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NHL 2K8 sticks it to the pros

September 10, 2007

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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NHL 2K8The NHL is going through all kinds of changes. New superstars like Crosby, Ovechkin and the Staal brothers are quickly making their mark on the ice. New features like the shootout, and the dropping of old rules like the two-line pass are changing the way the game is played. And new uniforms are popping up faster than Leafs haters in Ottawa.

So it only made sense for the team from Kush Games (a division of 2K Sports) to put together an all-new NHL game for 2008. You'll notice the changes in NHL 2K8 the minute you fire up your console and see the completely redesigned opening menu screen (a slick looking thing that you can even customize with your favourite team and colours).

That's the least of your worries as a player though. In any game, especially sports games, control is king. So brand new for 2K8 is the 'Pro Stick' control system. Similar to what EA introduced last year with it's Skill Stick, players are able to control their player's stick with the right analog stick. The difference between EA's game and 2K's is that you don't actually shoot with the analog stick. Shooting in NHL 2K8 is now done with the right bumper, while passing is done with the left bumper.

NHL 2K8 designer Colin O'Hara said that he didn't ever want gamers to feel like they didn't have control while playing 2K8, which is why no matter how much you move the player's stick around, your player won't lose the puck until he shoots or passes, or it's taken off of him of course. When asked how long it usually took gamers to get used to the controls, he said it only took a matter of a few periods to get the feel for it, and most people they tested it out on had it down pat within a couple of games.

NHL 2K8I tried it out and was definitely stuck in '2K7' mode, repeatedly hitting the 'X' button on the 360 controller to shoot. Once I trained my brain to control the puck with the right analog stick and use the bumpers in tandem, it did quickly become more natural-feeling.

Though this is probably the biggest change for 2008 year, it's certainly not the only one. In addition to the Pro Stick controls, winning faceoffs is a whole different bag of pucks altogether as well. Gamers will have to worry about aiming and timing their stick placement, and they'll also have to worry about tie-ups, warns, and toss-outs. That's right folks - it's NHL 2K8: When Referees Fight Back! The 2K team, including O'Hara, had supervision from San Jose Sharks forward (and '2K7' cover athlete) Joe Thornton on how faceoffs work, in fact.

As with the past few NHL 2K games, the development team didn't just use their cover athletes as a way to sell the game based on sheer popularity. They talked to players again and took advice from them on how to make the video game better. Marty Turco, for example, was featured on the cover of 2K6, and to this day he still not only talks to the game's makers, he also plays the games while on the road with his team, the Dallas Stars. This year's cover athlete, Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators, is already talking to the team on improvements for NHL 2K9.

The create-a-character mode is also far, far more advanced than any other 2K NHL game. Gamers can customize virtually everything on their players, from what brand of equipment they use to how much tape they put on the end of their stick. Not only that, but these updates will come automatically throughout the season, so if you're  connected to Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network, you won't always have to worry about whether or not Sidney Crosby uses Reebok or Nike equipment (like that'll ever happen!. In fact, there's even a create-an-arena mode here, so if you've ever wanted to see what a 'standing-room-only' stadium looked like, maybe now is your chance.

NHL 2K8 is shaping up to be as much a thorough hockey experience as its predecessors, but with a bigger focus on gameplay. There's a lot to throw at newbies and NHL 2K veterans alike, especially with the new Pro Stick controls, but we're guessing it'll be just a matter of time before we're playing like pros on the way to the virtual Stanley Cup finals.

 
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G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.