Make no mistake, GamesCom is big. The event itself is huge, encompassing almost the entire breadth of Cologne; the conferences an impressive medley of deafening acoustics and jaw-dropping trailers. But nothing quite sums GamesCom up like EA ushering you into a private booth where row upon row of beefed-up PCs running Battlefield 3's vaunted 64-player Conquest Mode await you. Suffice to say, we were a wee bit excited.
We've already treated you to the explosive, retina-bleeding trailer, but today we finally got hands-on with Conquest to decide, once and for all, whether it could live up to EA's lofty promises. The objective is simple; capture strategic territories across the map, fending off a 32 player-strong opposing force with 31 of your friends.
You spawn at one of two bases assigned to each teams - you're either the patriotic Americans or the probably quite evil Russians - and must choose your class; Assault, Support, Recon or Engineer.
So what should you choose? Well, the Assault class is a great place to start. Combining solid firepower with the ability to toss out med-packs or revive fallen comrades with a quick zap from your portable defibrillators, he's the perfect introduction to Battlefield's demanding, teamwork-oriented action.
The Recon class is a sniper's best choice, rolling out with either a powerful bolt-action rifle or a silenced, semi-automatic version. Traditionally a class for lone wolves, DICE have added a number of gadgets to the Recon's arsenal, which allow you to deploy a remote camera which displays a live feed to your team; vital for scoping out important areas or keeping an eye on things while you're busy elsewhere.
The Engineer, who comes packing fearsome carbines and an RPG, can also repair jeeps and tanks and the like, vital if you're planning a vehicular assault on an enemy position. Finally, the Support class makes a welcome return, and can now deploy bipods to stabilize the awesome recoil their light machine-guns produce.
So, we've covered the objective and the classes, but what's the game like? Well, in a word; terrifying. The only map on show, Caspian Border, is immense; it's size and variety cannot be understated. Rolling hills and fields of grass pocked with copses of trees and running rivers, a scattering of military outposts, gas stations and the like spreading the action across the vast swathe of land.
You have the choice of rushing out on-foot to secure capture points, or hopping into a number of vehicles and entering the fray. DICE has teased the return of jets to Battlefield's multiplayer, and Conquest is the only mode where the sleek death-machines will make an appearance.
And they're pretty fantastic. The learning-curve is very, very steep. We ended up getting quite a few jets into the air, only to suddenly nose-dive and crash in dramatic fashion. But master these beasts and you'll rule the skies.
That is, unless, you encounter a chopper. Helicopters, while not as nimble as their jet counterparts, boast superior firepower and toughness. If you find yourself pinned down by either, it's best to hunker down and hope for the best or hop into a tank and take them down.
On-foot, Battlefield 3 is an entirely different game. The sheer amount of action ensuing across the map is mind-boggling. I found the Recon class the most rewarding, as vehicle melees often occurred where picking off stragglers was great fun.
Overall, Conquest Mode was fantastic. It truly sells the idea of being caught up in a war, with 64 players all on-screen, tearing it up across the map. Somehow, DICE maintain Battlefield 3's top tier graphical fidelity, despite the scale and scope of the carnage.
Battlefield 3 ships on PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 October 28th this year