More than 25,000 people passed through the doors during the three days of Games12, the region’s largest gaming convention, at Dubai Festival City.
They’d come to check out the hottest upcoming releases for consoles and PCs, to frag each other in multiplayer death-matches and to dress up as their favourite game and comic-book characters.
The games were there in abundance, from sneak previews of imminent releases like Assassin’s Creed III, Halo 4 and Call of Duty Black Ops 2, to pre-beta builds of the Tomb Raider reboot and the third-person sneaker Hitman: Absolution.
Upcoming family games like Skylanders: Giants and Epic Mickey proved a hit with kids, while those with moves like Jagger had several dance titles to choose from.
Forza Horizon went full throttle as the hot new driving release, while Sony ran their GT Academy competition, which gave Gran Tourismo players the chance to win real race training and a competitive spin around Silverstone.
Of all the games on show, the one that created the most interest — and attracted the biggest queues — was Call of Duty Black Ops 2. The latest addition of the CoD franchise, due out in November, was demonstrated in a walled-off area. Those patient enough to queue were able to play team death-matches in a dedicated environment.
On the far side of the tent, Microsoft were showing off two of their upcoming shooters, Halo 4 and Gears of War: Judgement.
Aman Sangar, Microsoft’s Head of Interactive Entertainment for the Middle East and Africa (translation: regional Xbox chief), is already talking of Halo 4 as the game of the year. “Anything else will not be what we’ve planned for,” he told journalists at a press conference before the doors opened to the public.
It’s a bold ambition, given the massive interest in Black Ops 2, especially since Black Ops will release on PCs and three consoles (Xbox360, PS3 and Wii U), while Halo is an Xbox exclusive.
Following franchise spin-offs like Halo: ODST, Rreach and Combat Evolved, Halo 4 marks a return to Master Chief, hero of the first three Halo titles and a gaming icon.
Lara Croft is another iconic character, and she’s been totally redesigned for the series reboot, due out next year. There’s no trace of the over-endowed cartoon character of the originals. Lara’s become realistic, and grim and grimy.
If Xbox are pushing the games, Sony is pushing the hardware. Robert Fisser, general manager for PlayStaion in the Mema region, proudly waved the new, smaller and slimmer version of the PS3 at the pre-convention conference. “Announced yesterday, and already in the UAE,” he said.
Sony are also bundling a huge number of PS1 titles for the Vita handheld, and will be releasing PS3 Essentials in the near future.
On the sports front, Games12 marked the annual release of Pro Evolution Soccer, with the latest version of Fifa out this week as well.
Paul Johnson, of PES distributors Pluto Games, told me the new edition features total control — the ability to pass the ball to any player on the field. PES’s new engine has also been refined, with the game now flowing very smoothly.
On the other hand, Mike Wombwell, founder of Red Entertainment, had a coup to announce for Fifa13: for the first time, the game will include the Saudi Professional League. That’s the first Arabic league in any football game.
There’s no shortage of shooters and action games coming onto the market in the next few months, with Resident Evil 6, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Turtle Beach, Lost Planet 3 and more.
Action and adventure games include Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and LEGO Lord of the Rings.
As the dust settles on Games12, we know we have an awful lot to look forward to in the coming months.