I picked up NHL 08 last night and it rocked my world. Starting in 2003 EA let you control dekes with the right analog stick, allowing such ridiculous moves as deking backhand, putting it between your legs forehand, and shooting it with the stick between your legs. Last year, EA let you control shots with the R stick - you pull back to wind up a slapshot, push forward to shoot it. It didn't feature a full plate of features, but it was certainly a step forward in the genre.
This year's edition adds On the Fly AI. More so than any sports game I've ever played, the computer adapts to your playing style. For example, if you try the wraparound a few times in a row, the other team's defensemen will wait for you to turn in front of the net. If you try to cut off their passing lanes, they will take the puck more directly to the net and try to use you to screen the goalie. It comes across as incredibly authentic - if you can make the counter adjustments. Otherwise it's hard to score and harder to maintain a lead. There are other touches that add to the realism: if a shot trickles through a goalie's five hole, he'll keep his legs together and reach around with his glove to stop it.
And the graphics are so good it looks like a Pixar movie about a hockey game. Look at the shot of coverboy Eric Staal skating by his bench, the bench itself in particular. The sticks look photorealistic, the gloves pretty damn close. Gary Thorne and Bill Clement actually keep up with the gameplay, which has been problematic in the past. The Dynasty mode has been fleshed out, with two way free agent dialog, a salary cap, salary floor, and rookie cap, and a full minor league system.
This is a must to pick up in the biggest annual video game sale: the Toys 'R' Us Buy 2 Get 1 sale. It goes on until Saturday at least, possibly until next Saturday. Gamespot reports cutscenes are choppier on the PS3 version, so I'd recommend the XBox 360 version if given the chioce. Just because the NHL continues to be completely irrelevant as a spectator sport, NHL video games can still be highly entertaining.