Two consoles running MotorStorm Apocalypse. Two massive televisions. A lot of high quality junk food. And eight men. But only four places available at Sony's epic Apocalypse event in London next month. We're at a secret, highly coveted Brighton location (OK, the gig room upstairs at our mate's pub) to decide which of eight Eurogamer readers - scientifically chosen according to their gaming prowess/ability to fill in a web form - will be put forward to represent us against readers from other websites and magazines in bloody vehicular combat. Etc.
Anyway, that's enough scene-setting. Last week we began our search for four readers fit to bear the name Eurogamer against our rivals, and we were deadly serious about finding people who know one end of a DualShock from the other.
Not least because, more than the mere honour of being our ringers, the four finalists would each stand a chance of winning a trip for two to Los Angeles for E3 this year, plus a massive Sony Bravia 3D TV. Imagine if that went to someone from a magazine about tits and swearing. Unthinkable.
Our eight competitors begin to arrive at roughly the time we told them to - all except long-time Eurogamer favourite Razz, who materialises while we're setting up and proceeds to annoy us by wearing a scarf indoors and leaving his tablet PC lying on my seat. (Although he later redeems himself by offering us a roll of Munchies, which are quickly stolen and consumed by Eurogamer staff.)
With our magnificent new LED TVs set up on stage in the glare of amazing multi-coloured mood lighting, and with Eurogamer community manager Tom Champion manning an actual chalkboard, the whole event has an appropriately apocalyptic vibe (or at least a bottom of the barrel vibe). Many of the competitors also have an apocalyptic vibe. The affable Andee, for example, has travelled all the way from Glasgow, a pilgrimage of incalculable self-discovery that makes The Road look like someone getting confused on a zebra crossing without shaving.
The tournament format will be thus: competitors are split into two groups of four, which competitor Ignatius Cheese instinctively renames Group Awesome and Group Badass, reflecting the kind of thought leadership he would go on to exhibit across the evening. Evolution Studios has asked that we stick to three tracks for the event: the boardwalk and seafront-focused Waves of Mutilation; Off The Rails, a mix of canyon racing, storm drains and underground tunnels; and The Mile High Club, a perilous high-speed rollercoaster across the rooftops of disintegrating skyscraper.
Each competitor races one on one against each of his three direct rivals, and each race also includes six AI opponents on the highest of MotorStorm Apocalypse's difficulty settings - Veteran. Finishing first ahead of human and AI guarantees you three points; merely finishing ahead of your human rival is worth two; finishing behind your human rival but ahead of AI is worth one point; and finishing last is worth none (and potentially further sanctions on the forum afterwards).
In pre-tournament practice, AndyK looks to be the man to beat, although he comes under criticism by tournament organisers (i.e. me) when he is spotted playing on unauthorised tracks. He narrowly avoids a points deduction because it doesn't occur to me to impose one until I'm walking home four hours later.
But Ignatius Cheese makes the strongest actual start, first from start to end on Waves of Mutilation in his initial race, while AndyK can only manage fourth in his race against Jetset. Razz defies pre-tournament speculation that he lacks "big-match discipline" by building up an impressive group-stage points total, and thanks to creative accounting basically everyone has recorded some sort of score after a few races. Hearteningly for the competitors, it is then revealed that our ingenious scoring system has led to a two-way tie for first in Group Awesome and a three-way tie for second in Group Badass. Who planned all this rubbish anyway?
While the organisers stand to one side panicking until they invent a suitable playoff format, dinner is served. You have never seen eight large Domino's pizzas disappear so quickly amidst such complete silence as those who are in the room now have.
The first playoff is easy - Razz and AndyK are quibbling over top spot, and AndyK nips it on virtually the last corner. But the bigger spectacle will be Myiagros, Ligurmatic and Podling, the three joint runners-up in Group Badass, who must be separated in a pre-planned, thoroughly well-anticipated and not at all thought-up-on-the-spot three-player split-screen showdown. Podling, who is a notably nice man in a room full of nice men, is the unlikely winner despite a slow start.
As promised before we began, however, every competitor is given a chance to redeem himself in the second stage of the tournament - it's just that it will take some doing. The group placings are used to seed competitors, meaning that respective group winners AndyK and Ignatius get relatively easy fixtures against the fourth-placed racers in each other's groups. Will the losers so far be able to overcome the form book and make it through to London?
Jetset is the first to make it through to the final, losing out to the superbly bearded Myiagros initially but hauling him in over the course of an extended three-lap race. Then it's over to Razz and Podling, who is encouraged by increasingly well-watered onlookers to use a Monster Truck on the crumbling terrain of Mile High Club.
(It turns out that if you stand behind Eurogamer readers when they play MotorStorm and say things like, "If anyone uses a motorbike here, I will be well impressed," some are actually compelled to take you up on it. Must try this on girls.)
Improbably, unbelievably and slightly concerningly, it is Razz who emerges victorious, joining Jetset on Team Eurogamer. He beats Podling on Mile High Club, which turns out to be the standout track of the evening. It's so precarious that even on the straights you feel like you're clinging for dear life to the crumbling terrain, and the developers use steep, multi-stepped jumps and canned collapses to inject additional tension.
Having been the only competitor to win all his group stage races, Ignatius Cheese adds humility (or hubris, perhaps) to his CV by agreeing to let Andee choose the track for their showdown - and surprise surprise, it's Mile High Club. Supercar vs. Racing Truck. And it is anything but plain sailing for Ignatius, who finds it tricky to transfer his early-evening dominance to the biggest of big stages, labouring behind Andee for several laps.
It's neck and neck as they close in on the final corner on separate strands, so their progress is hard to compare directly, but despite Andee's valiant effort, Ignatius holds his nerve and pulls it out. He will join Razz and Jetset in London. (No one can quite believe they are getting the chance to visit The Big Smoke in the name of Eurogamer. Goosebumps.)
There is still one place to fill though, so pre-tournament favourite AndyK - the only competitor to ask deep technical questions of the organisers - takes up his pad against Ligurmatic. On Mile High Club. Ligurmatic makes the early running, but drops it in lap two, and while there is tension amid skyscraper collapses, AndyK maintains his momentum and joins Team Eurogamer for next month's London showdown.
Only one member of Team Eurogamer can win the TV and holiday though (we're discounting all the other websites' competitors on instinct - after all, those chickens aren't going to count themselves before they hatch), but all four members will definitely receive Uncharted 3, Killzone 3, Resistance 3 and inFamous 2 when they are released - and all eight attendees can expect copies of MotorStorm Apocalypse in the post too, along with free tickets to the Eurogamer Expo later this year.
Thanks to everyone who came down and we hope you enjoyed yourselves as much as we did. We'll be joining Team Eurogamer - leading it, we should say - at a secret, slightly more upmarket location in London on 10th March, where competitors will have to beat each other at MotorStorm Apocalypse while people on social networks vote to have them electrocuted, drenched and generally embarrassed. And we're not making that part up. Join us then to find out how everyone does and who wins/survives. Boom!