Thu, May 12, 2011 - Page 14 News List

‘LA Noire’ a game changer?

A video game based on the noir crime genre is set to revolutionize interactive entertainment. Gamers use real-life people skills to interrogate criminals — not kill them

By Keith Stuart  /  The Guardian, London

The casting has also been vital. Team Bondi avoided going for film superstars, because their mannerisms and emotional cues will be too familiar to gamers. Instead, they’ve opted for lesser-known actors. Aaron Staton, who plays Ken Cosgrove in Mad Men, is Phelps. “When we started looking at the roles, Dan Houser [vice-president of Rockstar Games], had seen Aaron in Mad Men and thought he was an interesting actor,” explains McNamara. “Luckily, we used the same casting agency as Mad Men, so once we had Aaron on board, half the rest of the cast heard about it and asked to be in it, too. Lots of them have cameos!”

There are over 400 characters in the game, and its script that would cover two seasons of a major TV series. But, for all this talk of human drama, LA Noire is still an action game. Between the interrogation scenes, there are shoot-outs and car chases, there are bank robberies to foil. Team Bondi claims a new style of co-operative gameplay will emerge to deal with this dichotomy. “One interesting phenomenon we’ve seen while testing the game is that three or four people will sit down and play together on a couch, with one handling the shoot-outs and the brawls, and someone else doing the conversations. It becomes an interactive experience that families might choose over half an hour of TV,” adds McNamara.

So is there a future in which games abandon the need for visceral action altogether and concentrate on human relationships? McNamara is convinced this will happen, and, as Internet-connected televisions become more readily available, we’re going to see experiences that merge traditional TV shows with video game elements. “It’s going to happen sooner than you think,” he says. “We have shown with LA Noire the level of humanity you can get into games, the level of immersion, the believability of the characters. Games have always been good at interactivity, but where we’ve fallen down is in areas like story and characters. If we bring all that in, there’s no reason interactive TV shows couldn’t happen.”

Until recently, games were about crude characters blasting space aliens; now they can be about rounded humans learning to gauge photorealistic strangers. McNamara’s ideas about deep interactive dramas being broadcast like TV shows sound outlandish, but the technological building blocks are there. LA Noire points the way. We are going to need to put down our controllers and pick up on our people skills.

LA Noire will be released for Xbox 360 and PS3 on 20 May.

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