Following the spate of 2008 edition sports games, we test the latest instalment of NHL on the PS3. But is it worth the outlay? We strap on our skates and find out.

You know the story by now – each year we see a new version of most mainstream sports games. This year, of course, you can through the PS3 into the mix. So does all that extra power deliver a ground-breaking performance? Perhaps not as much as you’d like.

Graphically, it looks good, from the menus to the reflection in the ice it is crisp and clear when played in full HD. The graphics also support the speed of the game without too much fuzz. You do get a choice of camera angles, but overall, things are fairly simple and on a big screen (we played on 40”) you can see enough of what is going on. Luckily, the offside rule actually improves the game because you have time for the camera to follow play to the other end of the ice when it happens.

I can tell you are waiting for a but. There is one. Ok, it looks really good, but we still can’t be totally happy with the players' faces. This seems to be a continual problem and NHL 08 is no different in this regard. That aside, however, and this is a great rendition of the sport.

Gameplay itself is not easy, even on Rookie mode, things are still tricky – especially scoring. This is a game that you need to practise to master control of the stick and the various options for moving the puck around the ice. However, player movement is beautifully smooth and realistic, and it takes some thought to intercept an attacking player. Luckily, it’s devilishly addictive, so you’ll have time to master the skills.

As in previous incarnations you get NHL and AHL teams to choose from, as well as options for customisation, various play options so you can get straight into the action or manage your team through the season. The referee does a good job of watching the rules, and you’ll spend your early games giving away penalties. Occasionally you’ll find yourself in a fist fight too, which can fun once you get the hang of it, but if you decide you don’t want so much fighting there is an option to reduce it.

Verdict

All in all, this is a very complete game with options to keep everyone happy. It looks and sounds authentic as we’ve come to expect from EA Sports. Of course it will be a big hit in USA and Canada, but hockey fans in other areas should give it a go. A great game, lots of fun, but a real time destroyer.