For the last few years 2K Sports’ NHL 2K series has been one of the best hockey franchises in the industry. In its 2K8 edition, 2K Sports has added a bunch of new features, some of them pretty good, and some of them are completely unnecessary.

As always the graphics, as with any 2K Sports game, are top notch and are unbelievably fluid in terms of the action and animation. And although you can’t get more realistic than the character movements, there are some glitches that will find pucks somehow going through defenders and sometimes you can even find a way to score behind the net with your magical hockey stick.

The controls this time around take some time getting used to. They’ve reworked the entire system to introduce the ProStick and Superstar Moves. The shooting and passing controls have moved to the right and left bumpers, with the combo of the left trigger and right bumper to make a slap shot. This will take some time to get used to, and may even be a bit frustrating. The ProStick is the right analog stick and it allows you to better hold on to your puck when skating through traffic and on defense giving you a better chance of checking a cat. The problem is, you won’t be using it that much, and isn’t necessary to excel at the game, but it would give you an edge. What will help you excel are the new Superstar Moves. It’s a set of combo moves that “superstar” players can perform on the ice from through-the-legs shots to behind-the-back passes. A “superstar” player is determined by their puck handling and agility rating, but every team should have a couple players who can perform these moves.

Another major addition is the Franchise Mode. Geared toward the hardcore hockey fan, Franchise mode allows you control a team and decide everything from contracts, waivers, management of the salary cap and even negotiate salaries with free agents. You really won’t find a deeper hockey experience than this.

Overall, NHL 2K8 is solid, but it takes some getting used, which may turn off some fans. But once you get used to it, you’ll be bumping and checking cats all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Gameplay: 8.0
Graphics: 9.0
Sound/Music: 8.0
Overall: 8.5
Learning Curve: approximately 3-5 full games.

NHL 2K8 is available on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Playstation 2