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Alec Mason vs. Cole MacGrath: The Facts

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Lately, I've been having a great time with both Red Faction: Guerrilla and Infamous. And while both game's plots share similarities--a lone protagonist taking up against an overwhelming enemy--it's the differences between Red Faction's Alec Mason and inFamous' Cole MacGrath that stand out to me. Thus, I present for your consideration, my careful scientific study of the two heroes of each respective game.

Alec Mason vs. Cole MacGrath

Tale of the Tape

Last Name

Cole MacGrath: MacGrath

Alec Mason: Mason

Winner: Mason

Occupation

Cole MacGrath: Bike messenger

Alec Mason: Space miner, explosives expert, rebel

Winner: Mason

Powers

Cole MacGrath: Controls electricity

Alec Mason: SLEDGEHAMMER

Winner: Tie

Weakness

Cole MacGrath: Water balloons, water pistols, showers/baths, humidity, sweat

Alec Mason: Falling buildings

Winner: Mason

Haircut

Cole MacGrath: Close-cropped, blond

Alec Mason: Close-cropped, brown

Winner: Tie

Outfit

Cole MacGrath: Black and yellow leather

Alec Mason: Sweet-ass green trenchcoat

Winner (for Pittsburgh Steelers fans): Cole MacGrath (for everyone else): Alec Mason

Hygiene

Cole MacGrath: Hobo filthy (see Weakness, above)

Alec Mason: Slightly dusty, in need of shave

Winner: Alec Mason

Significant Other

Cole MacGrath: Trish (doctor)

Alec Mason: SLEDGEHAMMER (sledgehammer)

Winner: Alec Mason

Additional scientific facts about Alec Mason and Cole MacGrath (with assistance from fellow scholar Chris Watters):

  • Alec Mason is only afraid of falling buildings. Cole pees himself when he thinks of lawn sprinklers.
  • Also, Cole pees himself when he thinks about peeing himself. Then he dies anyway.
  • Cole can't go outside if there is a chance of showers. Alec drives a ATV off a sweet jump then explodes the clouds to make it rain
  • Cole hasn't taken a shower since the explosion. Alec Mason showers in the tears of Jesus.
  • Cole stays hydrated by licking a moist washcloth. Alec wrings water out of Martian rock, EDF rebar, and the air.
  • Cole can't use moist towelettes after enjoying BBQ. Alec Mason can.
  • Cole's fans ask him to charge their cell phones. Alec's fans ask him to sire their children.
  • Cole spent three days in a coma after touching a dog's wet nose. Alec Mason has genetically engineered Martian wolves from dust.
  • Cole's hair is short because he is in a constant state of electrolysis. Alec's is short because the follicles have unionized.
  • Cole's jacket isn't leather, it's insulated rubber. Alec Mason's trenchcoat is made out of unicorn pelt.
  • When a building gets in his way: Cole clambers over it. Alec breaks it and the laws of the physics by destroying its very matter.
  • Cole can't climb fences. Alec Mason doesn't BELIEVE in fences.
  • Cole has nightmares about the ocean. The ocean has nightmares about Alec Mason.

Got your own Alec vs Cole science you want to drop? Let me know in the comments below.

Uh. Huh? Hmm. What? Yeah. Hrm?

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Q: "We don't provide the 'easy to program for' console that [developers] want, because 'easy to program for' means that anybody will be able to take advantage of pretty much what the hardware can do, so then the question is what do you do for the rest of the nine-and-a-half years?"

- Kaz Hirai

A: Make nine-and-a-half years worth of good games quickly?

Who Is The Beatles Game For?

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Just who is this Beatles game for?

That's the question that's been running through my brain ever since news of the announcement that Harmonix and Apple Corps Ltd would be combining efforts on a Beatles-themed project came to light. Several outlets were reporting at the outset that the game would be a dedicated Rock Band expansion devoted to the Fab Four but that turned out not to be the case. Instead, we'll have a "full, new music game built from the ground up," according to Harmonix co-founder Alex Rigopolous.

The licensing of The Beatles' music has had a... ahem... long and winding road; these days, the vast majority of the group's catalog is owned by Sony and Michael Jackson (the King of Pop purchased the publishing rights to around 200 songs in 1985), with royalties still being paid out to John Lennon's estate and to Paul McCartney. In 2006, the Cirque du Soleil production, "Love", was unveiled in Las Vegas, which combined some of the group's most famous songs with the visual wizardry of the long-running show company.

So, Apple Corps Ltd's long-standing dispute with Apple over licensing of the music to the latter's iTunes service notwithstanding, the company has been willing to extend use the Beatles' music, as long as it's in the right context. But what does that mean for Harmonix's just-announced game?

To me, it comes back to my original question: Who is the intended audience? While I think you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who actively dislikes The Beatles, I'm not sure if they are as relevant to the hardcore game-buying demographic as they might have been, say, ten years ago. I consider myself a moderate fan of the group--they lost me somewhere around The Yellow Submarine--but I have a hard time believing that the typical 18 year-old as totally psyched about this announcement as, say, your typical 48 year-old.

But, then, what 48 year-old is going to play (much less buy) a game like this, unless Harmonix radically simplifies the gameplay? Rigopolous has stated that this game will use Rock Band instruments but, as it stands now, further details are few and far between. I can only imagine the look of bewilderment my mom or dad would have if I sat them down in front of a set of Rock Band drums and told them to hold it down for me while I rocked some Rush. And it's tough to see how a Beatles game that uses the pricey Rock Band peripherals could be considered casual enough to draw in tons of new fans, Lennon and McCartney be damned.

So I'm left puzzled. If the Beatles game is a dumbed down Rock Band experience aimed at a casual crowd, it will likely turn off the hardcore Rock Band fans, a good chunk of whom won't have much of a connection to the music in the first place. And while the older set might relish in a perfectly marketed casual gaming chunk of 60's nostalgia for Xbox 360 and PS3, can it really be called "casual" if you've got to spend a bunch of cash for the accessories you need to play it?

Rigopolous has already stated the game will use explore the Beatles iconic psychedelic imagery--such as that found in the film The Yellow Submarine. My best bet? The Beatles game will be a sort of gaming equivalent to director Julie Taymor's film Across the Universe, a re-imagining/visual exploration of the Beatles catalog. I imagine the musical gameplay aspects (i.e. playing along with Beatles tunes) will be either entirely optional or, perhaps more likely, will give the player multiple options for interaction (everything from straight karaoke, to playing along with Rock Band instruments, or following note patterns with a standard controller). Ensuring a large (and customizable) spectrum of interaction seems like a must-have feature when dealing with what could potentially be one of the widest demographic spreads we've ever seen in a videogame.

So what do you think? Are you excited about the Harmonix/Beatles game? Do you think a Beatles game with Rock Band-esque gameplay can be a hit with both young and old gamers? What does this game need to do in order to be a gameplay success?

Rediscovering 'Moving Pictures'

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Last week, I wrote a pretty angry entry regarding Rock Band 2 and the inclusion of "Tangled Up in Blue" in the game. And while I still feel that song is terrible, the tone of that entry was probably more vindictive than was necessary.

Regardless, it's water under the bridge for me, now that Harmonix has released the slightly delayed album pack of Rush's "Moving Pictures" this week. I'm a legitimate Rush nut--I've seen the band at least 15 times live all over the country--and playing through this album in Rock Band 2 took me back to the days when I was a teenager, working to try and figure out Geddy Lee's basslines on my crappy Squier Jazz bass and Epiphone practice amp.

As for highlights--and there are so many great moments on this album, both as a listener and a Rock Band player--the best for me has to be the sheer sound of it. Much has been written about the sound quality in album downloads in Guitar Hero: World Tour and Rock Band and, to my untrained ears, "Moving Pictures" is sounding better than ever. Even better, I'll point out, than the gold re-master of the CD that was released a few years ago.

Rush being a trio, the bass, guitar, and drums all get prominent placement in the original mixes anyway but, for me, the bellweather on the Rock Band version of "Moving Pictures" is the keyboard-centric "The Camera Eye", a 10-minute opus that is one of my favorite Rush songs. Great drumming by Neil Peart, excellent, muscular bass-playing by Geddy, and, naturally, fantastic guitar work by Alex Lifeson. What surprised me, however, was how the keyboards--which are a central focus in the song--are so prominent in the mix. Engineers could have buried the keys in the mix, instead focusing on the (sometimes minimal) guitar work in certain sections. By focusing on the dominant instrument, however, they've created a stronger musical statement, even if it isn't necessarily always a fantastic interactive experience.

So thanks, Harmonix. You've made an old Rush fan happy. Now, I'm wondering if you've heard Rush's "Vapor Trails"...