gamescom 2011 has been and gone, with the Cologne event having attracted a record number of attendees. A lot of great games were on show this year, but we've managed to pick our top 10 and crown an overall winner.
There were several big revelations for SSX over the course of gamescom. RiderNet is perhaps the most important of these; the snowboarder's equivalent of Autolog. Combining leaderboards, ghosts and challenge recommendations, RiderNet will offer the most comprehensive social features of any extreme sports title to date. While EA's reboot didn't have a presence on the gamescom show floor, the magnitude of the new features earns it a place on our list.
Did the platform genre make the jump to 3D too quickly? Probably. With Rayman Origins, Ubisoft is having another pop at the 2D genre, but through gorgeous hand-drawn visuals and four-player co-op, manages to make it feel contemporary at the same time. It really is pretty, too. Walking past the Rayman booth, you can spot passers-by stopping dead in their tracks to cop a load of the limbless wonder in action.
F1 fans' incessant moaning about the omission of a safety car in F1 2010 paid off: Codemasters has confirmed that F1 2011 will indeed feature the safety car. Unbelievably, this isn't why we chose it as one of our games of the show, however. Building on what was achieved in F1 2010 with revamped pit stops, 2011 rule additions, a new press feedback system, a co-op campaign and of course the safety car, F1 2011 impressed on the gamescom show floor.
Ok, so it's a clichéd choice, but the briefest of glances at the gamescom demo is justification enough for its place on this list. The fifteen minute gameplay demo finds Drake leaping from a moving car onto the landing wheel of a cargo plane seconds before it takes off. This is what action adventure games are all about, and nobody does it better than Naughty Dog. From the several demos we've now seen of the game, there's no question that Uncharted 3 is going to be anything less than amazing - it's just whether it can beat the incredibly high standards set by its predecessor.
Joe Danger: The Movie
Joe Danger, a downloadable title released on PSN in 2010, never got the attention it deserved. The debut effort from independent Guildford studio Hello Games was a cheery and sweet racer, to the point it even had grinning smiles beaming from background scenery, and quite possibly the happiest game of 2010.
The sequel, currently being developed for unannounced platforms, looks to inject more versatility into the core mechanics by placing adaptable stuntman Joe Danger on different vehicles and having him drive through a multitude of movie sets. Underneath its breezy exterior lies a game obsessed with compulsive score runs and joyous collectible gathering, with one minecart level in particular forcing us into a divine loop of botch jobs and ego-sapping restarts. Bliss.
This is what RPGs ought to be. Skyrim is an enormous, living world on a disk. It goes beyond the dragons, beyond your ability to experiment with an innumerable number of spells and weapons, beyond the fact that you can combine dropped items and supplies to craft any number of supplies, and create any number of items, even beyond Bethesda's magnified-focus on exploration throughout a vast world of wildernesses and dungeons. Skyrim feels like a country of its own, too colossal for you to ever treat like just your average fantasy game.
In its best moments, Battlefield 3 takes your breath away. Simply look at the recent Caspian Sea trailer to see the most gorgeous video game on the planet in action. Of course, part of its thrill comes from the daunting requirements of the PC version; the console version, now having played it, is both gorgeous, and hugely desirable, but yet the 360 and PS3 sit a few steps beneath its groundbreaking PC counterpart.
While the ongoing war of words between EA's and Activision's marketing departments rages on, it's encouraging to see Swedish developer DICE keep its head down and do its talking through the game.
To put it simply, Battlefield 3 plainly shows that there's plenty of innovation, life, and excitement left in the modern day shooter.
Escape Plan is exactly the kind of game that the 3DS badly needs: a creative, original concept that instantly shows off the best qualities of the console it appears on. But unfortunately for Nintendo, this is a PS Vita game, and a damn exciting one to boot. A puzzle-platformer in the tradition of Abe's Oddysee, controlled exclusively via the Vita's touchscreen and touchpad, this is the story of Lil and Laarg- a mis-matched pair of black-and-white characters who must flee from a sinister institution. Evil-looking contraptions place instant death around every corner, but the combination of tactile controls and stylish charm makes this an utter joy. File this under "one to watch".
Guild Wars 2 actively sets itself up against the usual, tired conventions of MMOs. It happily tip-toes around the tropes that World of Warcraft has helped hammer into the genre, by creating an environment that looks a world away from Azeroth. It's highly stylistic, moving away from the cartoonishness that has characterised many of the long-running titles, and toward a softer painterly look. It experiments with basic ideas of MMO combat, bringing underwater battles. And Hell, it's free - try and find another triple-A Massively title that is. This is one of the first MMOs in the last 10 years to feel like a legitimately individual take on what the genre can offer.
Borderlands 2 - Winner
It may be fair to say that Borderlands 2 gained much from being a new title at a gamescom packed with recycled E3 demos, but this hardly detracts from the impact of the game's first showing. The basic formula looks to have gone unchanged - no complaints there - but there's already plenty of fresh craziness to look forward to: six-armed snow gorillas that rip up the scenery; killer robots that are fired down to Pandora from a nearby moon; a robed boss who strides into battle with an angry midget strapped to his shield. With a further brace of technical improvements - including smarter AI and the ability to take split-screen games online - Borderlands 2 looks to be building on everything we loved about 2009's surprise hit.