Wednesday, September 12, 2007

NHL 08 (360)

I wrote a relatively scathing review of NHL 07 last year (which you can read here).

My primary objection was that the game essentially shipped without offensive or defensive A.I. Actually, there was offensive A.I., which I believed was coded like this:
If player in offensive zone
Then shoot

I documented just how bad the offensive A.I. was in the linked post--it averaged less than 1 pass per offensive possession (that "successfully" ended in a shot). And it wasn't that the offense was passing the puck all over and losing it (thus skewing the numbers)--a guy would skate past the blue line, pull up, and take a slapshot.

On offense, I could skate in leisurely circles around the offensive zone with very little interruption from the defense, even on Superstar difficulty.

The frame rates were also lousy, and the skating animations didn't look very good.

In spite of that, the game had its moments. Right analog stick control for shooting was a blast, and the commentary was outstanding. It was just another game in a long list of EA Sports games that had potential, but didn't get finished.

I picked up NHL 08 today, and here's an update.

--Offensive and defensive A.I. made it into the game this time. I started retesting what I did last year, but stopped after five minutes, because the problems I documented are clearly gone now. That doesn't mean the A.I. is sensational or anything, but it's significantly improved and looks serviceable.
--frame rates are silky-smooth on the 360 version. User be warned on the PS3 version, which apparently has significantly lower framerates.
--skating animations look great.

This is the best-looking sports game I've ever seen in HD.

Also, unlike NCAA, which had high framerates during the play, but frequent choppiness in-between plays (which will drive you crazy), NHL is smooth, smooth, smooth all the time.

Sliders are obviously going to need some work--I already turned game speed down to the minimum setting, and also significantly changed a few other settings.

So far, I'm very impressed.

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