Seeing as the official ECTS awards panel were obviously smoking too much crack (a PlayStation soccer game was the Game Of The Show?!?), EuroGamer has had to take matters into its own hands.

So, without further ado, here are the results of the first Unofficial EuroGamer ECTS Awards -

Best Hardware - GeForce 256

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This year's hardware highlights were without doubt the graphics cards, and top of the pile was NVIDIA with the GeForce 256.

The GeForce 256's on board Texture & Lighting acceleration makes it the first of the next generation of graphics card. With the potential to handle vast numbers of polygons, cards like the GeForce 256 are likely to turn the computer games industry on its head over the next couple of years.

Admittedly the card's fill rate is something less than revolutionary, but it is still better than anything else currently on the market and should give you the performance you're looking for throughout next year. Expect strong competition from S3's Savage2000 at the end of the year though.

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Best Hardware - 3dfx Napalm

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Runners up for the Best Hardware award are 3dfx, who were demoing their new Napalm graphics card at ECTS. Actually, they were demoing its features - the presentation was still using the same array of eight (count 'em!) Voodoo 2 cards to simulate the Napalm's features.

Although 3dfx are remaining tight lipped about its performance (probably because they don't have any cards to test yet!), it will almost certainly be the Fill Rate King, offering ridiculously high frame rates and high resolutions for current games.

Napalm also has the T-Buffer technology, and although this is mostly marketing hype the full scene anti-aliasing is really sweet, offering a huge improvement in image quality at lower resolutions. And best of all it will work with any 3D accelerated game, giving you instant gratification for your money.

We'll be posting a full preview of 3dfx's new card when their NDA expires tomorrow.

Best Action Game - Unreal Tournament

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Unreal Tournament became the undisputed champion of first person shooters at ECTS. Undisputed, because Activision didn't even bother showing Quake III Arena...

Epic's game certainly stands on its own merits though, and the team play options particularly are looking very promising. Unreal Tournament's CTF is amongst the best I've played, and the Assault and Domination modes offer the kind of experience we've come to expect from games like Team Fortress and Starsiege Tribes.

Deathmatch is also solid, and the selection of weapons marks a huge improvement on the original Unreal. If Epic can get the net code right this time round, Unreal Tournament promises to be one of the best games of the year.

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Best Action Game - Grand Theft Auto 2

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Also putting in a strong showing at ECTS was Grand Theft Auto 2, which half inches the runners up prize in the Best Action Game category.

I somehow managed to miss out on the original Grand Theft Auto, but having seen the sequel I'm a convert. GTA2 has gameplay by the bucket load, and somehow manages to tread the narrow line between senseless violence and black humour. Something that games like Postal would do well to learn from.

You can steal cars, drugs and weapons, take on the FBI, carry out missions for a whole range of bizarre gangs, and even hijack a tank and take it for a joyride through the streets. They might as well just call this "World's Wildest Police Chases : The Game"...

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Best Strategy Game - Star Trek : New Worlds

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Already looking impressive last year, this time round Star Trek : New Worlds stole the show for me.

New Worlds should be one of the first of the new wave of 3D real time strategy games, as well as one of the best. Its graphics are out of this world, the plot and storyline are involving, and the gameplay is solid.

Add to that a healthy dose of innovative features, an ingenious interface, and of course the Star Trek license. What more could any self-respecting geek want from life?

Unfortunately we've just discovered that the game's developers have been taken off the project by Interplay, leaving the future of the game uncertain. Let's hope that Interplay don't mess with the design too much before releasing the game next spring...

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Best Strategy Game - Warcraft III

Blizzard promised to change the world at ECTS on Sunday, and although their announcement of Warcraft III was hardly a big surprise, the details of the game were.

As well as moving into 3D for the first time, Warcraft III will also ditch much of the base building and resource management of previous games and instead concentrate on tactical combat and role playing elements.

The result should be interesting, but unfortunately it's going to be a long wait to see how it all shakes out - Warcraft III isn't due until late next year, and could well slip beyond that.

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Best Publisher - Take 2 Interactive

The most impressive line up on show at ECTS was from Take 2 Interactive, who had set up stall on the gallery of the main hall. Guarded by a pair of burly bouncers who kept undesirables at a safe distance, the publisher's treasures were only on show to journalists in their back rooms.

With European rights to the Gathering Of Developer's games (including FAKK2 and KISS : Psycho Circus) as well as home grown titles like Grand Theft Auto 2, Take 2 are certainly a publisher on their way up, and their line up at ECTS was pure quality.

Take 2's recent releases include Rainbow 6, Spec Ops, Jagged Alliance 2, Hidden & Dangerous and Railroad Tycoon II. And although they're also responsible for In-Fisherman Bass Hunter 64, we'll forgive them that...

Best Publisher - Interplay / Virgin Interactive

Also showing an impressive line up at ECTS were the rather schizophrenic pairing of Interplay and Virgin Interactive. Both publishers had their own booths at ECTS even though Interplay's games are distributed in Europe by Virgin, and there was a lot of overlap between the games they were showing.

That included Best Strategy Game "Star Trek : New Worlds", as well as impressive third person action games MDK2 and Messiah. They were also demonstrating Planescape Torment, the follow-up to Baldur's Gate, and the Interplay cinema was showing trailers for Freespace 2 and Klingon Academy amongst other games.

Recent releases include Kingpin, Descent III and Resident Evil. Virgin Interactive went through rough times a couple of years ago, but following the management buy-out last year and their teaming up with Interplay back in February they're looking strong again.

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