Monday, 14 March 2011

Why L.A Noire Could Be The Game of 2011

For this humble E14ie, L.A Noire has gone from a blip on my radar to my most anticipated game of the year by far. Ultimately, this is in no small part due to the talent of the developers involved in creating one of the most unusual games to ever hit retail shelves. Here, then, are some of the reasons why I think it'll be one to watch out for when deciding Game of the Year.

The Motion Capture looks amazing

This is probably no big secret to those who have been following the game in any sort of depth throughout its creation. Rockstar have been keen to shout about their newly created facial recognition technology, and the results are clearly impressive. To think that we've come so far in so few years that video games are beginning to look more and more realistic (which is a good or not so good thing depending on how you look at it - personally I'm of the belief that very few games will ever come close to looking lifelike, but that's just me), it's pretty incredible really. Video games are starting to rival Hollywood blockbusters in terms of marketing push. Why?

Simple. Video games are at a point now where visually they are pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Storylines are now being written with the same kind of quality and depth as the greatest long-running TV series, and more importantly video games don't seem to suffer from the same "flavour of the month" concerns as movies. Every year it seems like there's one actor or actress who's in absolutely fucking everything that year, and then doesn't get heard from for another two or so years. This year seems to be the return of Johnny Depp to the cycle, and God bless him for that. Whether you agree with my point on "flavours of the month" in the acting world, the universe *needs* more Jack Sparrow. Sorry, *Captain* Jack Sparrow.

Anyway, the motion capture technology they use is nothing short of excellent. Character's faces are a focus for the game, as the characters are supposed to have 'tells' that alert you to when they are telling fibs, or make you feel reassured that you're correct in believing that they are telling the truth. In games in the past, they've had to be a lot less subtle because...well, the detail simply wasn't there. Characters would suddenly look off in some direction, or their eyes would really obviously dart off and avoid eye contact with you while you were talking to them. Failing that, you'd have one of your team just turn round and say "He's telling porky pies, guv'nor!" Maybe not in that voice unless it was Mary Poppins: The Game, but you know what I mean.

It's in very capable hands

One thing you can't deny about Rockstar is that their productions are so well put together and tidy that it's hard to find fault with them unless you really go into depth. In any case, if such minor faults exist, it's often the case that those minor issues are forgiven simply because of the scope and ambition of the game. Let's not forget that this was the developer that brought Grand Theft Auto into the Playstation 2 era and completely abandoned the top-down view to replace it with a third-person viewpoint. That could so easily have gone tits-up, but ultimately Rockstar knowing what they're doing is a lot like water being wet or Peaches Geldof being a douchehammer: It sort of just goes without saying that it's the case.

Any other developer would simply not have had the balls to take a game like Grand Theft Auto 4 and add in a competitive multiplayer, let alone 'Free' Mode, which allowed for all the dicking around fun that you'd come to expect from GTA, but with up to 16 players. Incredible. Additionally, that mode was fucking amazingly fun to play. It's a sure sign that a game is deep when it includes an achievement for completing the story mode in under 100 hours! Thinking about it, I must go back to that game soon.

But then why would I, when I can play this upcoming classic from Rockstar Games? Or failing that, the other games from their studios that are still sitting in my cupboard unenjoyed, such as Red Dead Redemption or even Bully? I mean fucking hell, when you can see a year of your life sucked away just by looking into your games cupboard, you know that maybe it's time to start going back through the old ones and playing them before buying anything new. Except for this game, I'll wager, however, as this is shaping up to be the absolute tits.

It seems completely different from anything ever experienced before

I mean this in the best possible way. The game is all about taking an established gameplay mechanic and doing something new with it. With Red Dead Redemption, the open-world mechanic established in GTA 4 was refined and themed around the Old West. In L.A. Noire, the open world is there, but players approach it in a completely different way. Here, there are rules, and not only are you following them, you're upholding them. Not only that, you're going up through the ranks as you progress through the game.

It's one of the more interesting game mechanics I've heard of. It sort of sounds like a detective game (a *proper* one, not that 'Hidden Appeal' bollocks) mixed with some elements of Role-Playing (character progression) and all tied into a big old open world with presumably an incredibly dense world like all its predecessor games. You always find as well in Rockstar games that the game world is one thing, but that the characters and how well developed they are always adds that extra layer to the proceedings. Rockstar's always been extra-good at that, and now have also added the ability to let your partner drive your patrol car in order to save you driving like a complete chump (if you drive anything like me in these games, anyway).

This game is made for DLC

As this game's release date was precised to May this year, they announced their pre-order bonuses for various retailers and regrettably succumbed to one of my gaming bugbears. The problem is simply this:

All the DLC they've announced as bonus content is stuff that I want to be able to use in-game, ranging from cool-sounding costumes (lame, maybe, but my argument is that it's free) all the way to additional side-missions which will flesh out an already rather large world. Back when I predicted my Kinect game that saw you take on the role of your favourite CSI (whether that's Nick Stokes, Gil Grissom or Horatio Caine if you've chosen to live your life that way), I said that one of the good things about making a game like that on a console nowadays is that downloadable content is so much easier to distribute than it once was, and so adventure games can be expanded considerably. Moreover, in the case of big open games, as was the case with Mass Effect 2, the DLC will generally slot in absolutely anywhere in the game as you perform side quests.

L.A. Noire has that kind of model too; the game can be as long as Rockstar wants it to be, and that power is with them all the way through and post-launch as well. What they do with it is up to them. Personally, I'd be happy with them taking either of the approaches they have favoured in the past. Either they take the GTA 4 route and launch two large mission-based packs that expand on the game world while focusing on other characters, or they go the route of Red Dead Redemption and focus on a larger quantity of smaller content, followed by a whacking great one. Preferably not themed on zombies this time round, methinks it might not fit.

Words: Rob Wade


The Horror Channel celebrates the films of iconic director Tobe Hooper with an exclusive interview plus screenings of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Eaten Alive, ‘Salem’s Lot, Freddy’s Nightmares (No More Mr. Nice Guy) and his 2004 remake of The Toolbox Murders.

Tobe Hooper: Director’s night Special edition will run over two nights – Thurs 31st March and Friday 1st April and features an interview by Emily Booth, filmed when the director was guest of honour at FrightFest 2010. The interview will run in two parts, the first, focussing on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, will run following ‘Salem’s Lot (Part 1) and the second, which turns attention on Hooper’s life, will follow ‘Salem’s Lot (Part 2).

The full line-up is as follows:

Thurs 31st March
21:00 STEPHEN KING’S SALEM’S LOT (1979) - Part 1
00:50 FREDDY’S NIGHTMARES (1988) – Ep 1: More Mr. Nice Guy

Fri 1st April
21:00 STEPHEN KING’S SALEM’S LOT (1979) - Part 2
22:55 EATEN ALIVE (1977)
00:50 TOOLBOX MURDERS (2004)

TV: Sky 319 / Virgin 149 / Freesat 138|

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