Montreal gaming hits E3

Last week gaming hypefest E3 was held in Los Angeles. Here’s how Montreal’s indie start-ups and big studios fared at the conference.

The E3 conference

Last week, the gaming industry descended upon Los Angeles to show off their new wares at E3, the glitziest of gaming’s hypefests. Montreal always figures prominently in the conference, understandably, but there was something different about the make-up of our fair city’s contributions in 2013: instead of just the big studios attracting worldwide attention, a bunch of new indie start-ups also turned heads. Here’s a sampling of what you and I missed (unless you were there, of course) on the local front.

Microsoft and Sony provided the biggest news of E3, as they’ll be releasing new consoles later this year (‘bout time). For the XBox One and the PlayStation 4 to stand a chance, they’ll need top-notch new franchises, and few look as promising as Watch Dogs, Ubisoft Montreal’s take on high-tech hacking and sabotage. The perfect game for the NSA to watch you play.

And don’t think Ubi’s moved on from their biggest cash cow — Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag jumps the series back in time from the American Revolution to swashbuckling in the Caribbean.

When Sony has their annual press conference, they usually devote their time to plugging blockbusters. But lo and behold, small local indie Tribute Games got to show off their latest: the retro-stylized gun-crafting shooter Mercenary Kings, which keeps growing in scope, and will now be released on the PS4.

Most Twitter commentators used one word to describe Red Barrels’ PS4/PC first-person survival horror title Outlast: terrifying. While also taking place in a mostly dark world, Compulsion Games’ Contrast uses its shadows not to frighten, but as the actual environment players interact with.

Spearhead Games are new on the scene, but they’re ambitiously attempting to bridge the gap between casual and hardcore gaming with their upcoming cranium-teasing debut, Tiny Brains. It’s a co-op party puzzler starring a host of colourful monsters.

A couple of big boys also made their presence known. WB Games Montreal will be taking the incredibly popular Batman: Arkham series back to the beginning with a prequel, Batman: Arkham Origins. Eidos Montreal succeeded in resuscitating the dormant Deus Ex franchise, so it makes sense that they would go that route again —  this time they’re sprucing up steampunk stealth series Thief. The long-gestating game will drop in 2014.

Best of MTL listers Minority Media and Polytron are both hard at work on new projects. Never afraid to tackle emotional subject matter, Minority has a game about bullying on the way, called Silent Enemy. Polytron’s Phil Fish, on the other hand, will be releasing a sequel to meditative platformer Fez.■

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