Gamescom isn't quite the year-defining event that E3 is, but it's become a big deal in the video game calendar. This year it'll host demos of all the biggest games and hopefully bring a few big announcements. Here's what we're most excited about.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
You know how many hours we've poured into Oblivion? No, neither do we, but it's definitely a triple-figure number. As we currently muddle our way through the summer drought, our cravings for a game with a sense of scale as epic as Oblivion intensify. We want a game that will engulf us, one that we can lose whole days playing (although hopefully not all of us at once); strolling through forests and caves, looting villages and scrapping with dragons. 2011 has been a great year for games so far, but most the big games have been very tightly controlled experiences, carefully choreographed with little in the way of exploration. We want a world to get lost in, and Skyrim will be the perfect place to do that.
Uncharted 2 was something else, wasn't it? Naughty Dog raised the benchmark for script writing, voice acting and camera work to such a height, that every action adventure title since has simply paled in comparison. Enslaved came close, but it failed to match the spectacle of Nathan Drake's globe-trotting adventures. Uncharted 3 could be the only game able to match (or exceed) that quality, which puts a horrendous amount of pressure on the game. Still, it's hard to be anything but excited, and going by all the footage we've seen of the game so far, we doubt anyone will be disappointed.
Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 is one of those games you don't want to be ruined by a spoiler-ridden news story or inconsiderate tweet, but it's been hard given how much info is being released about the game on a daily basis. While we'd quite like to ignore everything else from here on out, 2012 still feels a lifetime away, and it'd be nice to have something else to whet our appetites ahead of the game's release. Who knows, maybe gamescom will reveal multiplayer for the first time in a Mass Effect game.
Gearbox's looting FPS sequel may end up being one of only a handful of new games at gamescom 2011, with most titles having already been shown off to press numerous times. There's some genuine excitement around this in the office as the original proved to be one of the most enjoyable games of 2009 and we can't wait to see what four-player co-op fun is in store. Hopefully the launch won't be affected by the same connectivity problems that plagued the original, and a completely seamless open world would be amazing.
At this stage we're not even that bothered about seeing something new on EA and DICE's spectacular looking FPS, but some solid hands-on time with the console versions would be very nice. We fully expect the PC game to blow away what DICE can do on Xbox 360 and PS3, but visuals approaching what's possible on the PC would be great to see. With Battlefield 3 hitting stores at the end of October, it's time EA lifted the lid on what console gamers will actually be playing instead of dazzling everyone with PC footage.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3
While Activision may well be saving some reveals for its Call of Duty XP event in early September, hopefully the mega publisher will do more than regurgitate its E3 showing at gamescom. A look at a new mission would go down well, as would a taste of multiplayer. Despite CoD's undeniable popularity, Activision should be weary of Battlefield 3 stealing all the headlines.
After announcing the game in October 2010, gamescom 2011 will mark the first time Valve's Dota 2 will be seen - and it'll be the main event in a $1 million team tournament. With the project having been almost entirely developed in secret until now, it'll be exciting to see what Valve and developer IceFrog has been up to.
As the only new hardware on show at gamescom Vita is easy to get excited about. We're hoping for a UK release date announcement (ideally early in the first quarter of 2012) and a string of games that have come on since we saw them at E3 a few months ago. Uncharted is the big one, but games like LittleBigPlanet and WipEout will hopefully impress too, potentially alongside some new announcements and looks at titles we haven't seen much on yet.
Guild Wars 2
Some genres are so soaked in the sweat of degenerate nerds and sopping mouthbreathers you wouldn't touch them with stick. MMO are one of those genres - years of pen-and-paper clubs and old RPGs throughout the '80s helped to give birth to the slightly offbeat world of MMOs we know today; but these days it only takes the one mention of World of Warcraft to kill any potential sex life you could have ever had.
But we're (Emily is) excited about Guild Wars 2, and here's why: It takes the old standards and stereotypes of MMOs and manages to make one of the most beautiful and ambitious titles you'll find this year. Guild Wars 2 has learned from the history of its genre and in response it's offering a smart and stylised interpretation of MMOs - from its art style straight to its business model. And needless to say it's one of the few MMOs that feels like it's pushing the genre upstairs and out of its parents' basement.
The biggest disappointment from E3 2011 was the lack of announcements, not just of new games but for anything. At gamescom we're expecting the aforementioned Vita news, but a PS3 price-drop would be great, as would the odd new game or two. It's all well and good seeing the games we know are going to be huge, but real excitement comes from hearing about things that were previously unknown.