I must confess, the last NHL game I picked up before this one was 2004, so there may be some features I bring up that were also in previous years which I am unaware of. For the most part, NHL 2008 is fun and addictive, and there are no other NHL games that compare. I was only going to write a three star review, but most of the gameplay issues go away in multiplayer mode.
I find this game to be very similar to past years, with some different things here and there, but I was able to pick up the controller and start playing it with no problems. Some reviewers complained of slow-down's in front of the net, and while this does occur it is quite rare. There are also some slow-down's when you dump the puck down ice, but this has only happened a couple times to me. Something new to me is the ability to initiate a fight yourself at just about anytime you would like. I have also seen fights change the momentum of games. While I knew 2008 wouldn't be much different than past years, I knew I wanted to play with guys like Crosby and Ovechkin, which is a major reason for purchasing this game.
There are a handful of issues I have with the gameplay and hopefully they will be changed in future years or improve on PS3. First and foremost, is the issue with the shooting. Shooting and scoring are extremely difficult. I use manual shooting, which the game defaults to. Involved in the shooting is a bullseye that moves around the net before you release the button to aim your shot. The only problem is that even when aiming in this way, the puck misses the net at least 50% of the time. This occurs from all distances and angles, and even in situations where it really should not, such as Sidney Crosby in the crease taking a wrist shot that misses the net. It is even difficult to score on an open net. Furthermore, shots that don't miss the net are almost always stopped by the goalie - this inculdes one-timers from all angles and distances, wrap-around-the-net shots, slap shots from the points, and close distance wrist shots. There doesn't appear to be any method to scoring other than to get as many shots as possible. On the other hand, when the cpu is playing against you, no matter who your goalie is, almost 1 in every 5 shots goes in. I end up winning around 2 out of every 3 games, with realistic final scores, but unrealistic shot numbers. For example, I might win 4-3, but I'll have 60 shots on goal and the cpu will have only 15. Most games end this way, and I'm constantly reminded of it, because the opposing goalies, even in losses, usually end up being one of the three stars of the game for having a ridiculous number of saves. This also hurts the overall gameplay due to the fact that you can no longer play a defensive game of puck control, because you're constantly trying to score. I feel this makes the gaming very unrealistic, despite the close final scores. Also, keeping in mind the shot-to-score ratio I mentioned earlier, do whatever you can do to not end up in a shootout, because you will lose it 9 out of 10 times.
Apart from the shooting issues, I also notice there is no longer a pass where you can lift it off the ice. In previous years, you could make a normal pass, but also press another button for a lifted wrist-shot-type pass so that you could make passes through traffic. This pass is no longer in the game, forcing the player to deke more.
One last issue is that the cpu has a regular tendency to always score goals within the last minute of the 3rd period, no matter what the score is. I honestly believe there is some type of computer assistance that is turned on in the last minute of the game, so you must try extra hard to protect the net at the end of the game.
I know it sounds like I've mentioned more negatives than positives with this game, but it is actually a lot of fun to play. Just don't expect to play the cpu and have the games be anything close to realistic.