Places to Do: Toronto’s Xbox One HQ
Tucked amidst the chic and ritzy stores on Bloor Street West in Toronto is a simple black storefront. Welcome to the Toronto Xbox One Headquarters, where visitors can check out the next generation’s Xbox, with its sleek black lines (which the store is very obviously mimics), bold features, and redesigned controller. Not only that, but people can also get some hands-on time with a few highly-anticipated Xbox One titles.
On Tuesday, November 5, Gamer Living was on site at the X13 Media Preview event at the Xbox One Headquarters to take in the sights and sounds, play some games, and chat with representatives from the respective development teams. Our hosts from Microsoft ensured that from the moment we stepped in, we were immersed in the Xbox culture. We were handed lanyards with our name tags proclaiming our full names, our Xbox Live gamertags – as well as a picture of our Xbox Live avatars! It was definitely a conversation piece and provided the perfect icebreaker with strangers.
The inside of the HQ is very simple and elegant, reminiscent of the product that it’s promoting – especially with its colour scheme of black, white and green. Set up along each wall are the guests of honour: the Xbox One consoles and HD TVs, showcasing some of the upcoming Xbox One titles. One of the first things we noticed was the Skylanders SWAP Force area: the graphics onscreen were amazing and not at all what we were used to seeing on the current generation versions! The visuals were crisp, clear, and extremely smooth, with none of the pixilation or graininess we saw when we played SWAP Force on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It was simply amazing, and it was apparent that the developers had created the game for the next generation consoles and then retrofitted them for the current Xbox and PlayStation 3.
Continuing with the cartoon theme, next to Skylanders is PopCap’s Peggle 2. Again, the graphics and colours popped up from the screen, showing how the Xbox One truly helps games shine on the TV. The simple yet addictive gameplay of Peggle 2 was accompanied by some creative musicality: each time a ball touched a coloured peg, a soft note would chime, creating a song of sorts as the ball bounced from one peg to the next. To help players with their objective of clearing the red pegs, Peggle Masters (cartoon characters at the side of the screen) offer unique power-ups, such as turning the launched ball into a bowling ball (all the easier to clear the board, my dear).
Other titles on the main floor are Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Battlefield 4, Dead Rising 3, and Crimson Dragon. Although some of these titles are already available on the current generations, visitors will be able to do a compare and contrast between visuals and gameplay for the Xbox 360 versus the Xbox One – and that difference will be readily apparent.
On the second floor are many of the current gen-only titles, including: Forza Motorsport 5, Just Dance 2014, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Killer Instinct, and Zoo Tycoon. If you’re a racing fan, you’ll definitely want to get some hands-on time with Forza Motorsport 5, which features the 2013 McLaren P1 – a beautiful, sleek car that will surely test your finesse on the track. The detailing in the graphics is so realistic that it seems like you’re staring at a video of the cars – rather than computer renderings.
Directly across from Forza 5 is Just Dance 2014 for those who want to get their heart rate up and bust a few moves. In addition to an all new song list that is sure to get anyone moving, Ubisoft has made a few noticeable changes to the game interface (e.g. once again returning to the arrows for song selection, rather than the need for swiping motions), and have added some fun features, such as visual effects to the video recordings of your dance moves, as well as a karaoke mode!
If a traditional workout is more of your forte, the Xbox One will feature Xbox Fitness – a free to download exercising game for Xbox Live Gold members (for a limited time). Now, players will have the opportunity to exercise with world-renowned trainers like Tracy Anderson, P90X, and Jillian Michaels, while adding a gaming element to what used to be a daily routine. You can challenge yourself against your own personal best, your friends’ scores, or even your group’s average scores. The game features Muscle Mapping through the Kinect, which allows the game to provide you feedback on your form, energy level, and more!
For those who want to get hands-on in a purely imaginative sense, Zoo Tycoon will be a launch window title, allowing players to create their own zoos and fill the property with all types of animals. The developer, Frontier Developments, has some experience with creating realistic animals (they were the ones who brought us Kinectimals), and this shows in the Zoo Tycoon graphics. The different animals are extremely realistic, and will surely grab at heartstrings everywhere. To further draw players into the game, Zoo Tycoon features interactive modes (through the integration of Kinect) where players can feed the animals, bathe them, and even play games with them!
You can read all you want about the Xbox One, but words don’t do it justice. So, why not go experience the next generation console firsthand? The Xbox One Headquarters opens its doors to the public on Thursday, November 7th! If you’re in town, pop on by to 11 Bloor Street West in Toronto. Get your gaming fix and try out a few Xbox One titles! Be sure to block off some time in your schedule – time flies in the #XboxOneHQ!
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