GamesCom is one of the most important gaming shows of the year. It's where all the big publishers make their pitches for the Christmas season, where the tone of the gaming industry is set for months to come - and where Europe's best gamers gather to humiliate HuffPost writers at first-person shooters.
We've been at the show all week, checking out everything which is exciting, new and occasionally absurd in the world of making pixels do stuff on screens.
So what was good? What was bad? And what was just plain strange?
Read on for our round-up from this year's show.
First-person shooters are always in abundance at any games show, and GamesCom 2012 was no exception.
Neither was the ritual humiliation dealt out to those who - like us - suck at shooting games.
Still we soldiered on, and managed to get some decent hands-on time with the big FPS games in between ultra n00b humili-frags.
Among the best was EA's new Medal of Honor: Warfighter. It impressed us with the tight, focused multiplayer gameplay on show. The game's commitment to representing tier-one soldiers with 'authenticity', if not outright realism was established at E3, and was also the case here.
We tested the 'Home Run' mode (which is basically a modified arena Capture The Flag) and found it to be a quick, strategic blast. We didn't get to see single player, but the narrative-heavy video released at E3 indicates things should be strong on that front too.
Over at Activision's booth we saw not one but two new Call of Duty games. The big-hitter was obviously Call of Duty: Black Ops II, the much-anticipated sequel to the squillion-selling behemoth. The focus this time is on customisation. In the demo we were given, everything your character carries, shoots, throws and detonates is upgradable, modifiable or replaceable. You call also add "Wildcard" upgrades to further edit which upgrades you choose.
As for the gameplay, we again only got our hands on multiplayer - and got absolutely destroyed. But it was a fun time while it lasted. Everything looked as polished as you'd hope, and the constant presence of intimidating drones, cool environments and - yes - 'cinematic' visuals means BO2 is looking strong.
Less impressive, perhaps, was Call of Duty: Declassified, the new PS Vita handheld title. We didn't get a hands-on, and what we saw of the game was limited, but we were concerned that an overall lack of inspiration might leave the game wanting. We'll wait and see - and for the Vita's sake we hope it delivers - but right now we have more questions than answers.
Crysis 3, EA's shooter set in a New York City covered with rainforest, really impressed us. Again we only got to try multiplayer, but the new 'Hunter' mode in which a team of Cell Troopers attempt to survive an attack by cloaked Hunters, only to inevitably die and respawn on the other side, is a small slice of the new game but hints at good things.
Far Cry 3, meanwhile, was harder to judge. Without a hands-on ourselves, we were forced to watch another player run relatively aimlessly around an island, hunting the near-ubiquitous tigers, crashing gliders and being eaten alive by sharks. It all looked a bit Just Cause to us, but we're sure the frankly massive setting and absurd gameplay will find its fans.
With our nostalgia gland pulsing, we couldn't resist a look at Doom 3 BFG Edition. It's a dark and trigger-happy game as ever, thbutugh as the core game is almost 10 years old it's inevitably a bit dated. Borderlands 2 also looks ridiculous in a very positive way - though unfortunately we didn't get a hands-on play with any of its modes - 'girlfriend' or otherwise. Our brief look at Dishonored - an assassination game where you don't technically have to kill anyone - showed it to be a unique and promising title.
We also got a hands-on with Ubisoft's ZombiU, presented at E3 by Nintendo as a flagship title for its next-gen Wii U console. It's clearly an atmospheric game, and the use of the tablet controller is innovative. You have to physically glance down to check for zombies, switch weapons and mess with your inventory, meaning you can miss approaching dead heads easily and end up eaten without much trouble.
The demo we tried took us through Buckingham Palace, but while we got the chance fight a zombie palace guard (complete with bearskin hat) and note an inexplicable Boris Bike hiding in the shadows, we weren't that amazed. The graphics are blocky, the gameplay felt a bit slow, and overall it didn't make us too confident in the Wii U - especially since Sony showed off very similar functionality with its Cross Controller PS Vita/PS3 tech earlier in the week.
Putting down the guns for a moment, one of our picks of the show didn't use a game controller at all.
Your real guitar.
Using a proprietary guitar-to-PC (or console) cable, it allows guitarists to plug in any axe and test their skills against a huge library of songs. It also features a bunch of cool-looking lessons, skill games and practice modes, all while accurately judging how well you're doing at playing a real instrument, not smashing buttons in time with a backing track. Its tons of fun, and will be worth checking out in more detail once it arrives.
The new SimCity, which we've previewed in more detail elsewhere, also felt like a bit of an anomaly at the show. It's a beautiful game with great promise, and an obvious love of its forebears, but in featuring neither guns, sports cars or professional sports it almost felt out of place at Gamescom - in a good way.
We'd like to take a closer look at the online aspects of Maxis' new title - once launched it will feature a real world economy, cool competitive modes and true city-to-city interaction, and that's lucky because without it the game feels a bit bland. But it was intriguing, thoughtful fun -- and among our favourite titles. Also, it ended in a meteor attack - as every SimCity game should.
Codemasters alone had two F1 titles on display, the flagship sim, F1 2012, packed with detail, realism and high-quality graphic, and F1 Race Stars, which is more like Mario Kart with Lewis Hamilton in place of Luigi.
Both were great fun - but oddly enough, it was the sillier F1 Race Stars which really caught our imagination. The sight of real-life drivers morphed into Big Head cartoons and racing through castles, around huge banked corners and firing weapons at each other was bizarre but really entertaining. And the inclusion of semi-realistic weather, car damage, slipstreams and F1-style handling made the game feel more than another branded Kart game.
F1 2012 was solid too - and for real driving game fans it's definitely the right choice. But we'd but an outside bet on F1 Race Stars outselling its bigger brother when it's released this autumn.
EA's Need For Speed: Most Wanted also appears to have a strong chance at breaking out of its well-established genre mould. This open-world racer is brutal, hilarious and aggressive, and its focus on online multiplayer challenges and near-constant one-upmanship with your mates means it feels much more 'alive' than Driver: San Francisco, the title which it most resembles.
We also appreciate the decision to make all but 10 of the game's vehicles accessible from first-boot. That's right, there's no more slogging through hours of gameplay to get a decent ride - you'll be having fun immediately when you load up the game. And that's a really smart decision on their part.
This year's sports games were dominated by the presence of Fifa 13. The new version features a bunch of key improvements, including refinements to player movement which make it feel much more responsive and organic than before. 'Match Day', a new addition which will sync real-world events, results and schedules into the game looks promising, and the graphics have receive a healthy bump too.
PES 2013 was also on show, and while we didn't get a hands-on with the game we're informed it's another distinctive take on the genre with the usual focus on hardcore gameplay.
In adventure games, Dead Space 3 was among the stand-outs. We had a good play through a mission involving the usual battles with dead-scary-alien-beasts as well as a trip through space avoiding bombs and debris. Atmosphere is laid on with a trowel as usual, but the new telekinesis mechanics work well. We also got to try out the new 'weapon builder' which allows you to customise your kit to absurd degrees at various points in the game. One of the weapon 'blueprints' named after the Hammer of Thor was among the most satisfying weapons of destruction we've ever wielded in a video game. It makes a sound like "whumpppshhhhUDDD", but louder. It's wonderful.
We also saw a bit more of Assassin's Creed 3, though as Ubisoft chose to highlight the game's naval battle mechanics instead of the historical parkour we know and love, it was hard to get overly excited. The Vita version looks good though - another boost to a handheld which got a lot of much needed love at the show.
Award-winning The Last of Us was also at this year's Gamescom - though, as at E3, we only saw a trailer. There was also a look at the cinematic production behind the game - which you can watch below.
The Vita also got one of the show's bigger (and relatively scarce) surprises - a new title by the minds behind Little Big Planet called 'TearAway'. It's a 3D platformer in a world made of folded paper, where you can tear through the environment with your finger and guide your hero like the giant, game-playing Deity that you are. We didn't get to see much more than a swift preview, but it was nice to see the Vita get some focus from developers as well as Sony.
Sony's other surprises - Killzone: Mercenary, Rain and Puppeteer - were also interesting, but there aren't too many details on how they'll play at this stage.
As ever in games - stay tuned.Suggest a correction