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Paul Nicholson
Nashvegas TN
Digital Marketing Manager at HealthTrust. Social media junkie, strategist, and app idea guy. Hockey fan, photographer, and father to 2 awesome boys.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

nhl 06-7-8

A quick post combining two of my favorite pastimes. Hockey and video games.

I first bought NHL 06 for my PC as i really started getting in to hockey. I think i played it at someone elses' house or something and decided to play it more. For the record: i advise this for anyone who wants to get in to hockey - playing the video game version is a great way to learn the basics of the game (penalties, etc) - though you will never advance beyond the very basics of course.

That was the real rub. NHL 06 was fun to play, but EA obviously put out a very half-hearted effort compared to NBA or Madden. But hey, i'm in sales and marketing. It's money. I get it.

When it was time for NHL 07 to come out, i was pumped. They were promising this new 'skill stick' change and amazing new graphics. I saw the trailers and was very impressed. So i went out and bought a copy soon after it was released. I was horribly disappointed. Not only did i not have the skill stick on the PC version, but i also didn't have the improved graphics. Essentially the PC version was simply a port of the PS2 and Xbox versions - not the "next gen" PS3 and Xbox 360 versions that all the trailers had been for. The only difference i could tell between NHL 06 and NHL 07 was that the goalies sometimes played butterfly style now instead of always stacking their pads. Yeah, that was worth $40.

Now i see trailers for NHL 08.

First, amazing graphics. To be expected, but worth noting. These looks awesome. The crowd still looks horrible, but the players look and move better than ever. Second, they really tweaked the custom/create mode. You could create customer players before, but you had one default head to choose from, with very very limited customization. Very poor by most game standards today (especially on PC - i should be able to import skins dang it!). The new NHL 08 looks like it will be much better in that department. It also adds the ability to create your own team, including selecting from a preset choice of logos (PC import option please?) and a full color pallet to chose from. This video highlights these changes...and then showcases video of the team pictured on the right. Any copies of this game they may have sold, just disappeared. Why. On Earth. Would anyone make a team look like that? It would hurt your eyes to play a whole game like that.

Anyway...

Most importantly, they are also touting improved collision/hitting physics and adaptive AI. These address the two biggest weaknesses in the game. The collision physics used to be determined entirly by two factors: balance and speed. So a player who's balance and agility stats were high, was hard to knock down. One who's stats were low, was blown over by a passing butterfly. Worse - small, fast players (like Steve Sullivan for the Predators) routinely lead the team in hits, and can deck anyone on the ice simply because they move so fast. It is all about speed. The new version is supposed to take mass/weight/momentum into account. Yay.

They have also supposedly fixed or at least improved the AI. The AI used to be horrible. I can run the same play over and over again and score about 7 out of 10 times. I regularly run up stats and get 4 or 5 players hat tricks per game when i play NHL 07 on easy. On hard it just makes the opposing goalie block a higher percentage of your shots, your goalie sucks more, but the defenders never learn a thing (on either side). The new version is supposed to pickup on repeated plays or positions and adjust to be ready for that cross-ice pass from the corner that used to be so easy. We can only hope.

The one thing i was horribly disappointed in is that the uniforms will apparently all be last years unis. Unless they are going to completely recreate the models, they are all still wearing the old-style baggy sweaters, not the new fancy tighter-fitting RBK jerseys. What, bringing them out in the Olympics last year and the all-star break this year wasn't enough time? Even if they try to change the skins to match the new patters, the fit is all wrong. That is actually a pretty big selling point to me, and they are totally missing the boat.

But here's the thing i'm really waiting to find out: is the PC version crippled again? They are making PS2, P23, Xbox 360, and PC versions of this game. Now, a top-of-the-line PC has more processing power to put to this game than any console, but i understand most modern gaming PC's lie in the Xbox 360 range of power. Either way - the PC should get the
best features available. I know this probably won't happen, because EA Sports PC games are always just sloppy ports of the console versions. What is more frustrating on top of that, is that all game review sites that bother to even review the NHL games, always just review the console version! Not even a note of 'this game is the same on PC' or 'the PC versions is actually a Gameboy Color port'. Nothing.

Why? Why must i endure this pain? I would go over to the other PC NHL franchise... but... wait... there isn't one. Curse you EA! Curse you!!!!!!

(sorry for the long post - i needed to get that one out)

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