For four days, Fan Expo Canada took over the spacious Metro Toronto Convention Centre for its annual mega celebration of all things pop culture. At 750,000 square feet and an expected 140,000 fans in attendance, Fan Expo Canada is the largest pop culture event in Canada, and the third largest in North America. The event lets fans across Canada, North America, and beyond, geek out to their favourite in Comics, Sci-fi, Horror, Anime, and Gaming. Fan Expo Canada is one of my favourite events of the whole year, so I was very excited to be back again to experience what the 2016 show had to offer.
My first stop was to check out all the amazing PlayStation VR experiences on the show floor to get a glimpse of what the future of gaming holds. Then, I visited all the gaming booths to play some of the hottest games coming this fall, and beyond. Here are the highlights:
At the centre of Sony’s booth at Fan Expo Canada they brought the same Gran Turismo Sport racing pods I saw at E3 (but didn’t have time to sit and play), complete with a full-sized driver’s cockpit, gas/break pedals, and a high-end racing wheel. If you want to get the full experience for Polyphony Digital’s upcoming PS4 racing game, this is certainly the way to do it. There were several different cars to choose from in the demo, like the Nissan GT-R ’17, Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 ’13, and the Lotus Evora ’09, but I opted to select one of two virtual concept cars, the gorgeous Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo GR.1.
After selecting my car’s colour (blue), and manual gear shifting (automatic was an option as well), it was off to the race. Several tracks were playable, ranging from Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit, Tokyo Expressway, Nurburgring Nordschleife, Willow Springs Raceway, and Northern Isle Speedway. I chose the Tokyo Expressway since I love the city, and I also wanted to see one of the game’s brand-new tracks. Like all Gran Turismo games I’ve played before, I immediately noticed the incredible graphics and authenticity in Gran Turismo Sport. Polyphony is striving for a constant 1080p/60fps quality level, and while I can’t say for sure what the demo was running at, it sure did look beautiful and the gameplay was silky smooth. What I played was only a small sample of a much larger game—the final game will have 140 cars, 19 locations, and 27 layouts—but it’s already clear that racing fans have a lot to look forward to when the game releases on PS4 this November.
The second PS4 game I tried at Fan Expo Canada was Gravity Rush 2, the sequel to Sony Japan Studio’s action-adventure game for PS Vita. I absolutely loved the first game, and I was very, very impressed with what Sony’s done with GR2. Kat, the main character of the previous game, is back to kick more Nevi butt using her awesome powers to manipulate gravity. Following a brief tutorial to re-familiarize myself with Kat’s gravity-shifting abilities, a bird swooped by and stole a kabob I had just purchased (darn bird!) Chasing the bird to get my kabob back was really a test of my fast-acting gravity-shifting skills, but it also gave me a breathtaking view of the game’s new city, and wow is it detailed and stunning. Later, I encountered some enemies and practiced Kat’s gravity air kick, a move returning from the first game, and her all-new special move where she attack multiple enemy’s weak spots in consecutive fashion. The demo concluded with an impressive boss battle against an armoured Navi dotted with multiple red weakspots, which Kat’s new special move handily took care of. Gravity Rush is one of Sony’s most underrated franchises, so don’t let this promising next entry pass you by when it comes out this December.
This year Nintendo didn’t have a booth on the show floor, instead they hosted a really cool Yo-kai Watch Family Room. Inside families could watch exclusive anime episode screenings, meet Jibanyan (the ridiculously cute cat Yo-kai) in person, browse the many Yo-kai Hasbro toys, get your face painted, and play demos of last year’s Nintendo 3DS Yo-kai Watch game. It’s too bad they didn’t have demos of the two new games releasing this month—Yo-kai Watch 2: Bony Spirits and Yo-kai Watch 2: Fleshy Souls—but Nintendo did say they’re planning a separate event soon for these. Stay tuned for more coverage of these titles!
Microsoft’s Fan Expo booth this year was very impressive and included tons of games like Forza Horizon 3, ReCore, Gears of War 4, Dead Rising 4, Killer Instinct, Cuphead, and more. Because I had played all these demos during the media preview portion of Xbox Canada’s awesome X16 gaming event, and my time was limited at the show, I decided to spend a bit of time watching other gamers experience these exciting fall releases. From the looks on everyone’s face, they were having a blast. I was really impressed with the overall set-up of the booth, which included a glass-window enclosed VIP area, a creepy dead Santa Claus photo area (for Dead Rising 4), a Gears of War 4 shelter complete with wood panels and crawling vegetation, Forza Horizon 3 racing cockpits, and rows upon rows of game stations. It was also cool to see many Xbox One consoles and controllers on display, including the new Xbox Design Lab controllers, the new white Xbox One S console, and the new red Xbox One S 2TB Gears of War 4 console.
The main attraction for me at Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s booth was the incredibly immersive Batman Arkham VR game for PlayStation VR, but they were also showing off a few recently released titles like LEGO Star Wars The Force Awakens and the latest additions to LEGO Dimensions. What really stood out for me was the back wall of the booth that showcased the many available LEGO Dimensions characters in a futuristic-looking circulur glass display. It was really thrilling to see all the various character properties you can choose from, including Ghostbusters, DC Comics, The Simpsons, Scooby-Doo, Back to the Future, Jurassic World, The LEGO Movie, NINJAGO, and many more. With the loss of Disney Infinity earlier this year, it’s great to see the toys-to-life category still thriving with LEGO Dimensions.
On the final day of Fan Expo Canada, during the final hour, I got my chance to go hands-on with Ubisoft’s 2017 action title For Honor. Why did I wait until the 11th hour to play it? It’s simply—the line-ups for this game were HUGE! I’m talking about 2-3 hours wait long. Finally near close on the last day the line had thinned to “only” an hour’s wait. The wait, as I soon found out, was totally worth it.
For a public convention demo, the duration I thought was extremely long, lasting roughly 20 minutes each. During the first 5 minutes or so I went through a tutorial teaching me the immensely deep “Art of Battle” attack and parrying system, which requires you to use the D-pad to position your weapon left, right, or up high. In order to strike opponents, you need to position your weapon differently than them (e.g. attack left when they’re guarding right), and to defend against attacks you need to match the same position as the striker. It’s a really neat mechanic that requires you to meticulously read your opponents, and react accordingly.
Once training was finished, I was paired up with three other players to take on a squad of four players on game stations located on the opposite side. We played the “Dominion” game mode, which requires teams to capture and hold three different zones on the battlefield to earn points. Once your team has garnered 1,000 points, you must eliminate the other players to win the match. My team consisted of three Samurais, and one Knight (you can also choose to be a Viking.)
I learned very early on how important teamwork and communication is to winning. If you ever find yourself outnumbered in a 2-vs-1 situation, it’s very challenging to escape alive (and near impossible to take them both on at once.) My team was very tight and cohesive, we travelled in a pack, fought in a pack, and rescued teammates in a pack. Communicating through the provided headsets was essentials—our tactics had to constantly pivot depending on the immediate situation and changing battle conditions. Our excellent teamwork paid off as we not only reached the required points threshold well before our opponents, but also took all four of them out to win the match. I have to say, there were numerous edge-of-your-seat moments during that single match, including epic 4-on-4 battles to control a single zone, mad dashes to rescue teammates, huge skirmishes in hotly contested areas with dozens of NPC fighters, and thrilling clutch moments in the heat of battle. I really can’t wait to play more!
Well, that wraps up my time at Fan Expo. Did you attend any of the four days? I invite you to let me know below your favourite moments of Fan Expo Canada 2016!
See you there next year!