Rockstar Games has long been in development on L.A. Noire, a sort of videogame version of L.A. Confidential. Many of Rockstar's games have taken their cue from film history, but instead of fleshing out the concept as another action-based shooter, Rockstar has taken Noire in the direction of an interactive movie, creating a playing experience that may be more closely related to watching a film than playing any of their previous games. Here's the trailer for Noire, which is cut like a movie preview and lacks any on-screen graphics other than the titling:
Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0SNYPBmgYE
You might recognize Mad Men's Aaron Stanton, who lends not only his voice to the protagnist Cole Phelps, but also his likeness and performance through a new technology dubbed MotionScan. Here's a look at how this technology relies not on animators mimicking an actor's recorded performance, but instead captures the live performance and translates it into a perfectly lip-synched 3D model:
Ultimately, I'm interested in the game not because it requires dexterity or fast reaction times -- or because it allows one to compete online against other players (which it doesn't) -- but rather because it's looking to put players in the shoes of a detective whose job it is to judge character. This is a risky move for Rockstar, most of whose efforts to date have dropped you into a sandbox world and allowed you to perpetrate sometimes outlandish forms of violence (the Grand Theft Auto series, Red Dead Redemption). With L.A. Noire they're hoping that players will embrace playing the detective and making decisions that don't involve the immediate gratification of fantasy violence. Indeed, according to Rockstar, "there are no wrong answers, no dead ends that will kill a case." Without a "die and start over" mechanic, then, Noire will likely employ a branching structure that ensures a different experience for different players. As seen in the above video, from a production standpoint, the game resembles a film; the watching/playing mechanic should follow suit.
While Heavy Rain (pictured) was also billed as an "interactive movie," players were reportedly stuck on a mostly linear track until the last act; we'll see if L.A. Noire allows players to have enough of an effect on the otherwise linear storyline to make the concept a success. The game is scheduled for release sometime around April 2011, for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.
What do you think of the performances on display in these videos, did you find them convincing enough to get past the uncanny valley?