But on May 17, Rockstar finally is coming down on the other side of the law with its new police detective game, L.A. Noire. In this title, you’re not a pimp or hired gun, but a cop in post-World War II Los Angeles.
The game is an open-world title like the GTA series, but the amount of roguish behavior you can engage in is tempered—because, after all, you’re a cop. But this isn’t going to be just a new set of characters dropped into an old platform. You will start game play as a patrol officer and work your way up through the ranks of the LAPD, solving a major case at each level. Rockstar is taking console game play to a whole new level in this title with a new style of interactivity.
And in the process, it’s likely changing the future of how we use our brains when we game.
The game will rely heavily, according to the early news, on interrogation and picking up clues from suspects, characters and even dead bodies. To make sure that gamers are able to pick up the slightest facial clues and tics, the game’s characters were filmed employing a new technology called MotionScan, which uses 32-bit high definition to record the game actors’ faces from every possible angle. Every wince, every scowl, every unconscious blink is recorded. Rockstar touts this game as having its share of action—and gore, from the look of some early screen shots—but this a very slow-paced detective thriller where how well you pick up and process information is going to be as important as how adept you are with a pistol.
The game has a huge early buzz—not just because it will take an estimated 30 to 40 hours to get through, but because of the nongaming reception that it’s already gotten. At the end of April, the game will be the first video game ever to be featured at Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Film Festival. That type of honor suggests one of two things: Either this game is going to be something special, or it has one hell of a PR machine behind it. I haven’t been able to tell if this honor is based on content and innovation or on a marketing strategy, like when one of the Spider-Man movies a few years ago tried to get the film’s logo on bases at major-league ballparks.
I have a feeling it’s both—and I’m semi-OK with that. I think this game is generally going to be a positive for the gaming world—a good amount of ink, with low levels of controversy. As for what it means to the future of game development, that’s yet to be seen.
Some companies are calling MotionScan a dead-end technology already taken as far as it can go in this game. These competitors—mainly Heavy Rain maker David Cage—are claiming that they’ve developed or are developing something even better for upcoming titles.
I don’t see this as a negative. If we didn’t have egos in gaming, we’d all still be sitting around playing Asteroids. That’s what makes the prospect of L.A. Noire so exciting: The innovation—not a controversy, or some trivial component—has created a buzz weeks before the game even debuts. If this is the new cool, and the starting point for new technology and innovation, there’s no telling what this new age of cerebral gaming will bring.