Final Fantasy XV:Top Gear For 2015 - Games Weekly

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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Final Fantasy XV:Top Gear For 2015

Are you ready for some Junctioning of a different kind? After more than a year off the radar, Final Fantasy XV has raced back into our lives with news that a voucher code for a playable demo, entitled Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae, is on its way. Want in? Then you’ll need to pick up the PlayStation 4 HD remaster of PSP game Final Fantasy Type-0, due out 20 March.

It’s been a long and very winding road for the project, so it’s great to have the chequered flag in sight at last. Once known as Final Fantasy Versus XIII when it was announced more than eight years ago in 2006 (let’s put that in context this was before PS3 launched in Japan, even), Final Fantasy XV has undergone multiple development changes while parked in the Square Enix garage. The latest in a long line of under the hood adjustments sees previous director Tetsuya Nomura removed from the project and moved onto Kingdom Hearts III, leaving Type-0 director Hajime Tabata to take the wheel for the game’s final stretch of development.
The reason for all the car puns? Well we haven't gone mad: in a move that will upset some Final Fantasy purists, the 15th core entry is aiming to, um, accelerate[sigh, that’s enough ed] the transition from tactical battler to all out action eyeball assaulter by featuring full on driving sections.

Yep, Final Fantasy XV is one long road trip through monster-infested lands, starring lone playable star Noctis and his NPC buddies. You can assume control of the vehicle to steer the plot forward, or sit in the back seat and relax as your AI companions take you for a ride. At Tokyo Games Show 2014, director Tabata explained how the car is like a party member all on its own, and how you can use it to explore XV’s open-world at your leisure.

Welcome back to the words ‘open-world’, by the way. How we’ve missed you so. The Final Fantasy XIII saga did terrible things for the franchise, so we're relieved to discover that XV is smashing through the barriers from the off.

We’re big fans of classic Fant’ combat. Give us turn-based scrapping any day and we’ll be happy. Final Fantasy XV doesn't do that. Actually, it makes  it more action-y than ever with you seamlessly drifting in and out of scraps whenever you want. You’ll have full, real-time control of Noctis’ every move, rather than queueing up attacks Lightning-style.

So why aren't our alarms blaring ? Because this system transforms combat into sequences that could have been taken directly out of a Kingdom Hearts. It may not be true to the pre-XII Final Fantasy titles, but if the series must continue to evolve in the combat space, making it more like Kingdom Hearts is no bad thing.

Mercifully, it looks every part the new-gen proposition, too. There’s no PS3 hangover in sight for what’s one of the most visually arresting games we’ve ever seen in an extended TGS demo we watch Tabata spin the camera around characters so gorgeous it’s hard to believe they’re in-engine models and not simply parts of a pre-rendered cutscene.

Individual raindrops falling in the scene soak our future friends, wetting their hair and dampening their clothes before pooling in puddles that evaporate when the sun comes out. And is that…Is that a tiny frog we see emerge in the rain to splash about on the sodden ground? Yes, yes it is. Ribbit.

The thought of crossing the world via a motor with an all-male party, hopping out and adventuring whenever we choose, is so far removed from what we’re used to from the series that we’re sure it’s not for every FF fan out there.

Do we pine for a return to the old formula or, dare we say it, the long rumoured VII remake? Of course. But after more failed starts than the average RAC worker fixes in a morning, FFXV’s final stretch is something to be celebrated. Doubly so because it looks ruddy brilliant.

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