NHL 08 PC & PlayStation 2
Published by: EA Sports
Developed by: EA Sports
Release Date: Out Now
Whilst the 'next-generation' versions of the NHL series are moving on leaps and bounds, the PC and PlayStation 2 versions have stagnated. We were mightily impressed with both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of NHL 08 and anyone who has access to either of those consoles should opt for their version of choice and simply ignore the PC and PlayStation 2 versions of the game. To a certain degree this is understandable for the PlayStation 2 version. After all the console has been surpassed by the PlayStation 3 and developers are focusing on getting the most out of Sony's latest and greatest and aren't as concerned with what will soon be an eight year old console. The PC however, is a gaming platform forever in transition and should not have to make do with a PlayStation 2 port.
The modes on offer in NHL 08 are just what you've been used to in previous versions of the game on the PC and PlayStation 2. Play Now, Play Online, Dynasty Mode, Season, EA Sports World Tournament, NHL Playoffs, EA Sports Free For All and Shoot Out Mini-Game. There is also a Creation Zone where you can create your own Free Agent, Team and edit existing players. The Dynasty Mode not only allows you to play with NHL teams but also allows you to play as a team from the German, Swedish, Finnish or Czech leagues which are a welcome bonus. The American Hockey League (AHL) has also been included allowing you to play as one of its 29 teams and challenge for the Calder Cup.
Whilst the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of NHL 08 had plenty of additions to get us excited and enabled us to assign NHL 07 to the box of ‘never to be bothered with again’ games, the same cannot be said for the PC and PlayStation 2 versions because, essentially, the game is pretty similar to the NHL games that we've been playing for the last few years. The Skill Stick (the feature that allows you to use the right analogue stick as your virtual ice hockey stick) has been added, it's not as good as in the 'next-generation' versions of the game. It's a welcome addition of course but it's a shame that it feels like a more basic version. The intelligent, learning AI that the PS3 and 360 versions had is also not present. In fact the AI here seems quite simple by comparison. This essentially means that you're in for high scoring games once you've figured out the AI’s weaknesses. Compared to the realistic pace of the PS3 and 360 versions, the PC and PlayStation 2 versions feel more like an arcade game than a simulation.
Whilst the PC and PlayStation 2 versions of NHL 08 are practically the same game, the PlayStation 2 version of the game does boast a feature that's not found in the PC version. The feature in question is called Buddy Buzz. When playing on the same team as a friend you can press the R3 button to make their controller vibrate, which is supposed to let them know that you're ready for the puck and then your player gets ready to hit a one-timer. It's hardly an earth-shattering addition to the game but you have to wonder as to why it wasn't included in the PC version when in every other respect the PC version is a straight port from the PlayStation 2 game.
If you're a PlayStation 2 gamer you'll probably be happy with the way the game looks as it's practically been the same for the last few years now. If you're a PC gamer you'll be wondering why on earth the game looks like a PlayStation 2 game. Regardless of your PC specification you'll have a game that just doesn't look that good. Running the game on a PC that far exceeds the recommended specification we were surprised to see that the game doesn't manage to maintain a smooth frame rate. In fact, although the frame rate dips a little on the PlayStation 2, it is a little smoother than the PC version, which doesn't make much sense at all.
Deaf gamers won't have any real problems with either the PC or PlayStation 2 versions of NHL 08. The game commentary is unsurprisingly not subtitled. Elsewhere in the game the important information is in text meaning that you'll have no problems enjoying the Dynasty mode as all of the information you receive, such as communications from players, staff and the owner as well as trade reports, are in text.
We said that NHL 08 on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 was a must own purchase for fans of the sport and even those with a passing interest but we cannot say the same for NHL 08 on the PC and PlayStation 2. There's not enough here, in either version, to warrant a purchase unless you really can't do without the additions of the Skill Stick (which isn't anywhere near as impressive in the PC and PS2 versions), the addition of the AHL, the new uniforms and, in the case of the PS2 version, the Buddy Buzz feature. If you're a PC gamer you have to wonder that if the PC version of NHL 08 had to be a port then why wasn't it a port of the Xbox 360 version? The bottom line though is that both the PlayStation 2 and PC versions are disappointing, in that not a lot has changed over the last few years and only hardcore enthusiasts who don't own a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 should give the PC or PlayStation 2 version a second look.
Whilst the next-generation versions of NHL 08 have been brilliant, both the PC and PlayStation 2 versions of the game are disappointing. Only hardcore fans of the series that don't have access to a PS3 or 360 will consider these versions a worthwhile purchase.