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Xbox Canada X16 Media Showcase

At Xbox Canada’s X16 Media Showcase, Toronto’s historic Distillery District was transformed into a glorious showcase of exciting upcoming Xbox One games, from the biggest AAA titles, to the latest from award-winning independent studios. Brad gave us his hands-on on impressions games like Gears of War 4, ReCore, and Forza Horizon 3, but there were many that I also got to experience, including Tekken 7, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, Final Fantasy XV, Dead Rising 4, and Halo Wars 2. Here are my hands-on impressions of these Xbox One games at X16:

Tekken 7

It’s been seven long years since the last mainline Tekken game hit North America game consoles so I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to try out Bandai Namco’s upcoming Tekken 7. The game doesn’t release until early 2017, but you would never be able to tell it’s a work-in-progress from the demo I played. A full roster of about 20 characters were playable, including series mainstays like Heihachi Mishima, Yoshimitsu, and Jin Kazama, along with newcomers Lucky Chloe (a ponytailed, “Neko” costumed, freestyle dancer), Kazumi Mishima (Heihachi’s karate fighting, tiger summoning wife), and Street Fighter’s demonic Akuma. Yes, that Akuma. Part of me believes Akuma was culled over from Bandai Namco’s Tekken X Street Fighter, the counterpart to Capcom’s Street Figther X Tekken that apparently is still in development, despite not seeing hide nor hair of the game in years.

I played several matches of Tekken 7 with Brad and walked away very impressed. Much has been said about the game’s use of Unreal Engine 4, and I must agree with the general consensus: the presentation of Tekken 7 is mind-blowingly awesome. This is by far the best-looking Tekken game I’ve ever seen, and I especially loved the extremely detailed character textures and beautiful stages, often containing destructible environments and/or multiple areas to fight in. Much of my time was spent playing as Akuma (one of my favourite Street Fighter characters), and he really impressed overall. Akuma controls exactly like you would expect, requiring quarter-circle motions for his fireballs and spin kick, and forward-quarter-circle for his dragon punch. To add even greater authenticity, Akuma even has his EX and Super gauges. While it was initially a bit surreal to see Akuma tossing repeat fireballs at Heihachi, after a couple of matches Akuma really felt as if he belonged in the Tekken universe.

We still have several months to wait until Tekken 7 releases, but going by what I played at X16, fighting fans are in for a real treat.

Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2

The sequel to Bandai Namco’s Dragon Ball Xenoverse fighting role-playing game will be arriving in late October, featuring plenty of updates to the presentation, gameplay, story mode, and multiplayer. At X16, I was able to get hands-on time with the Versus multiplayer mode to see what it’s all about. Generally, I found the gameplay felt similar to last year’s version, though there are incremental improvements to make the overall experience better. In addition to rebalanced attacks, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 features a new Stamina Break move that will sap your opponent’s stamina, reducing their ability to dodge or teleport and increasing your chance of landing combos. There is also a new Aura Burst Dash that lets you quickly close the gap between you and your opponent, forcing tighter and more furious confrontations. The biggest change however is the improved framerate—from 30 to 60fps—which results in noticeably faster, smoother action this time around. Game controls are still very intuitive and easy to pick up, bringing back many familiar elements like weak and strong attacks, Ki Blasts, lock-on, Special Attacks, and Ultimate Attacks.

What the demo didn’t include was the main story mode, but a Bandai Namco representative gave me the rundown of what to expect. The game’s main hub, called Conton City, will be comparatively much larger than the hub world in the first game (Toki Toki City)—as much as seven times bigger. 300 players can simultaneously be in Conton City, and now you’ll be able to band together with 5 other players to take on Expert Missions against powerful bosses. Xenoverse 2 will also contain twice as many quests compared to its predecessor and there will be new Parallel Quests that allow you to replay key events from the Dragon Ball Z timeline from different perspectives.

From what I’ve played so far, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 doesn’t aim to reinvent to wheel, but rather it aims to provide a more substantial and refined experience building upon the original, successful formula.

Final Fantasy XV

The Final Fantasy XV demo I got to play was the same one at Gamescom 2016 and allowed me to play the opening 30 minutes of the game. I’ve been a huge Final Fantasy fan ever since the NES days, and with FFXV being the largest production ever in the series, I was thrilled to find out how this ambitious title is turning out. The game build was considered to be close the quality of the final game, barring any last-minute graphical and gameplay tweaks Square Enix will do between now and the game’s launch on November 29th.

Right from the beginning of FFXV‘s “Chapter 1 – Departure”, you can tell this is going to be a different kind of Final Fantasy adventure. Instead of the typical “reveal of a new evil that thrusts the world in peril” cliché, the opening scene of FFXV is as mundane as it gets: your bro squad’s car has broken down, giving you no choice but to push it to the nearest gas station for repairs. As dull as that sounds, it’s a refreshing change of pace for the series, and immediately humanizes Prince Noctis (the main protagonist) and his three loyal-to-the-end companions.

At the gas station you meet Cid, a helpful character that seems to show up in every Final Fantasy game in some form or another, along with his “grease-monkey” granddaughter Cindy, who agree to fix your ride so long as you hunt down some local critters. This first hunting mission is really a combat tutorial in disguise, teaching you how to control Noctis during the real-time battles. Combat consists of various elements like conjuring weapons for attack, Point Warping to instantly close the distance between you and an enemy, defending, roll-dodging, casting magic spells, and using items. Overall, the combat felt very responsive and deeply strategic, though I still need to spend plenty more time with the game to fully appreciate all the battle nuances. Once you finish a battle, a Report Card summary will grade you on your Defense, Stealth, and Offense—a neat inclusion that presumably affects the amount of rewards received.

From my half hour with FFXV, it appears the story will focus heavily on comradery, connection, and personal growth. I really enjoyed how your crew of four will chit-chat as you mill about, giving off vibes of true friendship while also keeping the pace of the game quite brisk. There were also warm, subtle touches that brought the characters to life, such as Ignis, the group’s resident cook, pondering which of several dinner options to prepare (you choose) following the team’s decision to camp out for the night.

Playing through the first 30 minutes of any Final Fantasy game is like taking the first bite out of a multi-course buffet meal—sure you get a small taste, but you know there’s so much more yet to come. If the point of this demo was the whet my appetite for more FFXV game time then it succeeded, emphatically. November 29th really can’t come fast enough.

Dead Rising 4

The X16 demo of Dead Rising 4 was the same one I played at E3 2016, but I was very eager to jump back into this zombie-infested world to explore it a little deeper. To recap the story, you assume the role of legendary photojournalist Frank West, who returns to Willamette, Colorado—the notorious setting of the original game—to investigate reports of a new outbreak of hungry flesh eaters. This holiday-themed edition lets you explore the snowy city more in-depth, and you can craft even more deadly and devious weapons to combat the relentless undead horde.

For my second playthrough of the demo, I decided to test out the all-new Exo-Suit even further to see what it is capable of. The high-powered suit can be found in multiple locations around the city, inside glowing blue attaché cases, and gives you super strength for several minutes until the suit powers down. On top of being able to pummel zombies into oblivion, the Exo-Suit enables you to punch cars to mow down dozens of zombies in one fell swoop. That was very satisfying. If close-range combat is more your style, in the Exo-Suit you can rip out parking meters (with a huge concrete block stuck to the bottom) and clobber the rushing undead with brutal swings. The added strength of the suit also enables you pick-up heavier weapons, like a massive Gatling gun designed to rip through zombies like they were mere pieces of paper. Suffice it to say, the Exo-Suit is an awesome new addition to the Dead Rising series and I can’t wait to experiment more with it. The great news is the wait won’t be long—Dead Rising 4 releases this December 6th.

Halo Wars 2

I’m a big fan of the original Halo Wars game on Xbox 360, and PC real-time strategy series like StarCraft and Command & Conquer, so it was a real treat to get a personal overview of Halo Wars 2 from Dan Ayoub, Studio Head at 343 Industries, at X16. Ayoub walked us through the game’s central conflict, which pits Captain Cutter and his Spartan crew against a rogue Brute force called “The Banished” that splintered off from the Covenant, and is lead by their cunning and fearsome leader Atriox. Cutter, as it turns out, has been in cryosleep since the events of the last game, so he must also must come to understand a reality far different from the one he remembers. Halo Wars 2 is also in development for Windows 10, and both games are being developed to optimize their control scheme, be it an Xbox One controller, or mouse and keyboard.

Following the closed-door sessions with Ayoub, I got partnered up with Brad for some hands-on with the game. What I noticed first about the game is just how detailed and polished all the various infantry and vehicle units are, and how impressive the improved special effects are, be it explosions, burning fires, or clouds of smoke. Buildings and units now show very visible signs of destruction during the heat of battle, letting you focus more on macro strategy versus having to micro-manage health bars. Having played the Xbox 360 original, I was able to pick the controls very quickly and didn’t find the Xbox One controller to be limiting in any way. My 15 minutes of play was quite enjoyable, despite getting my butt handed to me by my relentless Banished adversaries. Halo Wars 2 is expected to arrive on February 21st, 2017.

To see Best Buy’s full selection of Xbox One games, but sure to check the Xbox One section on BestBuy.ca!