It's time to sharpen your skates and get your fingers ready for one of the most acurate depictions of hockey I have ever played. I'm talking about NHL 2K8, the newest edition and one of the most complete to boot. Graphically, statistically, and a VERY deep franchise, this game will keep you busy all season long, especially with all the new features.
So lets start off where we left off from last year. Last years edition was great in its own way, and this year they have improved upon it. I think we should start where all hockey does...the face off. This year they have put together a new face off system that adds realism to the game. So, in short if you do something wrong like going for the puck when your not allowed or your timing is off, they restart the face off. Now here is my complaint on this. There are no drills whatsoever and VERY little documentation for the new face off system, which makes it a tad difficult to master.
Gameplay almost remains the same, although with the addition of special moves, like in their NBA series during the slam dunk contest you can now perform a trick before taking a shot at the goal. This is a neat feature although a bit cumbersome with everything that's going on. This year the 2K Reelmaker makes it's debut on the NHL series, although if you want to use it, it's gonna ding you 400 points in the Microsoft Marketplace to purchase the software to make your own reel.
The graphics have greatly improved as well as the presentation, it feels like a hockey game, with really good replay on behalf of 2K, it makes the experience that much greater. There is a very good amount of multi-player in this edition. There are leagues, tourneys, and a lot more. Up to four people can play at once, although I wouldn't as the servers are unforgiving on lag and will kill the game. So make sure no one is cruising the net or downloading music when playing.
This years franchise mode has to be the deepest I have ever seen, from scouting, watching minor league teams, signing and trading players; this game has it. YOU are the man, you tell them when to practice or tell them not to practice. This game should have a good 20 page section in the manual on how to run a team(more on manuals in the end). The franchise mode is not going to disappoint those who like fantasy hockey or hockey in general. You can spend hours micro managing your team(sorry no blood pressure medication available). I think they did a real nice job with this mode.
My last bit concerns the game overall and is more of constructive criticism and not being mean. This is something that kind of ticks me off a bit each year and with each 2K sports title, and that is the manual. I find the game great, and a lot of deep features like the franchise mode, but VERY little or no documentation. I know a lot of people who don't bother, but when it comes in the game where you need to trade players to balance your team, wouldn't it be great to have a better understanding on how to negotiate? The drills in the game do off shoot a bit, but they don't really help you when it comes to a certain defense or offense on the ice when calling plays. Some plays are pretty straight forward but some are not. So that is a big negative for me.
Learning Curve - About an hour.