Best PC Game : "Black & White"
Black & White was virtually in a class of its own this year, a stunning game in which you rule over a tribe of primitive villagers as their god. You can manipulate almost anything in the game world, train enormous creatures to do your bidding, lob terrifying spells of suitably biblical proportions at your opponents, and even make your followers dance along to your favourite CDs. The game is massive in scope, a beauty to behold, and looks like it could be terribly addictive - EuroGamer is likely to grind to a halt when I finally get my grubby hands on review code... Honourable mentions : "Sacrifice", "B17 - The Mighty Eighth"
Best Console Game : "Metal Gear Solid 2" (PS2)
The tightest category of all this year, with the PlayStation 2 dominating the action. It was a very hard decision in the end, as both of Take 2's racing titles (Midnight Club and Smuggler's Run) were exceptional, but the James Bond in all of us won through at the end of the day. MGS2 was not playable, but the demonstrations we saw exhibited some of the most impressive action yet seen. This should do for consoles what Half-Life did for the PC, and if the level of gameplay matches the intricately detailed aesthetics and smoothness of motion, it will indeed rock our collective world. When it hits next year, expect it to bring the entire gaming industry to a standstill. Honourable mentions : "Midnight Club" (PS2) and "Smuggler's Run" (PS2)
Best Pocket Game : "Kurukuru Kururin" (GBA)
This one blew us away in such a way you would not have imagined, beating some of the most anticipated pocket titles of the last few years off in one fell swoop. Kurukuru gives you control of a propeller that is slowly spinning in a clockwise direction, and you must guide it through narrow corridors and gaps, timing your actions so that the propeller avoids walls. Too many hits and it's game over. The intense puzzling action requires lateral thinking at times and a quick mind. Definitely a good test of reactions, this game should help sell the GBA in thousands in just the same way that Tetris did for the original GameBoy many years ago. Honourable mentions : "Mario Kart Advance" (GBA), "Donkey Kong Country" (GBC)
Best PC Publisher : Virgin Interactive
Once again Virgin took over the Pillar Room off to one side of the main hall, but whereas last year they turned it into an infernal chapel which was hot, sweaty and overcrowded, this year it was a well laid out appointment-only room with a bar and .. air conditioning! Games on show included Virgin's own titles such as the highly promising 3D role-playing action game "Gunlok", as well as a few of the Interplay titles which they are distributing in the UK, including the god game "Sacrifice" and action-strategy title "Giants", both of which were looking stunning. Honourable mentions : Microids, Take 2
Best Console Publisher : Take 2
No question about it in this category. With two of the most intense racing titles we've seen in years, a lovely cushioned seating area for us press types, and free drinks (a big plus) we were easily bought. In all fairness the accommodation was no better than SCi, who earn themselves an honourable mention for their air-conditioned efforts, but on quality of software on show Take 2 win hands down. "Midnight Club" and "Smuggler's Run" will really cause a stir, and help to shift units when the PS2 arrives in Europe in November of this year. Honourable mentions : SCi, Nintendo, Sony
Best Stand : Nintendo
The Japanese giant really outdid itself this year with its multi-level interactive showpiece, dominating the main hall of Olympia with about 50 playable GameBoy Advance units demonstrating "Mario Kart Advance" and other titles. It pulsated with primary colours, but had enough to entertain older gamers also, with more adult titles like "Conker's Bad Fur Day" and "Zelda : Majora's Mask" amongst the spoils. It was also airy and easy to navigate, a hallmark for anyone aiming to exhibit at ECTS. Honourable mentions : Konami, Intel
Best PC Hardware : 3dfx Voodoo 5 6000
With both NVIDIA and 3dfx showing blindingly fast new products, this was a tough decision to make, but in the end it was 3dfx that won through thanks to their ludicrous Voodoo 5 6000 graphics card. With a $600 price tag, a whole foot's length of silicon, and no less than four VSA-100 processors on board, it really is the stretched limousine of graphics cards. When released next month it should be one of the fastest graphics cards on the planet, and its full-scene anti-aliasing capabilities means that it should also have the best image quality. It might prove to have a short shelf life thanks to 3dfx's own "Rampage" chip and NVIDIA's "NV20", both expected next year, but if you have the money to burn you will certainly enjoy it while it lasts... Honourable mentions : NVIDIA, Imagination Technologies
The biggest nod must go to whoever it was demonstrating "Erotica Island". The game itself looked disgusting, foul and depraved, but by some quirk of genius it was promoted by two lovely young ladies standing around in bikinis, the importance of which we feel compelled to emphasize to potential exhibitors at next year's event. We really do value your products, but there's no harm in embarrassing us with hired help.
Congratulations must also go to the "Ready2Rumble Boxing 2" stand owners, where actors portrayed characters from the game (complete with Afro's and bad language!) and took on one another at the game. Meanwhile Empire get a shout out for their Little Bo Peep (complete with sheep) who emerged from the pub across the road on Sunday evening to advertise their bizarrely addictive PC puzzle game "Sheep". Sony also get a mention for their enormous PS One model, and the sheer number of units available to play on.
Last but not least, Electronic Arts for their "Show B4 The Show" party, where we saw "Black & White", possibly the most stunning PC title developed in the last few years. Not only that but there was copious amounts of free booze, a sushi bar, lots of tasty hot food to tuck into as well, and a wide range of games to play including "Aliens Resurrection", "No One Lives Forever" and "Sanity".
Finally, kudos to all of the exhibitors for sweating it out, and thanks to the PR people who made our lives easy.