L.A. Noire: Film, meet Video Game

Written by Andric Tham (original post)

I was excited, as were many others, for the release of L.A. Noire. That’s because, it’s the first game to try a hand at merging cinema and video gaming as storytelling mediums.

Boasting a cast of high-profile actors such as Aaron Staton (Mad Men) and John Noble (FRINGE, Lord of the Rings), and influences from movies as new as “L.A. Confidential” and as old as “Naked City”, L.A. Noire is structured like an episodic television show and plays like an interactive film.

With the newly-developed MotionScan facial scanning technology, the game manages to capture the performance of an actor accurately, preserving each and every facial movement, big or small, to capture the emotional essence in the story. That wasn’t possible before in a video game, but is now possible.

L.A. Noire is also much better than I had expected. It is a game of remembrance, a work of art, and lastly, the apogee of the interactive narrative.

It is the one game that many (Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima included) believe will bridge cinema and video games.

In March, it became the first video game to be part of a film festival’s lineup, after being featured in the Tribeca Film Festival 2011.

Aptly set in the 1940s, it remembers an idiosyncratic era of glamour and grit that spawned some of the greatest narrative films of all time. This era saw the release of some of the greatest noir films, as Hollywood, as well as crime, thrived in the post-war city of Los Angeles.

Based upon detective noir films of the 1940s, L.A. Noire is modern film noir, done right.

Noir, the French word for ‘black’, was used to describe films that make heavy use of stylised lighting. Shot in Black and White, and espousing certain dark themes such as sexual exploitation and crime, this effect became signature to that era.

A very essential part of cinema is sound. L.A. Noire’s soundtrack boasts period-accurate Jazz sounds that rouses suspense and carries a certain elegance.

L.A. Noire “Main Theme” Andrew Hale by RockstarGames

But film noir isn’t the only thing L.A. Noire seeks to remember.

L.A. Noire is a video game masterpiece that saw the collaboration between Rockstar Games and Team Bondi of Sydney, Australia, two highly successful entities of talents that have, in the past, contributed in the release of some of the best open-world and narrative video games ever released, such as the Grand Theft Auto series, the Max Payne series, the Midnight Club series, last year’s Red Dead Redemption, and The Getaway series.

That is not all that L.A. Noire is, however.

L.A. Noire is also the result of the immensely talented cast that lent their likeness and soul to the game’s narrative, the meticulous artists that put together every inch of that ginormous city of 1940s Los Angeles, and the cinematic influences behind it which include “Mad Men”, “L.A. Confidential” and “Chinatown”, classic film noir such as “Naked City” and “Detour”, as well as crime novels of the past.

Au contraire, L.A. Noire is not Grand Theft Auto. While it might be an open-world game, it is not a sandbox game. It is very much like an episodic television series that is strung together in a semi-linear fashion, with a cast of stars, recurring characters, and one-off bit-players much like a season of Mad Men or The Mentalist.

With all of that in mind, one must remember that L.A. Noire is neither a CGI television show, nor ‘Grand Theft Auto where you play as a cop’. It seeks to espouse both film and video game elements in order to weave together a masterpiece of what will be a new age of the narrative story: the interactive narrative.

L.A. Noire is out now for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 worldwide. It is rated M for Mature by the ESRB. Order your copy of L.A. Noire from Amazon today.

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