458 exhibitors, 120,000 square metres, 17,000 trade visitors, 4000 hacks and 245,000 people later, the first annual gamescom show in Cologne is over, and while it was less showbiz than the E3 that preceded it by two months, it put more new games in front of more gamers than any other show worldwide.
We were among those in attendance, and having overcome our torturous one-hour jetlag (Tom slept on the plane both ways, fact fans), we put our heads together this morning to come up with our game of the show. What's more, we had agreed in advance to put our heads together with our friends all around the Eurogamer Network, so, once you've decided our decision is rubbish, you can skip to page two and get fed up with lots of people whose work is only available in languages you can't read, too. On with the shame!
Best of the Nation: Star Wars: The Old Republic
Eurogamer's favourite game of gamescom 2009 might have won for any of many reasons - the fact that it's not only the first MMO to be fully voiced, but will be localised into French and German; the inclusion of persistent NPC or companion death, threatening to inject some risk and consequence into questing; or just the fact the presentation was held in a Jedi Temple (or the inherent MMO bias of the Eurogamer gamescom Awards voting panel).
But the Sith Warrior made a particular impression. Boarding an Imperial ship, he has to deal with an Imperial captain who disobeyed an order. Canon suggests it's goodnight windpipe, but he can also be spared. Keeping him alive means you gain the benefit of his experience and the respect of the crew, which helps in dealing with boarders later on. Dark side classes can be light-side positive, and vice versa - a difficult thing to get right, but then BioWare doesn't do the path of least resistance.
FIFA 10 - Peter Moore can (and does) say what he wants, but FIFA 09 didn't just fail to make our Top 50 last year because sports fans are few and far between at Eurogamer; it fell by the wayside because it was only nearly brilliant, over-reliant on sprinting and open to exploits online. But FIFA 10 is brilliant. 360-degree dribbling is the banner headline, but artful tweaks across the board breed variety and realism in subtle but important ways. We might have expected it to be the best sports game at gamescom by the distance of several football pitches, but it was only a few yards off best game, too.
Diablo III - Gorgeous, visceral and impossible to walk away from, Diablo III currently doesn't exist as much more than three character classes (four, if you weren't at gamescom at all, but over in California for the BlizzCon unveiling of the Monk). That's enough to be going on with, though; each one is a game in itself, full of personality, power, mechanical sophistication and its own special brand of knife-edge risk. Diablo was always this quick, but it's never been this clever before.
Borderlands - Games are all so serious these days. Once upon a time we used to run around green hills grabbing floating rings and jumping on robots which had poor defenceless bunnies inside them. These days it's all moral relativism this and Randian objectivism that. Borderlands, meanwhile, is about getting together with three of your friends, or two or one or none, and rumbling around a weirdo planet called Pandora setting fire to midgets, beating up giant gash-faced dogs named after heroin, and then looting corpses for randomly generated guns. It's Diablo meets Fallout, assuming they both came for a good time, and it looks brilliant.
Assassin's Creed II - For us (although not, we accept, for nine million other people), Assassin's Creed was a 'nearly' game, pregnant with potential that the midwives of the 13th century ultimately failed to deliver. For all we know, Assassin's Creed II may also be flattering to deceive, but it's certainly very flattering, and the linear sub-level idea implemented for the gamescom demo, along with the ambitious Renaissance setting and hooks into the Pazzi conspiracy, is sufficient to suggest that 2007's most mysterious action-adventure may be bettered in 2009.