While in no way included to simply one-up the previous Modern Warfare games' respective nuke-death and No Russian moments, Modern Warfare 3's London bombing scene certainly made an impact when it appeared online last week. Mainly because a little girl gets blown to smithereens. That kind of thing will cause a fuss.
But however controversial her death may be, there's something far more offensive in that scene. Something that infiltrates every corner of the frame, and oozes from every pixel with reptilian depravity. Yes, I'm talking about the disgusting, badly-observed stereotyping of the noble British people. Seriously, were I not so affronted it would be hilarious. Read on, and I'll tear this tower of brutal deceit right down. For God and the Commonwealth.
Right, first up, here's the original scene:
And here's a screenshot, tagged up with every one of the developers' insidious short-cut stereotypes.
Seriously, there's using identifying national tropes, and then there's taking a grab-bag of every archetype you can think of, cutting them up into a line, snorting it, and sneezing it all over the screen. No street in the UK looks like this. Maybe in the UK bit of the Epcot Centre, but not over here. Let's dissect it, shall we?
1. American tourists: Everyone knows that 90% of the people in London at any given time are tourists. London isn't a living, breathing city. Much like the rest of the UK, it functions primarily as a historical theme park for foreigners. Hence the fact that the only three people visible on what should be a busy inner-city residential street are Americans on holiday.
2. A football: Because everyone in England plays football all day, every day. We break for tea and polite witticisms at 11, and again to watch the Queen's daily public address at 3, but otherwise it's football, football, football, absolutely non-stop.
3. A bicycle: Because English people are so cultured and polite that the noble refinement of the bicycle is the most popular mode of transport in the nation. We ride them with poise and dignity, scarves tossed over our shoulders, laughing gently into the oncoming springtime air. Even in winter.
4. A Union Jack: Every street in the UK has at least one of these hanging up, just in case the citizens forget where they are and stop saluting each other or neglect to eat a crumpet every hour.
5. Another Union Jack: Seriously. No street in the UK has a single one of these hanging up, let alone two.Unless of course, some idiot buys the wrong one during the World Cup.
6. Another Union Jack: Really guys, anyone over here knows that you would only get three of these buggers in one street in areas synonymous with prevalent racist political fringe groups. Oh hang on, I get it. This is a bitter American post-colonialist jibe about the days of the British Empire, isn't it? You're subtly inferring that we're inherently a racist country, aren't you? All very funny since the war of independence, isn't it. Yeah, nice one. Laugh it up.
Above: You know where else you see street-corner pubs so quaintly British? F*cking Disneyworld
7. A pub: These are on every corner of every street over here. They all sell warm beer, brewed on idyllic country farms by men with big side-burns and served by buxom wenches with a cheeky cockney wink. You'll note too, that this one has the word "pub" emblazoned on the side in big gold letters, just in case anyone should forget that this is a pub and we are in England.
8. Another pub: Because as the old British proverb goes, you can never have too many pubs, monocles, or singings of the national anthem.
9. A black cab: Our second most popular mode of transport. We use them as often as Americans use yellow ones. ie. Almost every time we go anywhere in the world.
10. Another black cab: See? We love 'em.
11. A red post box: You'd think they'd be running out of lazy British imagery by now. But no, still going strong. And we're only halfway down the list.
12. A British road sign: Okay, these will happen on British roads. You know what won't happen on Bristish roads though? 90% of the British stuff on this road. So I'm counting this one due to the context of pure overkill within which it finds itself.
Above: They pretty much look like this now. Have done for ages
13. A red phone box: Sweet Jesus, and right next to a red post box as well. Want to throw a member of The Beatles in between them, Activision? I can just about see a bit of space. You could fit Paul in there, I reckon. He's not that big.
And you want to know the best bit about the presence of this thing? In the real world, despite their iconic countenance, red phone boxes as a mainstream occurrence were phased out years ago.
14. A British letting sign: Innocuous in itself, but if you turn the camera around, there are even more. You know, to emphasise that these houses are being let IN BRITAIN TO BRITISH PEOPLE.
15. A parking meter: Probably patrolled by a Beefeater.
Above: I'm surprised these guys don't turn up as part of the British forces in the following level
16. Another British road sign: "Quick! There's a bit of empty space halfway up that building! We could put another British thing in there! Stick in a roadsign, quick!" Yeah, let's not worry about the fact that there's absolutely no need - and therefore no chance - for a "no right turn" sign to appear twenty feet up a wall leading into an alley way. Let's just emphasise that said alleyway is in London, shall we?
17. Big Ben: Because Big Ben is visible from every street in England. The Queen lives in there. With Mr. Bean and Hugh Grant. Incidentally, on the subject of Mr. Bean, I'd like to point out to the rest of the world that he only got popular on the world stage years after everyone in the UK had become sick to death of him and moved on. So yeah, thanks for making that first film (which we couldn't believe had even been made) a hit and ensuring that it got a sequel.
As an interesting geographical note though, zooming in on the alleyway to the right-hand side of the shot reveals that it is called Archer Street. I looked up Archer Street on a map, just to discount my earlier and horribly cynical theory that the devs had plucked the name out of the air purely because it sounds jolly refined and English. And lo, an Archer Street does exist in London. It is bloody miles away from Big Ben. My original theory stands.
18. A white van man: Because the iconic white builder's van is the fourth most popular mode of transport in the UK, just ahead of the Penny Farthing.
19. A red bus: The third most popular!
20. A British police car (unseen in screen-shot): Drives past just before the bus appears. If you look closely you can see that it's being driven by David Bowie in a top hat. Stephen Fry is in the back, smoking a pipe and reading a freshly-ironed newspaper, with his feet up on a soot-covered street urchin.