EA Sports is bringing high definition hockey to both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 owners for the first time this September with NHL 08. The new game takes the revolutionary Skill Sticks controls, which puts the finesse of on-ice moves into the two analog sticks, to the next level with all-new offensive and defensive maneuvers.
Dave Lipman, producer of NHL 08, said the goal is to keep the Skill Sticks innovation going and improve the core fundamentals of hockey. The team in Vancouver has focused on shooting, passing and improved artificial intelligence with the new game. In the shooting department, there’s now the NHL All-Star target drill that allows you to line up a shot and knock out the five targets around the goal. To improve shot accuracy, NHL 08 will offer sweet shot shooting similar to Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf. This translates to some strategy for scoring, as the straighter the shot, the more accurate it will be.
Thanks to next gen platforms, players can actually perform crossovers while skating in tight circles. Players can also now glide or skate faster without a speed burst button. This makes everything about the game more natural and realistic and really opens up the gameplay to new moves and dekes. The game has transformed from an arcade-style speed skating, one-timer endeavor to a more realistic finesse skating game.
Defenders can now use the Skill Sticks to take out pesky forwards. It opens up one-one-one matches between forwards and defensemen and adds a lot of strategy to the game. The forward can tap the shoulder button and try to pass the puck through the defender, but most of the time the defender will steal the puck from this move. Defensemen can now use Vision Control by holding down the left trigger and see the puck at all times.
Real physics are now being implemented for checks, which means when a big defensemen goes to hit a smaller forward that’s moving towards him, gravity will take full effect. The collisions on the ice are just like the ones you’d see in an NHL arena, including hip checks. The same type of physics have been applied to fighting this year, which makes the game a lot more physical. By hitting the Y button it’s easier to get into fights this year. The only thing you can’t do in a fight is pull up an opponent’s jersey, which is because the NHL won’t allow that in a game–even though it’s allowed in the sport.
The next gen game also gets a Dynasty mode that allows puck heads to take their team through the grind of multiple seasons. In this mode, practice drills like the power play will actually improve the real power play performance in games.
EA is also making full use of next gen audio. Last year’s game had roughly 30 percent of capacity in this department, which meant that I’d hear the same comments over and over again during a season. This year, the other 70 percent capacity on the audio side has been utilized for more accurate season-long commentary.
Of any sport, hockey has always translated great to videogames. EA Sports and 2K Sports continue to clash in this sport with competing games, which results in new features and gameplay that are taking the virtual sport to new levels of greatness.