They say honesty is the best policy, so here goes: after a lacklustre E3 we didn't really go into gamescom expecting too much, but overall the VideoGamer.com team was pleasantly surprised with some of the stuff on show this year in Cologne. Admittedly I did lose my mind one afternoon over one unnamed game, but on reflection if you couldn't find a handful of titles you were seriously looking forward to you probably weren't looking hard enough.
I doubt it comes as a surprise to you, however, when I say that the next 12 months aren't going to be the home of innovative new titles. That said, we did get a handful of announcements courtesy of Capcom and Sony, and while there might be nothing whizzy and new to get excited about, it looks like there's a lot of consistent and hopefully hugely entertaining games to enjoy over the coming weeks.
The industry is at an interesting place right now, and it seems like half the developers are battening down the hatches and waiting for next-gen to hit while the other half are looking into new areas such as free-to-play and mobile. Team VG obviously debated these issues after a few German beers and tasty pork knuckles, and while there's a lot of hesitation and animosity from the industry (and the gamers themselves) when it comes to new areas of development we don't think you should worry too much. There will always be enough room in the industry for your favourite types of games to survive.
But enough about all that, here's our Gamescom 2012 Game of Show and in no particular order the nine runners-up that impressed us the most. See you next year, tasty Jagerschnitzel and the massive Koelnmesse! Auf Wiedersehen!
Game of Show: League of Legends
League of Legends has been kicking around since 2009, which means it neatly bucks the typical convention of awards; usually a games website will dish out game of show to whatever unreleased game has managed to hype its staff up the most during the event in question.
But Riot Games' signature effort managed to capture our hearts and minds in a completely different and unexpected way at this year's gamescom. There's a strong sentiment around the office - and the industry - that there's a whiff of change in the air, and League of Legends went some distance to proving that by absolutely dominating the Koelnmesse's 140,000 square feet. Hundreds of people were queuing for hours for a chance to just watch other people playing the game, and Riot's comparatively modest booths served as a refreshing counterpoint to the flashing lights and nervous opulence of most other publishers.
League of Legends is an elegant showcase of all of the things that other publishers are desperately trying to cram into their games; almost every single business meeting and executive chat at the show will have been conducted with League of Legends in mind. It's an evolving game - a platform, if you want to speak in publisher jargon - with a massive emphasis on strengthening, bolstering and rewarding its community.
Granted, watching League of Legends being played doesn't conjure up the same kind of hype as a five minute showreel of a completely unknown game, but as publishers look to expand their flagship titles into continually evolving services it's nice to see an already established free-to-play game show that not all of them need to be horrible, lazy, money-grabbing exercises. And even the AAA studios could learn a thing or two from Riot's community relations as they head towards turning their cherished properties into annualised behemoths, too.
There's concerns, of course, and I imagine anyone working for Riot would be lying if they said they weren't worried about Valve's more intricate (and more technically impressive) Dota 2 looming on the horizon, but with both companies offering prize pools of over $1,000,000 this year it's clear that neither company intends to give up the MOBA genre without a fight. How Riot chooses to respond over the next few months will make for some very interesting viewing.
The new consoles might be waiting for us next year, then, but with games like League of Legends stronger than ever it's clear the present belongs to the PC.
Next page: The nine runners-up!
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
We'd be lying if we said we weren't still sceptical about Black Ops II, but Treyarch's multiplayer reveal showed off a promising side to this year's Call of Duty. These are systematic updates instead of wholesale innovations, but things like the 10-point loadout system might be just enough to whet the appetite of those left sour by Modern Warfare 3. Let's just hope the maps are good!
Assassin's Creed III
I'm the only one in the office that's getting particularly excited for Assassin's Creed III, but thankfully there's enough anticipation in me to count for five people. Ubisoft chose gamescom 2012 to show off another naval battle, which nicely fits the historical context of the game even if I am slightly upset that we're not seeing the really good stuff. I've got some very high hopes for this, so fingers crossed Ubisoft don't let me down when it's finally released in October.
DmC: Devil May Cry
Capcom's press conference featured Resident Evil 6 and finished with the debut of its new title Remember Me, but it was Ninja Theory's DmC that impressed us the most with a boss fight clearly (but not officially) inspired by right-wing US news network Fox News. Dante's reboot is certainly controversial, with many of the series' most die-hard fans still refusing to accept the changes, but the more we see of this the more we're anticipating it.
Maxis might have caused a certain amount of worry when it announced that SimCity would require an always-on Internet connection, but if the developer can actually manage to foster and sustain this neighbourhood of linked cities then it might be something really special when it's released next year. It certainly helps that the game looks and feels delightful to play, though.
Bethesda's stealthy, atmospheric adventure might be one of the only games coming out this Christmas that's not a sequel or a reboot. This is a game of incredibly lofty ambition, promising to give players multiple, yet equally satisfying, ways through each encounter of this quasi-Victorian sci-fi world. Will it work? We really hope so.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
2K's attempt to bring XCOM back as an FPS might have taken a prolonged backseat in the publisher's line-up, but Civilization developer Firaxis' effort in reviving the top-down strategy series is only a few months away from release. Will it actually be able to rekindle the same feelings of dread and terror that the original managed a decade ago? Neon seems hopeful.
Far Cry 3
I don't know who came up with the current theory kicking around the office, but here it is; Far Cry 3's twist will basically be Fight Club's. Ubisoft's enigmatic and destructive open-world shooter has managed to capture the attention of Neon, who pretty much can't wait to roam around on this morally suspect island in November.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted
Easily Dave and Tom's choice for the best game on show, Criterion's high-speed racer managed to impress us yet again with another satisfying hands-on of the game's multiplayer modes. Fingers crossed Most Wanted manages to capture the magic of Burnout Paradise when it's released in November.
After a disappointing showing for the PS Vita at this year's E3, Sony once again failed to capitalise on the machine at gamescom. Incentives like the new CrossBuy promotions will help prop the handheld up, but it was Media Molecule's first new IP since LittleBigPlanet that made the machine feel like it had enough oomph to make it past Christmas. Charming and inventive, we hope that the final version of Tearaway will prove as entertaining a game as it does a concept.