Xbox One Source in Toronto & Killer Instinct Impressions

Ryse of the Xbox One

Console launches always seem to bring out the worst. Not in people, necessarily, but in the weather.

While as of this writing, the Xbox One is not due to be released until midnight tonight, that didn’t stop grey skies, harsh winds, and eventually some precipitation of the snow-like variety from descending upon Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto, where a colossal Xbox One unit had appeared, waiting for just the right moment to reveal to a crowd of onlookers what surprises were in store within.

Upon collecting a certain number of Xbox Live GamerTags, each of which was displayed proudly on a large screen and entered into tonight’s drawing for a chance to win one of the shiny new next generation Microsoft consoles, the time was set to reveal what the oversized structure contained. Similar Xbox One Source events had taken place in Vancouver and Montreal, revealing live reenactments of the action to be found in Xbox One exclusives Dead Rising 3 and Forza Motorsport 5, respectively.

While there was an air of mystery about which title would be shown off in Toronto, their hand was slightly tipped early by workers setting up props which included singed American flags, wooden barrels, and a skeleton wearing a suit of armor which appeared straight out of ancient Rome. This would be further reinforced by the passing out of gold-leaf “crowns” and rose petals just before showtime, as one of Microsoft’s newest franchises prepared to enter the spotlight.

Once the clock struck 4pm EST, the following unfolded within a gated-off area:

Truth be told, unless you were right up front, it was difficult to see what was going on through the crowd as Roman soldiers (and one brave civilian) circled the enclosure, spilling fake blood and ripping mock-intestines from their foes, leaving plenty for workers to clean up later. In addition to a scattering of plastic golden coins, the heat of some impressive pyrotechnics would cut through the cold while ash from the explosions rode through the air and into the crowd (fortunately, it came off with little fuss).

This was Ryse: Son of Rome.

Admittedly, my fingers were crossed for Killer Instinct early on. Though we were denied a live-action martial arts spectacle to usher in the resurrected Rare classic, we were informed that it was lying in wait among the demo units inside of the giant Xbox One console, which also contained demos for Ryse: Son of Rome and the two previously-shown titles, Dead Rising 3 and Forza Motorsport 5.

The first 30 of those who arrived early on were able to procure black wristbands which allowed them to engage in Ryse-themed activities, such as posing in front of the box, learning to sword-fight from one of the soldiers on hand, and even enter into a specially-set dining area where, from what I could tell, they were given a most welcome gift of warm food and drink. Incidentally, though I arrived pretty early to be on-hand for the event, I somehow completely missed the wristband thing.

Oh well, Killer Instinct and McDonald’s across the street would suffice well enough for my liking. And after waiting for a bit in a moderately swift-moving line, I would soon have my chance. Luckily for me, it seemed that the group of fans ahead of me were more interested in other titles, so I was ushered in even more quickly than I expected.

As near as I can tell, the version of Killer Instinct being presented here was– or at least was based on– the free version that will be released as a download. This is insomuch as that Jago was the only playable character, though several others could be chosen as opponents. Fine by me– Jago and Fulgore were my mains back in the day, so he would make a fine gauge upon which to tell how the new game feels, and Sabrewulf would be my test subject.

Here’s the thing: After standing out in the cold and wind for a while, I cannot say my hands were in optimal game-playing condition (yes, I even had gloves). But even despite this handicap… well, what can I say? The game just really felt right. I moved right into performing all of the old moves I remembered, from his Hadoken-esque fireball to his flying kick, his Shoryuken-esque uppercut (I’m starting to remember why I used him so much), and one of my favorites: Repeatedly slashing opponents with his sword.

Just don’t ask about finishing moves– my memory isn’t that good, I’m afraid. Even so, based on what I played, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if I could have broken out one of the old moves and had it work flawlessly.

jago_vs_sabrewulf_47 jago_vs_sabrewulf_24

One thing which stuck out to me as different was how long the match seemed to last. Even while chaining combos together to more quickly whittle down Sabrewulf’s health, the matches felt a bit more drawn out– not to a negative degree, mind, but in that they didn’t feel like they were over too quickly. Admittedly, my mind might be playing tricks on me with regards to how long a classic KI match would last, but this just felt more substantial, like there was a greater opportunity for both sides to get their licks in as needed. Or perhaps that was just for the demo, to better match how long the other game samples were running?

Even though the match felt longer than I remembered, it was still over quickly enough, and I was on my way. The staff invited me to join the line again to play another demo, but I declined, having enjoyed the experience I came for– perhaps if I can ever get to afford an Xbox One, I’ll get to try the others out. For now, I’m just eager to play more Killer Instinct.

Upon leaving, some swag was offered as a souvenir of the experience: A drawstring tote bag adorned with the Xbox One logo, a discount voucher for Xbox Live, and a black Xbox One toque, which still fails to cover my ears (this is a long-running problem I seem to have with promotional toques; I guess my head is just that big).

Here are some more pictures from the Toronto event, and if you would like to see more pics and videos from this and the previous Xbox One Source events, check out the official website and Xbox Canada’s Facebook page.

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David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.