FAN EXPO Canada 2018 – Celebrating all things pop culture
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 plus 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 2018 show had to offer. I visited all the gaming booths to play some of the hottest games coming this fall, and beyond. Here are the highlights:
It’s no secret that the PlayStation 4 has had a stellar year. And, by what I saw at their FAN EXPO Canada 2018 booth, the hits just keep coming. By far the biggest line was to play the upcoming Spider-Man game.
It seems that gamers everywhere just simply can’t get enough of the PlayStation brand and its games. Here are some of the games I played at Sony’s booth.
The very first game I played was the upcoming Tetris Effects for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR. As a long time fan of the timeless classic Tetris, I couldn’t wait to try this game out. The game’s development is led by Tetsuya Mizuguchi—the man behind my other favourite puzzle games, Rez and Lumines.
I played on the PlayStation VR, and I can honestly say it was the most relaxing, calming, and serene experience I have had on VR to date. I started on a level that was underwater and I immediately looked around at my surroundings. There was marine life all around, which included fish, whales and more.
Tetris Effect has musical cues that add even more realism to the experience. Every move I made had a different musical cue and, when I got into my swing, I was able to create my own personal symphony of sound. From what I was told, each stage has its own original song and unique musical cues.
A new gameplay mechanic added to Tetris Effect is something called the Zone meter. As you clear lines, you fill this meter up. When full, you activate it by pressing R2 or L2 and literally freeze time. This allows you to fit your pieces in without any pressure at all. While I only had 15 minutes to play Tetris Effect, I was impressed with it from the very first minute. The game is currently scheduled to be released this Fall.
Astro Bot Rescue Mission
The second game I played was Astro Bot Rescue Mission, a platforming game made exclusively for the PlayStation VR. The game is developed by Japan Studio who have made other notable games such as The Last Guardian and Gravity Rush 2, to name a few. There is a total of 26 levels in the game, and I was able to play a few of the levels.
Astro Bot Rescue Mission utilizes full 360-degree VR gameplay that requires you look all around. A few times I was stumped as to where I had to go next. Sure enough, by looking over my shoulder I was able to see a path that I could go that I never really noticed earlier.
The game uses different camera angles and along with the immersive technology of the PlayStation VR to create a platforming experience unlike anything I have ever played before. It’s something that you need to experience first hand to fully appreciate.
Additionally, the DualShock 4 is used as a slingshot in certain situations to fling Astro at the end of a level for bonus points. Furthermore, you can shoot Ninja Stars that cut through bamboo trees and can also be used as platforms for you to jump on.
Microsoft’s FAN EXPO Canada booth this year was very impressive. It included a lot of games such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Forza Horizon 4, Ori and the Will of the Wisps and more!
Microsoft had a super sweet Xbox One X on display that looked like an OG Xbox. Perhaps one of the highlights of the Xbox booth for me was a massive area dedicated to PUBG called the PUBG Hyperzone. The PUBG Hyperzone ran all weekend and some very lucky players were able to walk away with some great prizes such as an Xbox One X!
Forza Horizon 4
After seeing all the previews and trailers for Forza Horizon 4, I knew it was the first game I wanted to play at the Xbox booth. They had several personalized stations equipped with steering wheels and a super cool racing seat to sit down and play.
In Forza Horizon 4, the developers have added dynamic driving conditions. So, now races can take place during spring, summer, fall or winter. The sense of speed in Forza Horizon 4 is unreal.
As I was racing across the British countryside I was amazed at the incredible detail that is included in this game right down to the way puddles splashed as I ran through them. One of the races I participated in took place in the winter, and as a Canadians we all know how tricky driving can be sometimes. Instantly, I could tell that my car had less grip on the road and areas of ice popped up making things even trickier.
Even with the short time I had to play with Forza Horizon 4, I feel in love with the fact that racing on the same track through different seasons offered up a unique experience each time. I am really looking forward to sitting down and playing more when the game launches in a few weeks.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
I loved Ori and the Blind Forest, so naturally I just had to get my hands on the sequel. Let me just say, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is gorgeous! It looks as if combat is the main focus of change in this new game as Ori now has an ability wheel.
This is where you can assign abilities such as your energy sword and a bow to the X, Y, and B buttons. Additionally, there is an ability that allows you to restore health by using up your energy. Overall, this change in combat made my experience with fights quite a bit more interesting.
The level I played was called Windswept Wastes, which contained crumbling sand pillars and some nasty spikes. I am not too sure how far along in the game this level is, but it didn’t feel like I was at the beginning. The best part of the demo for me was unlocking that ability to burrow through sand dunes.
You can dash in and out, which allows you to propel yourself over giant gaps and to ledges you previously couldn’t make it to before. Ori and the Will of the Wisps isn’t due out until 2019. Though, it is a game I have a close watch on.
Nintendo’s booth was by far one of the, if not the, busiest gaming booths on the FAN EXPO Canada 2018 show floor. Nintendo of Canada brought Mega Man 11, Starlink Battle for Atlas, Mario Tennis Aces, FIFA 19, and a little game known as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for fans to play. The line to play Smash was huge, though it moved quickly as 40 plus players rotated every 7 minutes.
After spending several hours with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate at a special VIP event, I didn’t have to worry about waiting inline to play. Instead, I checked out a few other games.
Mega Man 11
The Mega Man games on the NES were some of my favourite games in the entire Mega Man series. That’s why when I heard Mega Man 11 was going to be a FAN EXPO Canada, I just had to play it. My initial reaction to seeing the new anime-inspired blue bomber was very positive.
Mega Man looks and is animated better than ever. The 2.5D art style is simply mind-blowing! The gameplay stays true to its roots, which will make fans of the series happy. There is however one change to gameplay, that even with the short time I had with the game, I totally loved.
Its the new gear system, which allows you to slow down time or increase your attack power. In the demo, I played Block Man’s stage. Slowing down time was extremely useful for the enemies that had had a small opening to attack them. You can even call your robo dog, Rush Coil with the simple press of a button.
Mega Man 11 is due to release in just a few short weeks on October 2, 2018. I can hardly wait to get my hands on this one!
Starlink Battle for Atlas
Ubisoft Toronto’s developed Starlink Battle for Atlas was at Nintendo’s booth and I had a chance to try it out. Starlink is an open-world game that adds the toys-for-life element to it, and ultimately does a great job with it. Starlink has a No Man’s Sky vibe to it with Fox McCloud and the Arwing on the Switch.
The story behind the game is this. The Forgotten Legion is on the hunt for technology left behind by an extinct race known as The Wardens. Your goal is to scour the Atlas system in search of allies to help down the Legion at all costs.
In the demo, I visited a desolate planet with complete freedom to fly pretty much where I wanted to. Though, the best part of the demo was fighting a giant rock spider. Totally awesome!
This year’s Expo marks the first time that Blizzard has had a booth in the convention’s 24-year history. They brought World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Overwatch, and Diablo 3 for the Nintendo Switch.
Only two short weeks after announcing Diablo 3 for the Nintendo Switch, Blizzard brought the game to Fan Expo Canada 2018. While it may not quite be the newest game from Blizzard Entertainment, I think Diablo 3 is a perfect fit for Nintendo’s hybrid system. Stations were setup in groups of three, so I teamed up with two other players.
I was impressed with how smooth the game ran, regardless of what was happening on the screen. I was able to pickup on the controls easily, and in no time I was activating my abilities. We battled bosses with projectiles flying everywhere, and still the game held up just fine.
There still isn’t a firm release set for the game other than Fall 2018. I’m really looking forward to jumping back into the world of Diablo 3. And, I am interested to see how amiibo support pans out.
Warner Bros. Games Booth
Last, but certainly not least, I made my way over to Warner Bros. They were live streaming the Canadian Injustice 2 professional championships, and had two upcoming releases I am looking forward to, Hitman 2 and LEGO DC Super-Villains.
I learned that unlike its predecessor, Hitman 2 will not be an episodic adventure. Instead, this sequel will release as a full game on November 12, 2018. Just a few minutes into my game, I noticed that Hitman 2 offers a lot more contextual cues than previous games to help players out.
Instinct Mode is back to help bring your attention to key people of interest. However, I noticed a new gameplay mechanic where a white circle would appear above certain character’s heads. I later discovered that this white circle appears on characters that are more likely to suspect something is not quite right. These are people that you must make sure to steer clear of.
After playing the demo, I came away feeling good about the game. Everything that makes the Hitman franchise good is back and feels more refined.
LEGO DC Super-Villains
The LEGO franchise is one of my favourite that my son and I both enjoy. You can always count of a fun time full of building, puzzling solving, and comedic dialogue. And, I am happy to say that LEGO DC Super-Villains fully lives up to all those expectations.
If you are a fan of the LEGO franchise, controls will feel right at home. It’s nice to play as the “bad guys” and felt like a breath of fresh air. In the demo I was tasked with helping Lex Luthor escape from prison.
All the hijinx and mayhem in the LEGO games is present, right down to the Joker’s ability to bring the guards to hysterical laughter.
Well, that wraps up my time at FAN EXPO Canada 2018. Did you attend any of the four days? I invite you to let me know below your favourite moments of FAN EXPO Canada 2018!