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September 1, 2007 // 2:25 pm - The NHL 2K series seemed, just a few short years ago, like a dynasty in the making. But after EA's NHL 07 launched the skill stick, 2K's series felt dated. Trying to play catch-up this year NHL 2K8 has completely revamped controls...and they're absolutely confusing. Even after a few games of hands-on time, we were passing when we meant to shoot, deking when we meant to shoot, and on rare occasion shooting when we meant to shoot.

The basics aren't that difficult: deke with the right stick, pass with LB, and shoot with RB. Easy, right? If that was all, yes. The complications come when you're speed bursting with the right trigger, or super speed bursting with the A button. You slap shot with the left trigger and RB. All those button presses get very confusing, and more often than we liked we passed up on the chance to wallop a slap shot because we couldn't sort the necessary combination in a sport that requires split-second decisions. (All control mentions are for the Xbox 360 version.)

Though there were other reasons the slap shot didn't happen; mostly, the game is way, way too deliberate. Shooting, passing, receiving the puck -- all of it happens way too slowly. Again, hockey is a split-second sport. If you can't rip off a slapper in a hurry, you're going to miss the chance. And the hitting is like a WWE match on the ice -- you can drill people relentlessly without the risk of penalty, with bodies flying around way too frequently. It doesn't feel enough like hockey, which is unfortunate.

On the upside, the game looks way better than last year's, as the player faces and menus have been significantly upgraded graphically. Plus, face-offs are more realistic as players will tie each other up before the puck goes to either team.

But the real separator for this year's game from previous ones is the new Superstar Moves ability, which can be done in-game by holding the left trigger, followed by a button combination. It's likely too Tekken for most, but the chance to imitate Owen Nolan's point-and-shoot from the All-Star game years ago, or the genius "Sweden '94" move that Petr Forsberg scored on, is good fun, especially in a shoot-out.

NHL 2K8 Preview!

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