It's over: E3 2011 has been and gone. We feel like we've been run over by a truck carrying several tonnes worth of fast food, a new Nintendo console, and the cream of global games development. As we pull ourselves together and return to the UK grind, it's time to reflect upon our picks of the show. Read on for our nine picks for Games of Show and a single title that takes the Best of Show award.
Tomb Raider - PC, PS3 and Xbox 360
Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics have played their cards perfectly on this one. Announce a re-boot of a classic franchise, but only show the details to a tiny fraction of the press. Allow the speculation and gossip to build, then finally show off your new baby at E3, ideally an E3 running low on new ideas. The reborn Tomb Raider has enough of the old games to be recognisable - the mystery, the sense of constant threat, and Lara herself - and yet there's something refreshing in this dynamic, pared-down reworking. The fire and water effects look interesting without being too gimmicky, and the cinematic stylings seem to add atmosphere without interrupting the core gameplay too much. The younger, more vulnerable Lara has also hooked our interest - although the demo had a bit too much in the way of agonized/orgasmic yelping, for our tastes.
BioShock Infinite - PC, PS3 and Xbox 360
Everyone from Cliff Bleszinski to Matt Groening dropped by 2K's booth to check out BioShock Infinite, and it's not hard to see why: it's looking quite superb, if more than a little unhinged. As if the floating city of Columbia and the terrifying crow-summoning potions hadn't given us enough to think about, now we need to wrap our feeble brains around the concept of inter-dimensional tears, and what may well turn out to be time travel. Irrational's E3 demo also gave us the Bucking Bronco tonic, a battle aboard a flaming airship, and new encounters with the Songbird - a creature so fierce he eats Big Daddies for breakfast. BioShock Infinite is inventive, colourful, and wonderfully surprising; it gives us good feelings in our happy place.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - PC, PS3 and Xbox 360
Bethesda had a bloody great picture of the Dragonborn painted onto the side of a hotel in downtown LA, but you didn't need this to know that Skyrim was a big deal at this year's E3. Last week's demo finally gave us a long, drawn-out look at the game's dragons, and the impact was enough to send some people into a sort of RPG-induced Rapture. Not content with showing us one of the scaly beasts, duelling with the creature at the top of a ruined tower, the developers then took the piss by showing us an even bigger dragon, one capable of spewing lightning out of his toothy gob. On paper, Skyrim is fuelled by the same swords and sorcery shtick that has fuelled the genre since day one, but there's something compelling about the detail and grandeur that Bethesda is putting into its efforts. We're all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars - because that's where the skilltrees are.
Assassin's Creed: Revelations - PC, PS3 and Xbox 360
Blimey, Ezio is getting on a bit. Now starring in his third consecutive Assassin's Creed game, our master assassin is still ready to kick the bottoms of all the evil Templar naughty men still roaming about Europe. Now we're off to Constantinople, the city that would later become Istanbul, adding a touch of the Ottoman Empire to proceedings.
The demo shown at E3 was one of the more lavish settings, littered with ritzy and expensive set-pieces, and had Ezio annihilating an entire harbour. It certainly looked the part, and destroyed any of the natural cynicism we had from Ubisoft wheeling out Ezio yet again.
Battlefield 3 - PC, PS3 and Xbox 360
Like a weird rash we had during our GCSE's, Battlefield 3 simply refuses to go away. But, unlike the weird rash we had during our GCSE's, we're more than happy to look at it every single day. DICE's Frostbite 2 engine looks even glossier and more resplendent than Cheryl Cole's beautiful hair, and Battlefield 3's impressive infantry animations are the perfect complement to the series' usual vehicular combat.
We still need to see it running on consoles, but playing through a multiplayer map set in the Paris Metro system actually made us do some mental arithmetic to work out just how much it would cost to assemble a top-flight PC.
Each piece of the game - from large-scale military operations to the individual thrill of ducking down behind an M-COM station while you wait for it to explode - slot together in a way that should make any FPS player get down on their knees and weep with joy. The sights and sounds of this game are just... well, they're the chuffing future.
Bastion - Xbox 360 (XBLA), PC
Bastion is the best game that you know absolutely nothing about. Trust us - we're almost always right. It's a gorgeous watercolour action RPG, which you might have seen recently announced as part of 2011's Xbox Live Summer of Arcade. Did I mention it's gorgeous? The hand-painted world is a mixture of lush greenery and twisting architecture, and the game dynamically produces its own narration. You'd think the latter thing would be complete guff, but for some reason it isn't.
This is the kind of game that comes out of nowhere and takes everybody by storm. It will almost definitely be better than almost everything else put out this year, and will be made available this summer for a fraction of a full-price release. If you're not excited, then you're probably mad.
SSX - Xbox 360 and PS3
For us, SSX delivered one of the most exciting features of any game we saw at E3. Yes, the actual snowboarding looks like top fun and the returning characters are great, but it's the mountain mapping tool that wowed us the most. By punching in the longitude and latitude co-ordinates of a mountainous region, the game will create a tangible representation of the area in 28 seconds. If you missed out on a trip your friends went on, simply type in the coordinates and you'll be there in half a minute, virtually carving up the snow. There might have been more explosive and show-stopping titles at E3, but for sheer innovation SSX was hard to beat.
Uncharted 3 - PS3
Did you see the demonstration at Sony's E3 conference? Drake was running about a cruise liner in what was the most visually impressive game shown by any of the big three platform holders. The water effects here were beyond anything we've seen before, and dispelled any doubt we had that Naughty Dog could better its previous efforts. Behind closed doors we got to see an equally dramatic and exciting demonstration, this time with Drake and Elena in a Jeep trying to catch up with a plane before it takes off. With Elena behind the wheel, Drake was able to leap onto the wheel of the air-bound craft and clamber on board. We might have seen these kind of antics in Uncharted before, but we certainly can't wait to see (and play) them again.
Forza 4 - Xbox 360
Best racing game of 2011? Forza 4 might well turn out to be just that - in fact, it almost certainly will. We're more excited about the next entry in the series than ever before, thanks to an extremely strong E3 showing. Kinect support might not interest the hardcore, but the Autovista car viewing mode - with voiceover from Jeremy Clarkson, no less - has huge mainstream appeal. The inclusion of the Top Gear Test Track with the Reasonably Priced Car is a bigger deal for racing fans, as is the improved opponent AI and the ability to import you garage from Forza 3. Car Clubs and Rivals Mode have been created to improve on the series' already excellent social features, meaning Forza 4 should easily be the best game developer Turn 10 has ever put out.
Head to the final page to find out which game we've crowned Best of Show: E3 2011.
Best of Show: Mass Effect 3 - PC, PS3 and Xbox 360
Okay, so the trailer for this probably caused the most goosebumps out of anything at the show and for us deserves the Best of Show award. Was it the music? Was it the drama? Was it the fact that Commander Shepard has the most powerful elbow in the entire galaxy? Probably the latter, to be honest - (s)he could easily smash a planet into itty bitts chunks by hitting them with those powerful masculine/feminine (delete as appropriate) elbows.
But, yes - Mass Effect 3! Smashing planets into itty bitty chunks is definitely the order of the day here, as the nasty cyber-organic Reapers have finally decided to show up and destroy absolutely everything. It's the culmination of absolute years of our lives and the other two games in the series. Expect massive explosions, big consequences, and loads of great talky bits where you have to encourage people to fight with you so you can save everyone in the galaxy who isn't already dead.