanes and maybe get an interception. To acclimate yourself to the pro-stick controls (as well as the rest of NHL 2K8's control scheme), there's a nice training feature that will practically take you through all of the moves one-by-one and let you practice them as many times as you like.

The other big aspect of NHL 2K8's focus on great players is the superstar-moves feature. Here's where things get really fancy. If you want to try Malik's ridiculous under-the-leg shot or Peter Forsberg's one-handed extended-reach slide in goal from the 1994 Olympics, this is the feature for you. There are 12 total superstar-move shots from which to choose. Each is executed with a combination of the left trigger and then pressing two face buttons in quick succession. For example, the first--and easiest move on the list--is the "fake whiff," a fake shot followed quickly by a slapper that can often cause the goalie to bite. To pull it off, you hold the left trigger and press the A button twice.

However, it's not about just pressing the buttons and watching the lamp light. In order for a superstar move to be successful, a number of factors need to be in place. First, the player attempting the move will have to be up to the task--each move will have a minimum requirement for puck handling and agility that the player will have to meet. For example, the "fake whiff" shot requires puck handling and agility attributes of 50. However, the "spin pick up," a round-the-back shot that looks as if it's shot from a cannon, requires puck handling and agility ratings of 85 apiece. Secondly, you'll need to be relatively close to the net to pull a superstar move off and have enough momentum while you're moving. While you're player will automatically shoot the puck after he's pulled off a superstar move, you'll still be able to aim your shot in the process.

In all, superstar moves can add a good deal of flair to your on-ice adventures in NHL 2K8. Some of our favorites include "batters up" where the player flips the puck into the air and then slaps it into the net. Another favorite is the "shot caller," which isn't so much a trick play as it is a chance to show up your opponent, with your player pointing toward the net and calling his shot even before his puck has left his stick. You'll be able to use any of these superstar moves for online matches, which should be a nice addition for 2K8 fans who enjoy a little trash talk with their hockey. This feature will also be a nice complement in the 2K Reelmaker, which lets you create movies culled from clips of your games. After putting together a movie of your best superstar moves, you'll be able to upload it to a 2K server, where other fans will be able to watch and view your clips.

Your players will progress as the season continues.

In addition to all of the on-ice control tweaks, franchise mode has gotten a good bit deeper in NHL 2K8, specifically in terms of player contracts and progression. Much of the changes come from the 2K Sports team implementing many of the aspects of the NHL's collective bargaining agreement. As a result, you'll see things like one- and two-way contracts, as well as a waiver system. You'll also see restricted and unrestricted free agents as part of your franchise. The game's tweaked presentation will put crucial contract information front and center for your franchise management. Thus, you'll easily know which players are about to become free agents and which are wrapped up for the next few seasons.

When it comes to re-sign players, a new negotiation interface should keep things interesting as well. Here, you're given an all-in-one view of how both parties (your player's agent and your team owner) feel about the negotiations, giving you immediate feedback on how close (or far apart) you are in terms of salary. Handy gauges help here too: As you increase or decrease your offer, you'll get a visual representation of how close you are to meeting your player's demands. Of course, if you're not into the business side of running an NHL franchise, you can also let the CPU handle these things and focus on the day-to-day operations of improving your team.

Part of the job of any general manager is making sure your players progress while they play for your team. As with NHL 2K8's updated franchise mode, the new player-progression system will give you easy access to how all of your players are improving throughout the season. The key here is that player progression is based on two key factors: playing time and results. Ice time is going to be the key ingredient in making sure a player progresses as quickly as possible; your goal as GM will be to decide whether or not it's worth it to put a young, promising player on the ice with your NHL team to let him sink or swim or let him stay in the minors and build up the ice time there.

An all-in-one team-progression screen will serve as a quick guide to how every member of your team is doing at any given point in the season. There are four basic factors to consider: ice time, stats, aging, and net. Ice time indicates how much playtime a player is getting; stats measures statistical output; aging determines whether a player is on the rise or slowing down because of age; and net indicates a player's overall progress. Arrows for each of these four factors are a quick visual guide for how a player is doing at any given point, so if you see a player who has three downward-facing arrows in the "stats" column, it might be time to consider a line change. Conversely, two upward arrows in the "aging" column means the player is still growing and will likely continue to improve as the season progresses.

In addition to this overview look at your team, you can drill down to each individual player to get a closer look at his progress. Here, each player has five focus areas: scoring, skating, defense & skills, mental, and physical. Each focus comprises a spread (which indicates how dedicated that player is to that particular aspect of his game), an overall rating, and a momentum arrow indicating whether he's progressing positively or on the downward slope (even if it's just temporary). Also, each focus comprises a number of different attributes. For example, a player's scoring focus takes into account five attributes: offensive awareness, shot accuracy, shot bias, shot power, and shot quickness, with each attribute measured by a number. As a player continues throughout a season, his performance on the ice--whether in practice or in a real game--will increase attributes, and as a result, improve that overall focus level.

While your run-of-the-mill NHL players will only be able to progress so much throughout the season, veteran and superstar players will be eligible for larger-than-normal gains befitting their elite status. In addition, you'll be able to change a player's role on a team in the off-season, transforming a finesse player into a scorer before the start of the next season. As a result, his focus attributes will shift accordingly to reflect his newfound role on the team.

Think you've got what it takes to be an All-Star? Prove it.

If customization is your thing, NHL 2K8 looks to be up to the task, with a host of create-a-player and create-a-team options. On the player side, you can take advantage of flexible player-creation tools and a huge lineup of real-world gear from manufactures, such as CCM, Mission Intake, or Nike. You can also take advantage of a flexible editor that will let you do things like paint your gloves all the way down to the individual fingers. The create-a-team options seem similarly flexible, with more than 120 logos to choose from, including such classic gone-but-not-forgotten NHL franchises as the Quebec Nordiques, Winnipeg Jets, and the Minnesota North Stars. And let's not forget the new Reebok jerseys, which will be in the game. But because of NHL licensing issues, you'll need to get a special code from the 2K Sports Web site after the game is released, which you can enter into the game to unlock the new uniforms.

With NHL 2K8, it's clear that the developers at 2K Sports are putting the focus squarely on the best players and their amazing feats of on-ice magic in the sport. We'll be bringing you more on the game in the coming weeks as we prepare for its release in early September.

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Discussion

28 comments
hjk1999
hjk1999

When i got this game i was expecting it to be crap.Then I played it and said in my head ''This game will be ****''. I played one hole game and i'm just sitting there like durling because this game rules!

HighRoll3r
HighRoll3r

Are hockey games even ANY fun if you're not really a big hockey fan!?

steaky17
steaky17

I'll get both games, and probably sell one of them once I figure out which one I like more! no reason to drink the kool aid when it comes to games, dudes. 2k has made better hockey games the past few years, but this puts pressure on EA to make the game better. Just be glad its not like Madden, where you just get one choice, and have to live with the short comings.

th3maker
th3maker

HE HE HE HE HE HE HE HE HE.................................................................................... WANT TO PLAY GAME NOW!!!!!!

nosbig
nosbig

So excited! Why isn't it out yet???

metaljeff
metaljeff

Can't wait...should be a great game...

nadasfan
nadasfan

Man, the way I see it, this is wonderful for hockey fans. Both EA and 2K are stepping up to the plate with some really nice features this year. We are the winners as we get 2 good hockey games. I know I will definitely be playing both NHL 08 and 2K8.

Titan124
Titan124

Ok, so first you start out by taking a potshot at the NHL and the people who run it (what, they should force the players do a spin move on a regular basis?). You go on to spell Sidney Crosby's, probably the biggest prodigy in any sport right now and the last decade, name wrong. I stopped reading there. I will not be reading my review from a site that can't spell Sidney Crosby's name right, its like spelling Wayne Gretzky Wayne Gretzki, or Michael Jordan Michael Jordin.

DeltaSpirit
DeltaSpirit

Wow looks like i have a hard decision on my hands. 2K was winning the NHL wars then EA step it up matching them last year, it's a great time to be a hockey fan

the_specialist4
the_specialist4

man fif any of u morons actually understood how hard it is to flip a puck off the ice then either keep it on ur stick or hammer it in the net while moving forward.... its tough just try it then ull see

the_specialist4
the_specialist4

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

AL13NK1LL3R
AL13NK1LL3R

maann,, now i need to see whats the different between ea and 2k.. now i have to wait till i see whats the score for this and ea...

VolcanoMan001
VolcanoMan001

Wow, yeah, imagine that. EA brainwashed fannies rushing to convince people to buy NHL 08. Save it for the NHL 08 stories and in the mean time keep sippin' on the haterade.

PantsOfFury
PantsOfFury

No surprise to see 2K and EA fans whining at eachother. I'll wait and see which game I want (it'll probably be both if EA improves their AI a lot).

slabbe
slabbe

after watching the game on on the spot i could see that it was another 2k nhl game the sam things since 2k6 and it looks really sh**. They are lightyears behind EA. and i cant really understand people that buy 2k hochey games

qi1ihc
qi1ihc

Personally, the Skill Stick from NHL 07 was something that seemed heavenly at first. But there are four problems with it. One: it's too easy to shoot by accident with it. Two: It was, when all is said and done, useless for dekeing. You could only move it left or right. Surprises? Never. Three: Sidney Crosby had the same skills as Steven Reinprecht. Four: Ultimately, it masked how shallow NHL 07 was. After awhile, the skill stick's appeal drained, and all I wanted was some solid hockey with good AI (NHL 07's goalie AI is the worst hockey AI ever). The Prostick allows you to move the puck in any direction, which is good, and finally, Sidney Crosby is able to do moves Steven Reinprecht can't. And I'm not crazy about this create-a-play feature, either: it sounds more like something I'll try once and forget about afterwards. And if the AI doesn't improve drastically, then the play creating thing becomes useless.

AbsentiaMan
AbsentiaMan

Its very nice that EA is adding all their new features, but I want to feel what its like to play that gm. If their defensive options and skating engine are still not on par with 2k's, the rest will fall under for me. I'm looking forward to 2k, because I know they've been working from a solid skating engine, defensive options, and AI. Where was that in NHL 07? Lets wait for the demos, before we make false assumptions.

SDwinder
SDwinder

EA's NHL 08 was an abortion last year. The only thing the game did right was the Skill stick. The AI was as bad as it gets....like chickens skating around with their heads chopped off. The control suffered due to lousy framerate and animations. The demo only showed a Shoot Out, so they could disguise the fact the gameplay was the worst ever. EA really dropped the ball on the 360 NHL last year. I am hopeful as ever, but EA has to step up and prove themselves before they see my money again. This starts with a full-fledged demo so we can see if they are trying to rip us off again. 2k7 was a great game and highly enjoyable online and off. They will get my money until EA proves otherwise.

glimpus
glimpus

All of these canned moves make it sound too arcad-ey. Especially, ""batters up" where the player flips the puck into the air and then slaps it into the net." What player would be dumb enough to try that in any game that mattered? Sure, maybe they'd try it in the All-Star Game, but other than that if that was tried in any season or playoff game I can guarantee you that player would be benched for the rest of the game. NHL '06, anyone?

clockworkboy00
clockworkboy00

Once again, people (johnnyskills) talking when they clearly don't know what they're talking about. EA definitely listened to their fans after last year. They have, reportedly, fixed problems that were posted all over their boards last year and made multiple improvements. 2K's games are notorious, however, for game-ending bugs like the freeze glitches in MLB 2K6 and NHL 2K6. I'll agree that NHL 06 was pure arcade slop, as were many of their NHL games before, but 07 was a huge step in the right direction and 08 looks to be an improvement on that. And to address the product placement...yeah...it's a sports game. Have you watched a pro sports game on television recently? It's all about product placement. Get used to it. The more expensive these next-gen games become, the more advertising you'll see. Luckily, product placement does nothing to detract from the gameplay or the overall experience. Unless you're looking for stuff to nitpick on. 2K does worse than just moderately improving on their last year's title, they wait for EA to make an advance and then they rip it off poorly. Pro Stick anyone? Half the fun of EA's Skill Stick is using it to fire off wrist shots. You can't even shoot with the Pro Stick.

johnnyskills
johnnyskills

EA sold its fans out. I am tired of product placement in all the movies i watch. Then i found out that EA was going to sell of more space in its games too. As a fan and a customer i feel like EA never listens to the ideas of its fans and stays there own course. 2k might not have the graphics that EA has, but its surely got them beat on less bugs, better game play, and a more solid over all feel. I cant wait for the the next NHL 2K game to drop. And when it does, we can all come back here and see how much better it is then EAs attempt.

soroush7
soroush7

I'm going to go with Nhl 08 this year.

diznella
diznella

Well, I'm excited about both games...but how long do we have to to get a Superstar mode in a hockey game? I want to play the role of a junior phenom and get scouted, drafted, traded, negotiate/sign as a free agent, etc. Or similar to NCAA Football by EA, take the role as a coach/GM and get offered jobs from other teams, or get fired and be forced to find a job with a new team. It would make a great new mode for a hockey game.

clockworkboy00
clockworkboy00

EA grows complacent?!!! NHL 08 is a huge step forward from 07. Where's 2K's create-a-play feature? How about dekes that allow you to free the puck? Or how about AI that learns your strategies? I'm not an EA fanboy. I play MLB 2K7 religiously, but you can't call EA complacent. Their hockey game this year looks like it's going to make NHL 2K8 look silly.

DrewBlood08
DrewBlood08

The pro stick does look familiar, but the depth in franchise mode is way more than EA. It only natural for companies to bite one another, but who grows after that innovation matters. EA has a tendency to grow complacent, which it looks like their repeating.

call4backup
call4backup

hmm that pro stick thingy looks familiar.... o yeah i believe its was called NHL 06

playstation_wii
playstation_wii

The pro-stick looks really nice to make cool moves! :D