Fan Expo is a huge convention that takes place in Toronto, featuring big name celebrities, overpriced merchandise, and an opportunity to see the upcoming games and movies. While I was there I was able to play a number of upcoming games, including some of the launch titles for the Xbox One and the PS4. I’ll give my opinions on them here, but I should note that any conclusions I make are going to be based solely on what their demo showed. It’s possible that the games I enjoyed here will turn out to be terrible and games I didn’t enjoy will turn out to be pretty fun, but I’m assuming that the demos are representative of the final game, especially since most of the games are due for release very soon. From past experience, most of these demos should be publicly released soon with very minor changes, if any.
I’ll start off with the Xbox One, as I was able to play it first due to the lines being shorter than for the PS4 games. The Xbox One controller is a Xbox 360 controller with a better d-pad and triggers, but is otherwise unchanged. It was comfortable as well and I liked the new vibration scheme, which I’ll get into when I cover the Forza 5 demo.
The playable games they had were Ryse, Killer Instinct and Forza 5. They had videos for Forza 5, Dead Rising 3, and Titanfall but nothing that was interesting or hasn’t already been released so I won’t bother talking about them. I will mention that the videos were shown in a little “theatre” and afterwards you got a bag of Doritos and some Mountain Dew. At each booth you were handed a sticker, and if you collected all 5 (one for each demo, one for being in the theatre, and one for the photo booth) and posted a picture of it to twitter you could win 20 dollars in Xbox points. I didn’t play the demos for the fun of it, but to show everyone online that I did.
This was the big game at the Xbox One booth. It’s not just a set of QTE’s like previous videos showed, but simply a mediocre brawler. You have a stun move, a block, a basic attack, and a finisher. Gameplay consists of mashing the attack button, with the only exceptions being if you need to block an enemy attack, stun an enemy that is impervious to your regular attacks, or finish off an enemy in a flashy way. The finisher move slows down time and lets you do some “precision” attacks for extra points, but I just ended up mashing buttons to do some impressive looking combos. While in this state other enemies can’t attack you.
The game does have a few noteworthy features, such as the environment changing between rounds and various traps that will affect both you and the enemies in the game, but it’s ultimately repetitive. There are some items like potions and weapons to pick up, and the crowd will cheer or boo you based on what you do, but none of these had any real effect on the game and I honestly couldn’t fingure out how to use potions or the spears you could pick up. With how easy the game was it really didn’t matter.
This game, if you decide to take the free version versus paying for all of it, starts with three characters for free, and each new character costs 5 dollars to unlock. However, it’s really shallow and boring to play. I just mashed buttons as fast as possible and did a number of 20 hit combos and some really flashy moves including all the special moves. I can’t imagine that the game will be tournament viable, and even as a casual fighter it’s pretty boring. The game controls are also stiff and even the flashiest moves aren’t very creative. The lack of content is just a final nail in the coffin.
This is the only Xbox One game I enjoyed playing, but there are some issues with it. I can’t see how it’s too different from previous Forza games other than the fact that it’s even easier than before, even with the obvious and aggressive rubberbanding (I could see a car in front of me just stop moving until I caught up). Where the game shines is the graphics, as it looks nice and has a number of cosmetic effects such as dust kicking up whenever you drive over it. This is where the vibration comes in; as you drive over different types of terrain, the controller will vibrate differently. It will even vibrate based on positioning, such as only the left side vibrating if only your left wheels are on dirt while the other side is on paved road.
Sony’s booth was the worst in terms of the wait times and what it offered. Instead of a separate line for each game, there was one line for all of them. Furthermore, the games offered were Drive Club, Knack, and Assassin’s Creed IV, which is a multiplat and easily available at the Ubisoft booth. Every other game took only 30 minutes to get into, other than Ryse which was an hour. Meanwhile, it was a 2 and a half hour wait to play a single one of these games.
At the end, a few lucky people got a Nathan Drake figurine, while all I got was a T-shirt that said “Keep Calm The PS4 is Coming”, which is probably the most uninspired variation of that phrase that I’ve ever seen. However, I generally liked the PS4 games and controller more than the Xbox One’s. The PS4 controller is the same as the PS3 controller but with more responsive thumbsticks, a touchpad (which sadly went unused in these demos), and improved triggers. It feels a little more comfortable than the PS3 controller and uses some nicer material so you can grip it a bit better.
Similar to Killer Instinct, Drive Club offers a free version with extra maps and cars costing extra, and a one-time fee to get the full version. The gameplay isn’t anything special, but where it shines is in the social aspect. You join a club and face off against rivals from competing clubs. As you race on a track, the game will keep track of various statistics such as average speed and drift time, and compare them to other people. If they do other social features like challenges, tournaments and a ranking and ladder feature I can see this becoming a very popular racing game.
This is my favorite launch title and the only one I’d consider buying on release. It’s colorful and each level has its own set of environments, enemies, attacks, etc. Combat is a bit simple so far, but there are some special moves you can do. Destruction is important to fill up your special bar and to make Knack bigger. In the puzzle section, you had to dodge lasers and pull levers to let your friends through, and you could switch between various forms (invisible to super strong), based on the situation.
And that’s our quick look on the state of the new consoles. Next time I’ll talk about some of the current gen games that I got to play, and in our third installment all the indie games that were showcased.