Tuesday 16 June 2009

Honestly, I put half a Mars bar in the glove box once and he chased me around the garden with a bit of wood.

In a move which can only be seen as a deliberate affront to a small collection of individuals who come together on a Tuesday evening to play console games, Microsoft have decided to update their XBox Live service today, taking it offline to apply the first of what I imagine to be a number of patches which will update the system with the shiny new features announced at their conference at this year’s E3, thus ushering in a new world order, global peace and hence delivering the catalyst to mankind’s colonisation of the stars. Or some streaming HD video and a new dashboard skin, depending on who you speak to.

This is doubly treacherous as the Console Club… No. Sorry, no. No, I just can’t do it any more. It’s that name – Console Club – it just does not do our little group of gaming geeks justice. It needs more power, more marketability. It needs to project the noble nature of our little band of beings. We need a name that other gamers will come to recognise with a mixture of awe and fear. Now, I’ve had a look around at the gaming industry and observed how their naming conventions work, and clearly the trend is to associate a brand name with the game’s title to give it more impact. I look at games like Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland or American McGee’s Alice and I see imposing, impactful names that strike a chord deep within the gamer psyche.

So where was I? Oh yes, so this update to XBox Live is doubly treacherous to Jon Shute’s Console Club[TM] because, since the time of our last gathering, that stalwart enabler of our eight-player tenuously co-operative pleasure, Burnout Paradise, has been updated with the new Big Surf Island downloadable content expansion. Therefore we have all individually been driving around, grabbing the time when we can to ‘burn’, and indeed ‘out’, around the new zone. We’ve all been twitterating about our enjoyment of the ludicrously large and improbably placed jumps that are dotted all over the island, but have yet to arrange a gathering of the eight regular players in order to experience that exquisite sense of enjoyment that only occurs when one leaps at one hundred and fifty miles an hour from the roof of a multi-story car park, only to realise too late that seven other people have had the same idea, but from an adjacent building and in the opposite direction. Paradise City doesn’t need traffic lights, it needs air traffic control.

So Burnout has been on my mind today, and in considering the joys of the game my mind wandered off the general path, got lost in the forest of ponderings, tripped on the roots of curiosity and fell into the thorny bush of idiosyncrasy. Eventually it made it back home long after dark, cut, bruised and exhausted but with a new outlook on the game, struck by the light of revelation as it struggled its way out of that dark place, and like a messiah it preached its new insights to me, to whit:

Where the blazing arse are all the pedestrians in Burnout Paradise?

The city of Paradise is indeed a meticulously crafted adventure playground for cars, but there are simply no people to be found. Not a one. This might not seem so curious until one considers that there is plenty of other road traffic. Oh yes, road traffic abounds, specifically it is to be found in precisely all the wrong places: on the apex of that corner you’re trying to negotiate at eighty miles an hour, sideways, whilst trying to fend off two other racers and looking in your rear view mirror for others. When you’re trying to take that intersection flat out in order to hit the jump beyond it at maximum velocity, why of course there’s a sudden surge of traffic all desperately needing to cross at a tangent to your path at the same time. And it often seems as though there’s always a city-wide emergency radio broadcast that all traffic must exit the highway at the exact same junction that you’re currently approaching at two hundred miles an hour, with your tail pipes on fire, and the entire offside of your car missing.

So here we have this detailed city, clearly heavily populated as evidenced by all the idiots in cars who just don’t seem to comprehend that you’re trying to get up enough speed to do a triple barrel roll over the railway and you don’t have time to mess about with petty contrivances such as driving on the correct side of the road, or even on the road. So where are all the pedestrians? One might think that they may not approve of these highly skilled street racing drivers who yes, admittedly, occasionally make the odd error in judgement and end up driving along the pavement. At one hundred and eighty miles an hour. On their roof. On fire. But there’s plenty of pavement in Paradise, surely we can all share? Perhaps it’s due to this slightly fiery cross traffic that the pedestrians are hiding in the buildings and making mad dashes from place to place when there are no Mad-Max-like V8-powered death machines within a ten mile radius. This most certainly isn’t the case, however, and I should know: I’ve checked out the interiors of many a building as I’ve shot through the front entrance in a flaming ball of gasoline and nitrous oxide, and there wasn’t a charred corpse to be found amongst the wreckage, no siree bob. There’s simply nobody around.

My theory? Zombie apocalypse.

No really, zombie apocalypse, it explains everything. Bear with me here. So at some point in the recent past there was a viral outbreak in Paradise City, now this makes sense from a dramatic point of view: where else would a zombie virus first make its way into the world than in a place called Paradise? It’s the sort of unoriginal irony that Hollywood bigwigs love to roll around and rub themselves in, like a small dog in horse manure. And in the grand tradition of all ‘great’ movies, I can then continue my exposition with “We’re not sure what happened next, how we came to be this way (because it would probably rip a horrid great hole in the plot of this film, and we’re condescending enough to think that you won’t see it if we don’t spell it out for you explicitly)”. So we’ve now established that there was a viral outbreak and that people were all turned into zombies. Except… for those in their cars! See? It’s brilliant! Ok, ok, so basically everyone lives in their cars now and all the zombies are dead because they all got run over by a car at some point or other. Nobody is brave enough to leave their car in case the virus is still out there, so everyone is content to just carry on their lives from within their car. Admittedly everyone being in cars all the time does make it more awkward for some: traffic cops are swamped with work, and this probably explains why the eight current regulars of Jon Shute’s Console Club[TM] get away with such highway hijinks without punishment. Pulling at a nightclub just isn’t the same, especially if you were hoping to stick your fuel nozzle in their petrol tank, as it were. Not to mention that when the recent preliminaries for the Olympic Games were held in Paradise City certain events had to be cut, including all swimming events after the first race ended in eight drownings. On a brighter note though, world records were smashed in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 800 meters, and the long jump finalist has yet to actually land. You’ve got to love those Burnout Paradise Super Jumps.

So there we have it, the reason for no pedestrians in Burnout Paradise is all due to a zombie apocalypse.

And the reason you had to suffer through this drivelling insanity is all due to Microsoft taking XBox Live offline on the day that Jon Shute’s Console Club[TM] convene for their high speed sideways shenanigans. If you catch my drift.

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