Having been a fan of the ‘X-Box’ for some time now, I’ve been introduced to an array of games and applications – especially since the release of the ‘Kinect’. Due to my love of the 40’s and 50’s, as well as my bizarre fascination with criminal behaviour – primarily serial killers, I was intrigued when I caught wind of ‘LA Noire’. Since ‘Rockstar’ usually produces well made games with beautifully rendered graphics, splendidly scripted stories (with believable plot lines) and a close link to the line between reality and fantasy, my expectations and level of excitement was very high to say the least.
As with many of the newer games released by Rockstar, the initial build up was somewhat elusive, with a very ‘hush hush’ marketing campaign and an absolutely ‘non-existent’ leak of information onto the world wide web (but it may also have been because I spend most of my time working and running around after a 5 year old to have noticed) – I only discovered its existence about 2 or 3 months before its release. I did however pre-order it. Obviously.
Initially I was apprehensive. Rockstar is renowned for having you ‘play’ as the bad guy, renegade or vigilante, where you feel compelled to play ‘bowling for people’, as you wrecklessly cruise down sidewalks and over curbs, experiencing a thrill with the ever-rising number of knocked over pedestrians. Where the concept of being chased by a ‘cop’ is what you aspire towards as you try to be as ‘badass’ as possible.
Rockstar decided to take a different approach on this one, one where – “this time, you’re the good guy…”.
There is of course the fascinating new technology used by Rockstar, courtesy of Team Bondi, the Australian developers who utilised their ‘MotionScan technology to capture the actual performances of the actors/actresses who were cast to portray the various roles. This remarkable technology, literally bridging the gap between ‘cinema’ and gaming, adding that perhaps ‘all too real’ feeling, where games of the bygone era, such as ‘Phantasmagoria’ so epically failed back in the 90’s. They truly did a sterling job on the overall appearance, especially from a ‘character’ perspective. As the story goes, they also successfully managed to replicate the area of Los Angeles used in the game, to a said 90% accuracy of the ‘then’ landmarks, buildings and positioning of the city in accordance to what it must have been like in the mid to late 40’s.
What I feel to be the most intrinsic difference in comparison to previous games released by Rockstar, is that this one is a ‘brainer’ (opposed to a ‘No-brainer, in case you were wondering). It’s a story you have to pay attention to, with detective work being something you have to be interested in or it will lose you and your wits and leave you flapping in frustration. The MotionScan technology captures almost every facial twitch and muscle movement, being the basis through which most of the detective work gets done – only due to the fact that observing suspects during an interrogation can lead to the conviction or freedom of the right or wrong person, with the weight of that decision being entirely in your hands. With an approximate 20 hours of in game cut scenes having been recorded by the live actors, this in itself far outweighs the Lord of The Rings Trilogy by many hours as far as ‘viewing time’ goes. It also makes a change to have the onscreen presence belong to the voiceover, but moreso have the actor/actress accurately represented.
From Left to Right: (1) Aaron Staton during a MotionScan capture session (2) The initial result of the scan (3) In-game screenshot and final product of Aaron Staton as 'Cole Phelps (4) Statons real-life appearance in his portrayal of 'Ken Cosgrove' on Madmen
The lead character is Cole Phelps, portrayed by Aaron Staton. Who is that you ask? I didn’t know either. But as it turns out he’s one of the actors from that show ‘Madmen’ (which I tried desperately to get into, but just couldn’t). And was so taken aback by his incredible acting ability, it’s given me reason to try watching it again. Throughout the game you’re introduced to many characters, some of which you too would recognise – like Brian Krause (Who played Leo in ‘Charmed’), John Noble (Who plays Dr Walter Bishop in ‘Fringe’) and Greg Grunberg (Matt Parkman on ‘Heroes’). These cameo performances and those of so many other ‘recognised’ actors/actresses added to the overall depth and quality of the game, giving it that extra little hit to its credibility.
The first few murders seem unrelated and then veer towards the mysterious unsolved “Black Dahlia” murder which took place in 1947, but fortunately for those not so keen on being a ‘gumshoe’, the game is nicely paced with ‘mini quests’ where you can opt to respond to the police radio and get to to rather ‘every-day-cop-stuff’ such as car chases, bank robberies and preventing suicidal maniacs from jumping off buildings. Hoewever the primary focus of the game is on the main storyline – so if you’re craving a little ‘free-roam’ action, then this won’t be for you unless your obsessive compulsive disorder kicks in and you feel the need to find every hidden vehicle as well as landmark in the city.
Initially I was excited, then as I began to play – felt it might get somewhat tedious if there was an ‘overkill’ of dialogue and cut scenes…however the combination of Staton’s incredible portrayal of such a believable character readjuting to everyday life succeeding the aftermath of the 2nd World War and reinforced by his keen sense of morality and sticking to his beliefs (even through times with some partners who would do well with a mouthful of soap for their ignorant approaches and narrow minded view) Coupled with the intrigue and suspense, where an eye for detail and a compulsive need to not leave any stone unturned will fair you well in your search for justice, the cut scenes and dialogue make it the unique off-centre *SUPER HIT* of this year, simply for being the first of its kind. Although Heavy Rain peaked the turnaround and appreciation for the ‘Cine/Game’ genre, I feel that Rockstar and Aaron, sure gave it a run for it’s money.
So as much as I could rave on about the game, I think we should keep a look out for Aaron Staton…seems like he could be the real star here! Mystery solved.